Oldcarguy had a familiar gleam in his eye that day last summer when he returned from Scout camp with the Baby Boy. His crush was petite, curvy, shiny, sporty — a jet-black 1999 Mazda Miata. One of the other Scout dads was selling it. He had a family of young boys who still wanted to go everyplace with their father. We, on the other hand, had a couple of teens with their own drivers’ licenses. We also had a backyard full of vehicles: two antique pickups, a ’60s convertible, a disassembled Jeep or two, and two everyday-driver sedans.
But we actually NEED this car, opined oldcarguy. He did have a point. My 2008 Honda Fit had been pledged to No. 1 Son, though it was technically still mine until said son met certain academic goals. Still, our oldest boy often drove it to school and his job. While I work from home most days, I do occasionally have to make an appearance in the office, pick up groceries, attend yoga class, go to the dentist …
Let me say right here that I am not really a car person. Until I married oldcarguy (at age 39), I’d only owned three cars. In my LIFE. All were dependable, practical, even boring — none of which describes the Miata. But I believe one of the secrets of keeping a marriage lively is for each spouse to maintain individual friends, interests and pursuits. Another is not to sweat the small stuff. So the Miata was mine. Well, sort of.
I joke to my friends that it’s a “ridiculous car” for me to drive, and call it the MidlifeCrisisMobile. It’s loud, showy, uncomfortable, and barely accommodates a load of groceries. I struggle to close the balky top. But I have to admit it’s kinda cute.
The other day, I drove it to the high school to pick up Baby Boy for a doctor’s appointment. He folded his 6’2″ frame into the passenger seat and said, “Mom, let’s take the top down.” The sun was beating down, I’d forgotten my sunglasses, and up to that point had been enjoying a rare good hair day. But I thought, what the heck. Chances to bond with my sons are precious few these days. I unlatched the top.
For the next 20 minutes or so, we saw what the Miata was made for. She took the curves beautifully. I showed my son that his fuddy-duddy mom was pretty handy with a stick shift. He grinned. My hair was a mess, my eyes watering from the wind. I stuck a CD into the fabulously retro player and turned it up. It was Prince — most appropriate for a car built in 1999.
I thought about where I was in that year: living in a Philadelphia rowhouse a few blocks from the Rocky Steps, working nights at the Inquirer, a hopeful newlywed at 40. Could I have imagined, then, driving this car, having this boy, living this life? From the CD player, Prince sang: “I don’t care where we go, I don’t care what we do. I don’t care, pretty baby, just take me with you.”
Yes, I thought, this is exactly what I imagined.
Sometime after we returned home, the Baby Boy struck up a conversation with his dad. “I think,” he said, “Mom really likes the Miata.