My first car was a yellow 1973 AMC Gremlin with wood paneling and a bad Kmart stereo. My new car is a 2019 Yellow Jeep Wrangler with leather seats and CarPlay. My Gremlin used to backfire and eventually caught on fire. My Jeep can drive over anything and texts me when I need to change the oil.
Two completely different cars, but both yellow and parked like bookends on the last thirty-three years of my driving life.
I’m sure my Gremlin, burnt hood and all, was returned to the junkyard from which its back window was purchased. Yellow paint rusted. Her glory days, along with my teenage angst and all that wood, smashed like a tin can. Stacked upon other discarded firsts or lasts.
I didn’t know it then, but the Gremlin was my first lesson in managing expectations.
My father is a mechanic. A really great mechanic by all accounts. He can take cars apart and put them back together again. Every time I visited, there a project in his garage. I’d imagined my first car from the time I realized I would grow old enough to drive.
A bright red convertible or maybe that 1959 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe from Pretty in Pink. It would be a labor of love from my dad, handed down to me on the morning of my sixteenth birthday with a bow. A big bow and a cool retro set of keys. That was the dream in the days of my driver’s permit.
The reality, as is always the case, was not teen-movie-ready. More like… Sanford and Son. “Here’s your Gremlin. Solid engine. We need to swing by the junkyard and pick up a window.”
Molly Ringwald was not staring in this crap.
Side note: How did Ringwald’s character afford a classic car if she and her father were in such financial straights. How many teenage expectations were knocked around by John Hughes?
Anyway, long story short, I hated that Gremlin for about as long as it took me to drive to the Circle K by myself on a hot summer day. I grew to like it by the time I went to my first movie without having to be dropped off. Once school started and I pulled into the student parking lot, backfire and all, I was in love with every dent and peel. It became a-tiny-tree air fresheners and regular car washes kind of love.
Despite my grand expectations, it turned out freedom was freedom, no matter the packaging.
My Jeep was my choice. Impractical, a rough ride, and the back seat barely holds two comfortably. My youngest left for college, and I wanted out of my ginormous Ford, but I was trapped in a weird car limbo. I had no expectations, no idea what I wanted. John Hughes had since passed and I had lived lots of life.
So, I bought my new car on a whim.
I almost got the black. Black says, “I’m sophisticated, edgy.” I could do that… maybe. Before I had a chance to create a new and ridiculous expectation, I drove the yellow one.
Yellow is fun, a little nuts. The color of wildflowers, bees, and sunshine. Yellow was my teacher all those years ago. It was time to get back to yellow.
Full circle. Different. But freedom all the same.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Sunrise.