The Car

The CarOne of the things that caused me to come to blows with my brother when I visited my siblings earlier this summer was the discussion of The Car.

All three of us kids in the family were given cars as teenagers.  I chuckle at this today as my eldest son never had that gift.  Many of his friends did, and while I felt badly about not being able to give him that freedom.  But, I also knew that the life I’d set up for him was so vastly different than the one I had when I was his age, and therefore the teenage car was more of a necessity than the luxury it would have been for him.

My brother was angry, on this particular night as we sat watching our children swim together in my sister’s pool, because of the three children, he was the “only one” who was made to pay anything for the car he was finally allowed to drive at age nearly seventeen.  My father had given him that car, and asked him to pay $500 for it.  It was a Ford Escort, probably seven or eight years old, and the whole exercise was supposed to demonstrate a certain level of commitment and responsibility, and teach the value of work and a dollar and all of that.

I of course chuckled.  My brother had of course demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge of any of those sorts of things up until that point in his life, so of course my father thought a gift like that shouldn’t necessarily be free for him.  But my brother couldn’t see any of the extenuating circumstances around the situation; as he often does, he saw the situation in black and white.  He paid my father for a car, my sister and I didn’t pay our mother for the cars she gave us.

My mother gave my sister her car at age sixteen to help drive me and my brother around to fun things like othodontist appointments, doctors appointments, after school activities, etcetera.  She wasn’t made to pay because of course she was working for my mother, helping her out with things that my mother would have had to pay someone else to do while she was busy lawyering all day.

My mother gave me a car at age sixteen for less sensible reasons.  Part of it was a reward for my good grades and hard work, and the level of responsibility I’d demonstrated doing whatever I was asked around the house.  I’m sure the secondary reason had something to do with feeling badly that she hadn’t protected me more from my brother’s violent moods and all of the ensuing family drama that came out of them.  I was the only one in the family that bore the physical scars in addition to the emotional ones we all had, and so I’m sure on some level she was trying to make me feel better.

On my sixteenth birthday, my mother took a half day off and marched me over to the Secretary of State and signed the forms that allowed me to drive my used Plymouth Turismo wherever I wanted.  We both were sure that this would help me move beyond the four walls of my house and all of the history contained in them.   And I loved her for it.

I found it amusing that so many years later my brother is still holding a grudge about The Car, especially since I thought I’d long since gotten past all of the things he’d done prior to me getting it.  But the angry conversation that followed his comment showed us both that sometimes your past is still very much a part of your present…often without you even realizing it.


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