A car pulled into the driveway, tires crunching in the snow that crisp January
evening. Its headlamps lit up my bedroom window, but since I wasn’t expecting
any company, I paid no attention. I heard the car door close, and soon after
the doorbell rang.
My landlady called
upstairs and said that I had a visitor.
it could be?
There was Dad with a huge
grin on his face, a sparkle in his blue eyes, and a set of keys in his hand.
I didn’t expect to see my
father that night – and much less did I expect him to be there with a car for
me to test drive.
“I made a deal at Elliot’s
today,” he said. “Thought you’d like to see it.”
On the weekend, we had
talked about the possibility of trading my trusty Corvair for another car, but
I hadn’t expected anything this soon.
“Want to go for a drive?”
Of course, I wanted to
drive it! I ran up the stairs and pulled on my winter coat, taking a quick look
out the window as I put it on. Under the reflection of my landlady’s outdoor
light was a ’68 lemon yellow Camaro. Whooee!
I hurried down the stairs
and out the door to where Dad waited, keys in hand.
I got in, readjusted the
seat, rearview mirror, and side mirrors, and off we went for a drive around
“Do you like it?” he
asked. “Is it a good fit?”
I agreed on both counts. I
liked it very much.
When we returned to my
landlady’s home, we sat in the car and talked about how much it would cost and
how soon I could have it. One thing was for certain, I’d have to get a loan
from the bank. Dad was willing to co-sign. All he needed was my approval and he
could complete the deal. We would make the appointment at the bank the next
had been driving a silver 1960 Corvair that once belonged to my grandfather
Ted. My parents bought it from him when he decided to move to Florida. The
Corvair had taken me safely and reliably to my weekend job at the nursing home
during my last year of college, and then on the commute to Waterloo, where I
boarded while working in a day care centre.
The Corvair was an
experiment, with its engine in the back, and the trunk under the front hood.
Ralph Nader had criticized General Motors soundly for it, but as it had been
for my grandfather, the Corvair was a good little car that delivered a smooth
ride. Its seat was just right for my short stature as it had been for my
Grandpa Ted had always
driven slowly down the freshly gravelled country roads so the car wouldn’t get
stone chipped; its body was still in excellent shape. Dad said that it might run
awhile yet, but sooner or later it would require some new parts and getting
parts would be an issue, since the car was no longer being made. My favour,
once set on the Corvair, was shifting rather quickly to the sporty Camaro, both
for its appearance and for the practical reasons that Dad had explained.
The Camaro had just been
traded in by a priest, who had purchased a brand new vehicle. The lack of stone
chips on its shiny fenders and hood meant that the priest had treated the car
with as much care as my grandfather had with the Corvair. The interior was
clean and the upholstery looked like new. The Camaro was set low and the seat
was easily adjusted. I felt like a queen behind the wheel, even if my bank book
didn’t reveal a queen’s pay.
Dad and Mom said they’d
cover the down payment temporarily, but I’d have to pay it back by March, so
they could buy fertilizer for spring planting. I’d also need new snow tires to
navigate the country roads. I was getting poorer by the minute and I hadn’t yet
paid a cent for the car. Of course, I still wanted it. It was a dream car.
Dad drove the Camaro home
that night and closed the deal the next day. I drove home for the weekend in my
soon-to-be-retired Corvair, and Dad gave me lessons on changing tires, testing
spark plugs, checking the oil level, and knowing when to add oil, as he had
when I first drove the Corvair.
On Monday, after a trip to
the bank, and an offer from the manager to work there, I left for the day care
centre. When I drove into the parking lot, Penny, a fellow teacher, was out
supervising children in the playground area. She whistled as I got out of the
Camaro and approached the gate.
“Where’s the fancy clothes
to match the car?” she asked, with a cheerful grin.
“Spent it all on the car,”
I said, and I had.
|Dodge Dart Swinger
It eventually needed a
paint job, after someone backed into it in a parking lot at another day care
centre. The driver had mistaken the Camaro for a snow bank on a dark winter
morning. The supervisor, arriving in daylight, noticed the dent in my car. The
parent admitted to his error and offered to pay for the repair and paint job,
and I had it painted the same lemon yellow as before. The colour reminded me of
sunshine – a particularly cheering sight on a gloomy day.
My future husband noticed
me driving this car, so I suppose it was good for more than taking me places in
style. We continued to drive the Camaro after he sold his fancy, gas-guzzling
When our first child was
born, she had to ride in her baby seat up front, since her car seat didn’t work
on the narrow back bench. About the same time, my car showed signs of rust, and
so we agreed it needed to be patched and painted. I loved the lemon yellow and
only grudgingly let my car be painted an electric blue. That wasn’t as painful as
the white hood stripes and the wire trim that my husband said would suit it. He
must have been missing his Swinger more than he let on.
We had barely brought the
car home with its new paint job, when our neighbour, Larry, came across the
street and offered to buy it. I was glad he liked it so much, because I didn’t.
Those white hood stripes and wire trim had turned my car into something
foreign. We made the deal with our neighbour, and we went out that week and
bought our first family car – a station wagon.
But I always remember the
first real car that I bought with my own money: a sporty, lemon yellow Camaro
that turned heads when I drove by.
Carolyn Wilker is
an author, editor, and storyteller from Kitchener, Ontario. She blogs
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