It was the morning of my 16th birthday, and I woke up with a feeling of disappointment. I had been forcing “car and auto” magazines with highlighted and underlined listings in front of my dad for the past 4 or 5 months, I had been eavesdropping on my parents for the past month trying to figure out if I had somehow gotten lucky enough to get one of theirs passed on, and I was positive I would not be getting a car for my birthday.
Not as a gift, mind you. In my family if the kid doesn’t mess up (read come home drunk, get suspended from school, etc) he gets a chance to financially split a car with my parents for his 16th birthday. This kept us involved in the car (since we put money into it we would take better care of it) but also allowed us to get a nicer car than we would’ve been able to afford on our own.
So I got up, looked out of my front window with a slight glimmer of hope, and saw nothing. No car. I was absolutely crushed, so I got dressed and wandered downstairs where I could hear my parents making breakfast.
After giving me a hug, my parents directed me to my seat where there was a little bag with tissue paper in it. Awesome. Gift cards or something else that’s crappy and small. However, a little box fell out when I opened it, and then inside that box was a magical item: a key.
I freaked out, jumped up and down, almost knocked my dad over with a flying bear hug, and picked my mom up and swung her around. I hadn’t even seen my car yet! They then directed me to the garage, where I opened the door to find a 1994 Ford Explorer.
I was pumped. I had been adamant that I wanted to have a truck or SUV, and the thought of anything besides an American car hadn’t ever occurred. It was a teal green color, which would become a joke with my friends, but at the time it could have been hot pink and I wouldn’t have cared. It was a car, and it was mine.
I would drive that car for the next 7 years, almost to the day. Three hour drives to school at ND were routine. Snow wasn’t an issue. I got broken into twice (once in my school parking lot, and the other in front of my house). I had to put 3 transmissions into it, a new exhaust, new brakes and a new battery. I had a bench seat in the front that was the best part of the car (perfect for date-night cruises) and I turned the back seat into a bed for naps between school and practice (which also proved to be hands down the most comfortable way to ever watch a drive in movie). I asked out my 1st girlfriend in that car, and broke up with her 2 years later in the same car. I went camping with friends and towed my boat with my dad. I drove my friends around, and used it as a locker room for all of my lacrosse equipment. I basically lived in that car, and it took care of me every time I needed it too.
Although I had to turn it in, I will remember driving that car for the rest of my life, and I still compare the ride of every car I get in to how smooth that 94 was. My first car was with me for longer than some of my high school friends. Will I have other cars I love? Probably, but I can guarantee that none of them will come close to that 4 door, teal green, 1994 Ford Explorer.