When I was a kid, we had a station wagon. The kind with the fake wood on the outside panel and a seat that faced backwards. This thing was enormous. Aside from a reconstructed memory based on a photograph of my scowling dad after he put regular gas in the diesel tank or vice versa--either way it was bad news, I have fond memories of this station wagon. On trips, we would lay down the back and sleep or read without the constraints of these new-fangled carseats. I remember especially riding on the bumpy farm roads facing backwards. It always made me sick, but it was so freakin' cool that I'd do it every time.
When I was twenty and a college student in the mountains, I desperately wanted a station wagon. A Subaru wagon. I imagined that I would use it to drive up to the parkway for hikes (I hiked a lot once upon a time), and somehow this Subaru wagon of my dreams would hold my muddy boots as I slipped back into my birkenstocks (oh, yes, I did) better than whatever car I drove when I really was twenty. I thought that if I had the Subaru wagon, I would have to learn to kayak and mountain bike. I would get my brother to give me his old climbing gear and I'd take that up with verocity. Essentially, this car of my imagination would make the sort of dorky girl who read a lot of books and was a little bit too talkative in class (with the important exception of Spanish) into a whole different person. Maybe I'd start to like Phish. Maybe I'd finally dread the long hair I usually just wore in braids. Maybe I'd use the bumpers of this car of my imagination to encourage people to recycle and be tolerant.
Instead I moved to Atlanta for a job in "publishing," leased a new car, immediately regretted both decisions, retreated quickly to grad school and made my way through a series of cars--many of which are hand-me-downs.
For some reason, people give Jeff and me cars. We inherited a Saturn from a relative that neither of us had ever met. We inherited my Granny's Buick, which was 15 years old and had under 30,000 miles on the odometer. We were recently given a Ford Taurus when Jeff's mom upgraded. And then...
My mom gave us her Subaru wagon.
And suddenly, all of my fantasies of being the sort of woman who can drink scotch and keeps a sleeping bag in her car (just in case) are clashing with my fear of being the sort of mom who slathers her child(ren) in antibiotic hand sanitizer and keeps baby wipes in the glove compartment (just in case). Both of these are valid positions (although I think the hand sanitizer bit is overdone in our culture). It's just strange to look at this old/new car in my driveway and try to figure out what it says about me today--at 33 with 1.7 kids AND some very worn in hiking boots. I suppose it mostly says that I'm lucky to get an old/new car from my mama.