The Cars in My Life

 

 

 

My father bought me a 12-year-old gold Studebaker convertible that was a guy magnet. It was the car he wished he had when he was younger. I had just graduated from nursing school in 1962. At 20 years of age, I had little knowledge of car maintenance. The first time I checked the oil (Google this, youngsters) I didn’t know where to return the dip stick. I just tucked it into the engine before I drove from the Jersey Shore to home some 50 miles away. Surprised to find no dip stick when I next opened the hood, I promptly got a lesson in car care from my father.  

My father also bought me one of the first-generation Mustangs in 1964 when I returned home from a short adventure in California. The Mustang was another guy magnet in red with an 8-cylinder engine and “5 on the floor.” Single, with an active social life, I frequently provided the wheels on dates.

Buying me the Mustang is misnomer. While my father did choose the car, I paid it off. Financially naïve, I didn’t think to put the car in my name. Two years later, right before my wedding day, my uncle bought the Mustang. My husband-to-be aced me in car ownership. He drove a white Corvette.

The most enjoyable car I drove was a second-hand 4-door Datsun coupe we had when we lived in Chicago. Googling hasn’t revealed the model or year. It was probably 10 to 15 years old when, in the early 80s, I wove through heavy rush hour traffic, over snow packed winter streets inching into postage size parking spaces, and once roared down a narrow alley to avoid a gang of boys tossing rocks at each other. Rust invaded its body and corroded the floorboard on the driver’s side. I loved that hunk of junk. The Datsun appeared as a character in my book: Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic.

Cars don’t seem to connect in our lives as in the past. I drove myself back and forth to nursing school in Jenny, a burgundy Ford Monterey so named after Aunt Jenny who sold the car to my father. A solid 4-door sedan with a stick shift, Jenny was part of the family. All family cars afterwards were purely functional.

What brings up these memories? Possibly sitting in AAA’s waiting room one morning last week while my 8-year-old Chevy Impala had an oil change. Not as flamboyant as my earlier cars but dependable with rave reviews when it first came out. I took both grandsons on driving excursions when they each had learner’s permits. So, this car has some sentimental value. I wonder if the last grandson, approaching driving age will want to test his driving skills with grandma? And I wonder if I, as instructor, would be up to the challenge? I know my Chevy will. Maybe I should give her a name?

 

 

By Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, I write about growing older, confronting ageism, creativity and food. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold.

8 comments

  1. I too used to name my cars, and I have fond memories of them. My favorite was a 1976 green Corolla with a stick shift. I loved manual transmissions. In the 1970s, if you pointed to a car, I could tell you what it was. My father was a mechanic, and he taught me how to tell the difference between cars that were even considered twins, like the Mercury Comet and the Ford Maverick. He also taught me how to check the oil. I guess, even though I no longer name my cars, I still have a bond with them, as I drive them until they’re almost no longer serviceable.

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    1. All families have different values. What I didn’t say in my post was that my husband-to-be sold his corvette to buy me an engagement ring. He did buy a second-hand sports car–an unreliable Fiat*. It would conk out on the city streets so often that my husband and I would just wordlessly get out of the car and push it off to the side of the road. I don’t remember what we did to get it started again.
      *”Fix it again, Tony”

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  2. You were one hot chick, Marianna, with those classy cars. Who knew?! Woot!
    My first car was a 1969 Chevy Camaro, silver with a black vinyl top, black racing stripe and 350 hp engine that I purchased after high school with an interest free loan from my parents. Loved that car…and drove it until the bottom nearly rusted out!

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