Friday, July 3, 2009

Car Connections

My car is a third place. We live on a hobby farm on the eastern border of Woodbury where corn and soybeans are our closest neighbors. We spent a lot of time on the road Luckily, I love my car. For 10 years I drove an eggplant-colored all-wheel-drive Dodge caravan, with erratic squeaks and door locks, in which I most-often felt like a Sherman tank driver. On my 45th birthday my husband surprised me with the gift if a new Volkswagen Jetta that runs on diesel and gets 44 miles to the gallon. This was the car of my dreams. I have admired Jetties from afar for years. They seemed sporty, but roomy and reminded me of adventures from the carefree years when I was out of college and single.

My red Jetta drives smooth as silk and is outfitted for almost any situation. In the glove compartment I have a stash of napkins for messy moments and spills of Chain tea or iced coffee, my favorite drinks. There is a pouch with quarters for parking meters along with the obligatory car manual that I consult less than I should. Purcell hand cleaner, of course, a tire gauge I’ve never used and a flashlight I forget is there when I need it.

In the door pocket to my left is a notebook for keeping lists of things I think of while driving that I can’t forget to do. There’s also our school’s phone directory, the hours for the libraries in our county, my CD case and a laminated Twin Cities map. There is also a pack of gum for those days when I forget to brush my teeth. In the passenger door pocket, I carry a Minnesota/Wisconsin road map and a magnification sheet because I cannot read a road map without glasses. I’m scared I might get lost one day when I don’t have my glasses.

A compartment between the front seats carries pens, glasses cleaner, discount coupons, lip balm and tweezers. In my advanced age, I am the victim of long stray hairs that grow overnight on my chin. I have discovered that the light streaming in the car windows together with the small mirror on my visor, provide the best place to see and remove these embarrassing hairs.

My trunk is surprisingly large and carries numerous essentials. A complete car emergency kit with tools and light, jumper cables and air pump. Also, a rope for tying down the hatch when carrying bikes; a leash for walking the dog, a towel for wiping her feet after a muddy hike, a box of peanut butter crackers to stave off starvation, a baseball cap and balls for tennis, a pouch with tampons, a box of band aids, a tiny first aid kit, and a bottle of water. I also have 5 fabric grocery bags that I am finally in the habit of using. For months after I put them there, I would get into the store and realize I had forgotten them and berate myself. There’s a blanket for laying on the back seat when I’ve taken our dog to the beach, to sit on during soccer and baseball games or for impromptu picnics. I also have the obligatory folding chair for the sidelines.

More importantly, my car is a place where I can enjoy the undivided attention of my family members – an extremely rare commodity in my life these days. In the car, I have the best conversations with our three children, broaching topics that are difficult to bring up over the dining room table, such as trouble with friends, school challenges, and sex. I once read that it is easier to talk about difficult subjects with your children when you are side by side as opposed to face to face. This has been true for me and, since our teenagers hate going on hikes (one of my favorite things) and we don’t wash dishes together, because we have a dishwasher, the car is the next best thing. My husband is a whirlwind of activity; he juggles multiple projects simultaneously and is qualified to fix any and everything. He is a lawyer, mechanic, plumber, electrician, tree mover, handyman, teacher, son, brother, father and husband all wrapped up on one. Weeks can go by when we hardly see one another, he to bed long after me and up and out before I open my eyes. On rare occasions, we find ourselves together in the car, and if I can keep him from his cell phone, we reconnect. I love to read out loud while he drives, sharing parenting books, the newspaper, essays I’ve written. We talk about our kids, our schedules, future plans. He fills me in on his myriad of projects and I share what’s going on in my world. My parents used to reconnect like this on a daily basis over cocktails before dinner. My husband rarely drinks or sits down. The car is the place where I get him all to myself.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I loved coming home from the 4th of July to open Our Third Place and find your post to greet me! How appropriate since this weekend is usually about the unknown amount of time it will take to get to and from Alexandria with holiday traffic locked in the car together!

    Your description of your preparedness made me chuckle, I went to find the bug spray I knew was in my car, and it was gone.