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Are YOU my Mama? Driving.

(A series on motherhood and identity. One and Two.)

Buying a car changed my life.

I was in college, and really didn’t think I needed a car. I was accustomed to public transit–any trip taking a thooooooooousand years was just part of life. But my brother was selling Natasha, and he felt strongly that I needed the experience of car ownership. So I used some of my student loan money to buy her, and even learned to drive her. And my brother was right–having a car opened my world up. I had more fun the two years between getting Natasha and starting grad school than…ever before. I’d tended to think of fun as a thing other people could have but that I could not, because it was too expensive, or required inconveniencing others, or because I needed to WORK all the time. But getting a car showed me that actually, fun is there to be had…by people with cars, anyway. I went camping! And to the grocery store! I drove people places instead of quietly hoping they’d offer to drive me places! I went out at night!

Me, out at night. (Yes, that’s my FACE. If you recognize me, more power to you. And no, I didn’t dress like that all the time.) Natasha, an ’82 Volvo.

Eventually I was forced to sell Natasha because I couldn’t afford the endless repairs. Soon after, I met Mr. Bunny. His car, The Eel*, has been my Car By Proxy ever since. But he’s always been a little irritable about the fact that being a one car family requires a certain amount of complication. I resisted getting another car, fearing that if I had one I’d drive everywhere instead of walking. And there was a nice period when it seemed we didn’t even need the car we did have, we left the house so rarely. But when Bun Bun had to start going to weekly physical therapy appointments because of her torticollis, I capitulated. We got a second car, The Black Eel.

Having The Black Eel has highlighted the fact that my world has become amazingly CLOSED. It’s not just the fact that I’ve put, like, five miles on the car in the past year and a half. It’s things like the fact that I know exactly how many songs I can fit into the drive to the grocery store (1.75), because an important part of having a car is rocking out. And the fact that I have to cue up the very BEST 1.75 songs, because when I’ve got so few, I can’t listen to just any old songs. And the fact that I have to rock out quietly, because of the babies, and half the time I have stop rocking out to listen to static, because it’s Bunlet’s preferred sound. And the fact that I know all the places where instead of being a 25mph zone, it’s a 35 mph zone, so I can reeeeeeeeally take advantage of the fact that I got a zippy car instead of a maximally practical one.

Last week I went somewhere far and got to listen to three or four songs, and when I got there, I was like I’m not ready yet, I want to listen to MORE SONGS and enjoy that Driving Feeling, so I’ll just keep going, because across the freeway there’s a big park, so I can just drive around for a while, but when I got across the freeway the road to the park had been closed. All metaphorical and shit.

Of course, it’s not about driving, it’s about Ye Olde Loste Youthe. I miss the version of me who could leave the house thinking I’d just take a drive and end up at at Lake Tahoe (my, it’s blue!) because I wasn’t ready to stop driving until then.

And of course, even as I miss that person, I know that I no longer have it in me to do such things. I don’t even WANT to, all I want is sleep. And I wouldn’t trade this for any number of songs.

The Black Eel. A 2012 VW GTI. And yes, I got the manual transmission.

*Because he’s green, like an eel…isn’t actually.

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. We are still living car-free. I was actually offered a car during college, and declined because the cost of parking and insurance wasn’t going to be worth even a free (in good condition/repair — it belonged to my great-grandmother and she was upgrading) car. There are times when it is irritating — when it’s 9:45 at night and you realize you don’t have enough formula to make it through the night, and the nearest place that’s open that sells formula is 5km away and it’s cold and wet and dark (thank goodness for husbands willing to make the trip) — but for the most part it works, and the longer we go, the more smug I get about it. It has also made me incredibly efficient when it comes to packing for weekend trips if I know I’m going to have to haul all my stuff, all Gwen’s stuff, and Gwen and either her stroller or carseat.

    On the other hand, I LOVE driving, especially long highway driving. Whenever we’re back in the States, we rent a car to get between my parents’ and Joel’s parents, and we learned a number of years ago that it’s best if I drive…Joel’s driving habits intensely irritate me (he doesn’t use his turn signal properly while changing lanes, and brakes too hard coming to red lights), whereas mine don’t bother him and he’s able to get work done if he’s not driving. Match made in heaven! I love highway driving because it is so rare that I get hours to myself like that, hours where I’m not writing a paper or reading a paper or checking my email or futzing around online or anything. All I can do is think and, if I’m alone in the car, sing along to the music. I love it. It’s so indulgent when you only get to do this once a year or so.

    November 15, 2012
  2. First of all – wow, were you a baddass back then, Bunny! The lbd, the Cleopatra eyes, the choker, the legs, the ciggie… Wo-uh-ow!

    I live in the country with no speed limit on the highway. Well, mostly, there are very often limits, but theoretically, no limit. And I have another Swedish caar 😉 with 340 hp that is a bloody fantastic drive. We haven’t been anywhere in 18 or so months, but after I drop George off to crèche, I sometimes, rarely, find myself turning right instead of left, and I just let myself floor it on the highway to Austria, and sing along to the radio ( because I haven’t been able to remember to take my music to the car in a year) and then take the next exit and go home. The baby sleeps most of the time and oh, is that half an hour like a trip to me olde youthe… Ok, it happened two times so far, because most of the mornings I have stuff planned, like shopping, cleaning, watching some movie that I can’t with George monkeying around. But oh, those two times are so not going to be the only ones. I hope. I love driving and am quite good at it, if I say so myself, but I also need to be clear headed to enjoy it, which hasn’t been the case too often lately. But I’m telling you, I can hardly wait to go with my boys on a car trip. Oh, the fun I will have! 🙂 And them too, of course, with two petrol-heads for parents.

    November 15, 2012
  3. Whhhaaaaat? Get out of my head, first of all. I have been writing a post (in my head, where apparently you have been traipsing around stealing blog ideas) about driving for the last two weeks. And the one thing I wanted to remember to put in there was how I am totally an “everyone should know how to drive a stick shift” kind of person – and then I read your last line in your last caption and OF COURSE YOU GOT THE MANUAL TRANSMISSION. I have so much more to say, and yet I will save it for that post (to be titled Drive Slow, Homie) that I will one day extract from my brain and put down on paper. PS, that pic of Double Buns in the back seat- LOVE. Dangit if that isn’t the day to day kind of snapshot that really captures the idea of THIS IS WHAT MATTERS. Static on the radio, cheerios on the floorboard, and all.

    November 15, 2012
    • PPS Reading your other Are You My Mama posts makes me want to go back and read all those posts of yours I missed when my girls were small (aka “time-leeching, milk-sucking, sleep-killing machines”). Except I don’t really have time because now my girls are big (aka “time-leeching, attention-sucking, I-Want-it-NOW machines”). So, yah.

      November 15, 2012
  4. Louisa #

    Oh my look at dem cute bebes! I have a VW too–a touareg (stupidest name ever) but wow it’s zippy and I sure love driving it.

    November 15, 2012
  5. SRB #

    Heh. We *would* have the exact same car, right down to the manual transmission. Which I insisted on having as BJB would be a terrible teacher and I’d rather not get divorced AGAIN.

    Natasha? Awesome. I named my first car Dave. This car has no name…

    November 15, 2012
    • Awesome! The GTI is the car of baby hoarders! Who knew!

      November 29, 2012
  6. So of course I had to go back and read the series.

    Love it.

    This is probably answered elsewhere on your blog…but did you keep the long hair?

    November 16, 2012
    • I did! And I’m right back in thepostpartum falling out getting caught on my baby’s fingers and toes phase…

      November 29, 2012
  7. Nicole #

    I went back and reread your first post in the series. Today I heard a really interesting post today. The interviewee also has a book if you are interested.

    November 16, 2012
  8. First – that footnote made made me chuckle because it reminded me SO much of something Hubs once said that we still tease him about – he described himself as “pale as a frog”. Umm.

    And also, we became a one car family after Monkey arrived. Mainly because we almost never leave the house!

    November 16, 2012
  9. Jen #

    You can’t live in Detroit and not own a car. I think they come and take you away or something. So we are a 2-car family. I got my first car in college and hardly ever used it — except for the occasional road trip. The good ol’ days. It was a 1984 beige-ish Audi I named Thunderchicken.

    I’ve driven Hondas ever since. I believe the Civic is actually the official car of grad students, as everyone I knew in grad school drove a Civic. I had a manual transmission, too — boy do I miss that. My CR-V is of course an automatic, but it’s still fairly zippy. And gets good gas mileage. For a mom who works from home.

    Jackson was a crap-napper as an infant but would sleep for 1-2 hours in the car, so we took a lot of drives up and down the freeway all the way to East Lansing or Ann Arbor and back so he could sleep and I could rock out (quietly) to First Wave songs on the radio. When KB made this drive, he would either listen to Howard Stern or Pearl Jam Radio on satellite radio, so who knows what cognitive effect this has had on our boy. He does say “bababooey.” The jury is out on whether Matthew will need or want such a car-nap, but I sort of hope he’s at least agreeable to it because it’s a nice time to collect your thoughts and have some peace.

    Also, I can report that 1.5 weeks in on two-child parenting and we’ve only partially lost our minds. The baby keeps me up every 1-2 hours all night, and the toddler has achieved a new level of tantruming that hits without warning like a brief hurricane. When he’s not tantruming, he’s charming. So, 1.5 weeks of winning. Stay tuned.

    November 16, 2012
    • My car came with satellite radio, which I thought was stupid, but am now addicted to. Bun Bun loves the old timey country station. I am hopeful that Jackson is just doing the WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUCK thing that Bun Bun did when Bunlet arrived, and that it will be of similarly brief duration.

      November 16, 2012
  10. Oh Bunny…you are such a bad ass! That girl in the picture with Natasha is the same girl that makes a huge ass snake for her front lawn.

    I love your writing style. I wish you’d write a novel and then clear some time in my life for me to read it. I guess now that I have dream baby I could actually read again when Bee goes to sleep.

    I too love rocking out in the car (mostly alone to music that no one who knows me would ever believe I listen to). If you feel like driving to Wisconsin and picking me up on your way to wherever, I’d be in, but I think we’d have to take my big ass volvo and leave your car here since we are baby hoarders and need room for four car seats.

    November 16, 2012
  11. Awww… sweet photo. We wanted a GTI and are considering it for a second car – very sane choice.

    Yes about the rocking out. It makes the difference between ho-hum-tree-overpass-why-won’t-this-jerkoff-use-his-turn-signal? feeling and bliiiiiiisssssss:)

    November 16, 2012
  12. Verbatim #

    Dude… get yourself an ipod and an ipod dock and put it in your kitchen. The living without the driving I can understand, but without the music… nothing is worth that much sacrifice!

    November 16, 2012
  13. I am one of these people who struggles to stay at home with the children without going completely mad, so we’re always going places, and round here that means going out in the car. (I feel lucky that we have a few places we can walk to, but we also have a number of really amazing places that are only ten or fifteen minutes anyway). But I always feel bad that I’m so dependent on going out in the car.

    On the plus side, going stir crazy at home with my son was what finally drove me to finish learning to drive and pass the damned test already. I regret to say that I still can’t drive a manual. It’ll be one of the things I’ll have to learn when we go back to the UK.

    I love the picture of your children in the car, both rear-facing. There’s something terribly sweet about that. We turned our son around when our daughter was born, because he had been pushing for it and so they could see each other. She’s still rear-facing, but we’ll probably cave to her demands and turn her around in another few months.

    November 17, 2012
  14. Yay for the 90s! Don’t you miss them? I do, sometimes, and then I feel old. I never rocked the dark-lipstick-and-choker look like that, but then I was all about flannel shirts and Chuck Taylors … WAAAY after everybody else had stopped that sloppy nonsense.

    We are a 1-car family as well. It worked great when we lived in a city, but out here in the Hinterland it is a Giant Pain in the Ass. However, we are not quite ready to admit that, and also we are not ready to shell out for another car, so we press on, to the amusement and perplexity of my coworkers who can’t understand why I don’t have my own car.

    November 17, 2012
  15. I love that pic of you and Natasha! Especially with the club. And I love your musings on identity — the whole before-and-after of everything.

    November 17, 2012
  16. I really love this post. I relate to it so much (except the part about having children in the back seat, but I’ll give it a second read in a year). My first car, an 86 silver VW Golf was named Augustine. I will only buy manual cars. I don’t feel like I’m driving the car if it isn’t manual.

    Natasha and Bunny = beauties.
    Dude, you really rocked that look.

    November 18, 2012
  17. Ye Olde Loste Youthe of Roadtrips, how I miss thee. I didn’t even get my licence until I was 21, I was so convinced I didn’t need a car. And then about a week after I learned to drive, I took myself up to a New Years music festival in the hills behind the shipwreck coast about two hours away, and it was The Best. I smoked way too much pot, broke up with the boy I went to meet there, slept in the car because it was raining too hard to put up my tent… so, actually, Loste Youthe can keep the musty jumpers and soaked-through jeans. That was kind of a shit weekend. Yay for driving to the shops! (Also, high five for manual, mama. This means you can totally drive a tractor too.)

    November 20, 2012
  18. My God, do I miss having a car.

    So. Much.

    November 25, 2012
  19. Twangy #

    I’ve had a series of “vintage” cars that have been given to/foisted on me. They all had elaborate histories, including the desperate, petrol-guzzling, Oldsmobile that my American boss gave to me, his mother having won it in a parish lottery years before. She also won the opprobrium of the other parishioners who believed it had been a fix. Ah! These heart-warming ould stories. There was also an orange Beetle that haunted me for about 10 years. And the current Nissan Micra which is busy growing moss in front of the house.

    You look intimidatingly cool and glamorous in the photo. However, I have decided not let this worry me too much, because the cat is out of the bag, and you know me for the eejit that I am.
    Drive on, bunny.

    November 29, 2012

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