Monday, June 19, 2006

FIRST CAR


MG Midget
Originally uploaded by www.DaveWard.net.

My first car was a classic MG.--very cool and European. The gift of a high school boyfriend, it sat on the outskirts of the swampy woods near my house for at least a year.

Over time, the weeds grew up through the rusted floors. They were tall and obtrusive enough to feel like an extra passenger by the time my father had the car towed out of there. I don't remember whether the thing ran or not, but it didn't matter. I wasn't much interested in driving.

My theory is that there are two kinds of people: those who run out and get their license on the first calendar day the law allows, and those who take to the road only when it becomes necessary.

I was firmly in the latter group. I loved walking; our city had good public transportation; and besides, most of the places I wanted to go weren't accessible by car. I wanted to travel to Europe, to see the Great Wall, to traverse the vast inner desert that seemed to grow more expansive by the day.

Still, I loved that car. When my parents argued, or I wanted to be alone and think about the world, I would go and sit in my little European car where the weeds grew wild.

That year I collected college catalogues from every state in the union and a few international schools. As soon as the mail came, I took my brochures into the car, and fingered the glossy pictures, imagining lives I might inhabit.

The mailman said that he felt as if he'd traversed the world just delivering my mail; and so did I. In the end, I think he was a little bit disappointed when I chose the state university.

I read Eric Fromme's THE ART OF LOVING sitting in that car, and thought my life was changed forever. It wasn't, but I can still remember the exhilaration of believing it could be. At any moment.

And mostly, I wrote. I filled dozens of diaries. I curled up in the driver's seat, and made long lists of the places where I would travel, the careers that I would have, the things I would do before I die. Like my dream of attending a distant college, most of those things never happened outside the confines of my rusted sports car.

The MG was nearly buried by the weeds from the swamp by the time it was towed away. Strangely, I felt no sadness to see it go. I was eighteen and hungry for the future. I said good-bye to my home city, to the house where I'd spent my life, to friends and even my beloved dog without nostalgia. I barely noticed my parents' tears as they watched me pack. What was one little car that never ran?

And yet looking back, I realize I traveled further in that immobile MG than in any vehicle I ever owned.

34 comments:

Dale said...

Sigh. Yes. Although I look at that travelling with a jaundiced eye, now. I think I'd have done better to pay more attention to what was in front of my nose.

What an appealing picture, though, the teenager dreaming and writing in that little MG! Beautifully done.

pohanginapete said...

Hmmm... modes of travel. For me, cars came long after feet, maps, books and bicycle wheels. Imagination preceded them all, of course. I think it's necessary for the other modes, too.

chiefbiscuit said...

Neat story! I love old cars - that smell of old leather ... or am I showing my age?

paris parfait said...

How beautiful! You did travel in that car, even without moving from that spot. Terrific post!

rdl said...

Love this!

tom said...

Patry....what a waste!!! You should have called me...I "have lusted" for an MG in my youth..I would have gladly purchased it from you...but then, where would have gone to write?
Thanks for the kind note on my site... (I may return...just not now.)..Take care...

melly said...

Oh, I'm definitely in the first category. Had my license as soon as I could...
Great story Patry, thanks :)

Simply Coll said...

Aw yes.. how well I remember my first car. It was a slant 6 Dodge Dart that my Uncle found in a car lot in his town of Kenora. My Dad and I drove all the way there to have a look. I made the journey home by myself.. driving my first car.

Tamar said...

I was clearly in the former group! As soon as I turned 16 back in what was then Rhodesia - off I toodled and got my license.

This post is delightful and nostalgic. What a beautiful journey you describe.

Thank you

robin andrea said...

I love the journey you took in that car with its weeds through the floorboards. You sent me back to my high school days when I too was reading Fromme's The Art of Loving. I haven't thought of that book in years. Back then, I do remember believing that we really could figure life out.

Dave said...

*You* might have been unsentimental, but how come your story put a tear in my eye? Nicely told, as always.

Laini Taylor said...

What a gorgeous post -- I love the idea of that little place of escape, and all it symoblizes, and I can see it dramatized, a young woman climbing into her little rusty car to think and dream and read. I always love the details in your writing, like the mailman who knew your business and dreamed vicariously through you. My parents had a little red Fiat Spider when my brother and I were little, we had harnesses in the little back seat so we could stand up on it as we went for drives around the island of Oahu where my dad was stationed in the Navy -- later it came out those harnesses were super unsafe and we could have died. Ah, the blissful ignorance of the old days!

Patry Francis said...

dale: I think that's why I chose the state U. I needed to study all the distant catalogues before I saw what was right before my eyes.

pohanginapete: You've got the order exactly right. Imagination first. Then feet. I never was too good with maps though.

chiefbiscuit: These days the only things I care about in a car are reliability and gas mileage (which probably also shows my age).

paris parfait: So true, but I'm still hoping to get to Paris someday.

tom: There's still time for you and your MG! In fact, I think I might try to hunt one down for my cliche mid-life crisis. Red of course.

melly: I'm not surprised. You strike me as a woman of action.

coll: first cars are so special. I can still remember my husband's ancient Ford Falcon. I noticed that it smelled like onion soup the first time he took me out, but was too polite to mention it until the third date.

tamar: It sounds like a wonderful adventure.

robin andrea: My copy of that book was totally dog-eared and marked with underlinings, though I can't remember much of it now. I do recall him saying that if you wanted to learn the art, it had to have pre-eminence in your life. I wonder what you remember...

dave: Thinking of my old street and
everything it represented, I wonder at the adolescent coldness that propelled me forward. Only now, when "home" no longer exists do I realize how much I was leaving behind as I callously packed my things.

kasturi said...

I love this post, patry. perhaps partly because I didn't do that kind of dreaming, but another kind. I'm with you in the 'necessary driver' category, though. Didn't learn til I was 27.

Mary said...

As a necessary but deeply reluctant driver I loved this, Patry.

floots said...

nice one
i slept in a friend's car for a few weeks with much the same effect

Fred Garber said...

Patry...do you know what model of MG it was? Was it an MG Midget...like in the foto? When I was a kid we use to go hunting a lot. When we would come upon an old abandoned car we would first steal whatever was valuable then use the car as target practice. Now with your post in mind , I imagine that we may have somebodies hideout...

Brenda said...

What an amazing story. You ought to work this one up into a longer piece. It deserves a story, chapter or even book of its own. It's entered my imaginal stream never to leave I suspect!

MB said...

What a wonderful piece of writing, Patry. You've captured so many things well. The image of you in the car, writing and dreaming alongside the weeds, is so strong.

Carmi said...

The biggest mistake one can make when assessing the outcomes of and the lessons from a journey is in assuming that physical distance travelled actually means something.

You've proven that in spades with this captivating slice.

Patry Francis said...

laini: (we must have x-posted) Oh, I love that image of you and your brother standing up in the wind in your parents' Fiat, the gorgeous landscape of Oahu spread out before you.

kasturi: I was twenty-three and living in rural Vermont with two babies when I decided that learning to drive might be a good idea.

mary: we are so much alike.

floots: I'd like to hear more about your car-sleeping experience.

fred: as you can imagine, I don't know much about models. Don't think it was a midget though. And if you'd stolen a part from my car, I probably wouldn't have noticed--as long as you didn't mess with my books and notebooks.

brenda: what an incredibly lovely thing to say. Thank you. I'm sure that your "imaginal stream" is a fine place to be.

mb: thanks, though sometimes I think I've never quite escaped those weeds. They grow wherever I go.

carmi: Thank you for your astute comment--and welcome.

MB said...

Patry, I think a few weeds can represent a healthy biological diversity that we might all be better off tolerating if not encouraging. A little imperfection, a little wildness can be a good thing, yes?

Sky said...

wow - this piece is truly remarkable - i see you so clearly sitting there writing and browsing through the brochures...and it makes me want to know more about that young girl on the edge of becoming a woman, so eager to embrace her future.

i agree with someone above...developing this into a short story would be fantastic!

theo said...

Damn, girl, you do this sOO well

Nova said...

This post brought back memories of my beloved bicycle of my childhood that took me to everywhere I could imagine, or pedal. It's amazing how the journeys we take in our minds can go further than any other mode of travel.

chuck said...

I keep my writing box (an old lunch box with pens and brushes, and paper) under the driver's seat in my van.

When I get to a favorite beach, park or woods or river, I simply reach under the seat for my lunch box- which serves as my desk...

zhoen said...

Certainly the most comfortable way to travel. And your imagination better than the grimy reality, without the diarrhea.

I was sent to driver's ed at 17, not wanting to drive at all. My first car's back seat was where I threw everything, and I claimed it had it's own ecosystem, with life forms being born, dying, evolving there.

Not having a car right now is an utter joy for me.

finnegan said...

This piece gives credence to the idea that things remembered are often more vivid than things seen.

I hope this comment posts. My other attempts vanished like your MG.

Marilyn said...

What a great image you've conjured up with this post. I was in the former group...and because my father bought me a car when I was 16 ($2,000 brand new!--not because I was spoiled, but so I wouldn't borrow his car and could be completely independent), I instantly started spending weekends at my mother's 400 miles away. I came to walking and public transportion in middle age...and now lead a life filled with sort of a nice balance of both lifestyles. I would have given anything to have an MG when I was a teenager. The closest I got was my Dad's English teacher girlfriend who let me drive her red convertible one when I only had a permit. :)

kate said...

an MG was my first car, too. It was black, with racing stripes, and a convertible. I would drive around in it wearing nothing but a balck bra a la madonna in desperately Seeking susan, or with torn sweat shirts a la Flashdance. I was hot shit. and I had a dan g fine time. yeah. Thanks for the reminder oh fellow MG driver . . . and yeah, mine drove me crazy too :)

Erik Mann said...

great topic, keep up the great posts, MMA

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Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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