A Station Wagon Girl

Like any parent, I am excited by the arrival of my latest baby — Station Wagon # 7!

I suspected she — all my wagons have been shes, except the last one which was defi nitely a he — was coming when SW # 6 was well into six fi gure mileage and needed a set of large and expensive new tires. Instead of committing for another 50,000 miles or so, I left him forlornly on a car dealer’s lot and drove away in my new baby, sad about leaving behind what felt like a dear old friend but anxious to get to know my new one.

I know now that I will meet my maker as a station-wagon owner for two simple r04-06-11-margaret.jpgeasons. I love being able to pop open the back door and toss in my belongings, and because today’s popular SUVs are a bear to crawl in and out of if one is wearing a skirt.

The only real question is what number it will be.

I have not always been a station-wagon girl, though.

I got my first car at 16, not so much because my parents were wildly generous as because my mother worked in the family business and needed me to drive my sister around. It was a used lemon-yellow Corvair, the car Ralph Nader called “unsafe at any speed,” because it had the motor in the trunk and nothing in front but space. I loved it! But I could not drive the darn thing. It had what was called “four on the fl oor” with a clutch so sensitive everyone who ever drove it leapt for several blocks. My long-suffering father tried to teach me to drive it, but he finally gave up in exasperation on a quiet Haymount street with these words. “Margaret, I love, you but I cannot stand it anymore. I am going to walk home and call your best friend to come get you.”

He did and she did.

She eventually taught me how to drive my Corvair during one long Sunday afternoon in a deserted parking lot.

The next car which lasted through college was a giant lemon-yellow (again!) convertible, mercifully equipped with an automatic transmission. I loved this one, too, because I could cram in five or more friends, but it also had an issue. Sometimes it would not turn off, even when you took the keys out. The world must have been a safer place in those days, because I often just got out and left it running. No one ever took it, but it did once run out of gas.

Post college, I had a blue Cougar with a white vinyl roof. By this time, cars were less exciting and more functional, and this one was fine although I did not love it. I particularly did not love it when it was stolen on a New York City street. New York’s finest assured me that it was “parts” within minutes of its departure, but they were wrong. It turned out to be one of the few stolen vehicles recovered that year and dirtier than any car I had ever seen. We picked it up from a Brooklyn impound lot and within 24 hours, the motor went up in flames.

Needless, to say, I traded it as soon as I could.

In succession came an Audi Fox (my first new car!), a Honda Civic and a diesel Rabbit. By that time, I was a mother so enter SW # 1, a diesel Oldsmobile, not representative of General Motors’ finest work. It was so loud, a friend once asked what was wrong with it.

Then came SW # 2, an Army Corps of Engineers blue Chevrolet, huge but with no pickup. That car self-combusted in front of VanStory Hills Elementary School, a surefire way to make a spectacle of oneself.

SW # 3 was a white Oldsmobile bought at auction, followed by my all time favorite, a Buick Roadmaster with fake wood paneling and big enough to move Ringling Brothers. By that time, the Precious Jewels were acquainted with the concept of “cool” which SW # 4 definitely was not. I tried to convince them that it was really a Corvette since it had the same engine, but they were not buying that. Apparently everyone else thought they were uncool, too, since those wonderful cars are no longer made.

SW # 5 and I had adventures too numerous to recount here, including another theft despite a legislative license plate, a concrete angel with a red bow around its neck shoved through the passenger window, and a fi nal fiery meltdown and demise in rural Canada.

The recently departed SW # 6, my only boy, is memorable because I did not fi t his demographic. Observers expected the driver to be Mr. T complete with gold chains and were universally startled when the driver turned out to be a middle aged woman in faux pearl earrings.

So, welcome SW # 7. We are still getting to know each other, but I look forward to many happy miles together. 

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