My Life According To Cars


The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

In 26 years of driving, I have had five vehicles, and each of them has represented a different phase of my life.

My first car was a clapped out old Renault. It took me through my young-and-stupid student years and the first few years of my working life. It wasn’t sleek and shiny like some of my friends’ cars, but it had a great deal of character and it was surprisingly reliable for such an old car. Its decline coincided with the retirement of my mechanic: when his replacement took over, my car started leaving the repair shop with new problems. When I made it onto the afternoon traffic report for blocking a lane of a major road, I decided to sell the car. A co-worker purchased it, fully aware of all of the problems, and restored it. As far as I know, it’s still on the road.

With the Renault gone, I bought my first brand new car – a sexy, bright red Opel Corsa. That was my Single Working Girl car, purchased when I was earning a good salary but had only myself and a cat to take care of. It was the car of someone who is a professional, but who is still young enough to be a little bit adventurous. When I left the country in 2000, my parents bought the car from me. They eventually sold it to a family friend, who is still zooming around in it.

When I came to Canada, I got the Desperate Newcomer car. What I really wanted was to buy a new Pontiac that I had seen, but the dealership wouldn’t sell it to me because I hadn’t been in the country long enough to establish a credit rating. I needed a car, but no-one, it seemed, was willing to sell me one. It didn’t matter that I had a good salary and no debt. Apparently, that somehow made me more of a risk. Eventually, I found a dealer who was willing to lease me a Chevrolet Cavalier. It was an OK car, but I was a little peeved that I had to just take what I could get instead of being able to choose.

The lease on the Chev expired when George was about a month old. When I returned it to the dealership, I discovered that the dealer had actually given me a very raw deal. It wasn’t really surprising – as a newcomer to Canada with no social support system, I had been a very easy target. It meant that I had to pay the dealer a lot of money when I returned the car (and yes, buying it at that point would have been prohibitively expensive). Because of that and the fact that I was living on maternity leave benefits (translation: half of my regular salary), I had no money to put into a new car.

My mother-in-law came to the rescue by giving me the old Dodge van that had belonged to my father-in-law. He had been dead for seven months, so he no longer needed it. The thing was just sitting in the garage. I accepted the car gratefully, knowing that it was on its last legs. It got me from A to B, and since I was on maternity leave, I didn’t have to worry about whether it would survive daily commutes of an hour each way.

That was my New Mom car, and although I only drove it for a few months, I have many happy memories of it. I liked the idea of driving my father-in-law’s car. I had been very close to him, and felt that he would approve of me using his car. Almost every day, I would buckle my new baby into his infant carrier, and we would go off in the van to the mall, the bookstore, the coffee shop, or a park. I had some wonderful bonding time with him, and the old Dodge had a big part in that.

About two months before George’s first birthday, the Dodge shuffled off whatever mortal coil a car can possibly have, and I had to buy another vehicle. My husband and I looked at several used cars, and picked out a Chevy Venture van that was just a few months old and had only been used for demo purposes. Getting a minivan launched me into the Soccer Mom category. It doesn’t matter that I got the van when my son wasn’t old enough to walk, let alone kick a ball. If you’re a mom and you have a minivan, you are a Soccer Mom.

We still have the Soccer Mom van, and it  has seen us through ten years of family life. Since getting it, the size of our family has grown by one. Kids have graduated from infant carriers to baby seats to high-back boosters to bum-only boosters to no boosters. We have driven our children to daycare, to Kindergarten and to grade school. We have taken business trips and gone on vacations, and covered many, many miles.

The Soccer Mom van is now a Soccer Mom rust bucket. One of the doors sticks when you open it, and neither of the front windows will open. Bits and pieces keep having to be replaced to keep the thing going, and the time is coming when we will have no choice but to replace the entire car. We will have to start seeing who has a good – and cheap – car for sale.

Our next car will the the Fraught Mom-Of-Teens car. Whatever make, model and colour we get, it will see us through more of the exciting journey of family life.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit to the author.


Teen Series Part 4: Time To Think

Three years ago, when I got fed up with being reliant on a transit system that kept raising its fares, I started car-pooling with a co-worker, Michelle. Through many commutes we shared laughs and stories, and became very close friends – so close that Michelle was my maid of honour. Because I am friends with Michelle, I have the pleasure of knowing her daughter, Megan, who is 16 years old. Today, Megan shares her brave and very compelling story with us. Here are her words, uncut and unedited.

My name’s Megan I am 16 years old and I live in London, Ontario. Seeing into the minds of people my age can be difficult for anyone who isn’t my age. My generation faces new problems, new social norms, and new expectations. The way teenagers thought 30 years ago isn’t how we think today and the way we think now won’t be how teenagers 30 years from now will think. And within that every teenager will have different priorities and different hopes and dreams so clearly you can never have a full understanding of every teenagers mind. I have been sick for the last 5 years of my life and have been removed greatly from people my age so I can’t tell you much about the way they think but I can tell you about the way I think.

The thing about being sick for so long is I had a lot of time to think.  Most people envy being able to stay home all day and relax but being that isolated can become boring and tedious; you can only check facebook so many times. For the first few years of my illness I found small things to entertain me, video games, books, television shows, but as I grew older I spent more of that time thinking. I thought about my future and if I would get the chance to have one, I thought about my family and if I would always be a burden on them and I thought about the world and would I ever be able to do anything for it. I started spending more of my time reading about what was going on in the world and I started seeing things that I couldn’t believe were happening. For example a couple months ago in Iran 70 university programs were closed off to women because they were surpassing the men within them. And in many places around the world, such as Uganda, it is legal to kill a person for being a homosexual. Reading all this I wanted to fix it but never thought I would have the opportunity to.  At that point in my life I didn’t let myself dream or hope for anything but sickness, after five years of nearly constant illness how could I? So I ignored these problems and went back to my tv or video games.

Something changed for me a few months ago, I got tired of letting my illness stop me, I got tired of not trying to do anything because no one thought I could succeed, and I got tired of accepting that I would live the rest of my life being ill. I don’t know what changed for me but I did. I started researching universities and looking at careers in human rights and I started working towards a future for myself. I started volunteering in the community and doing things to see if I could handle going back to school. And now after five years I’m fighting my illness so I can do something with my life. I have decided I want to become a human rights lawyer and be the person that helps solve the types of issues mentioned above. So this year I’m working my butt of to do well in school and to get more involved so I can get into a good university and eventually a good law school. It is hard, I get tired and I get sick but I keep working because I have to, because I’m tired of letting illness rule my life.

So that is how I think, it may not be how every teenager sees the world but those are the challenges I am currently facing and I hope this gives some insight on a teenagers brain even if it is just mine. One thing I want to add is a quote from novelist John Green.

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

― John Green, Looking for Alaska

(Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo & Video. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)