Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thoughts on driving Volkswagens

My car, complete with huge flower in the vase (thanks to Megan who
brought it from Belgium)
My first car was a Volkswagen. I bought it in maybe 1961. It was the color of canned tomato soup, and someone had striped it. I thought it was sort of cool. My dad went with me to pick it out, and I paid $750 (my own money). I drove that car until I married in the spring of 1964. My new husband, now ex-, and I traded it and whatever clunker he was driving for a Karmann Ghia, yellow with a black top. It looked like a bumblebee. We drove our worldly goods (those that weren't shipped via movers) from Missouri to Texas in the car a year later, with luggage strapped on the top and a full grown magnificent male collie taking up the space where the back seat pulled down and made a platform. Thirty miles down the road, our luggage began to crawl down over the windshield. We went back to town, regouped, mailed some stuff and started out again.
I guess we thought we were moving on up in the world,  for we didn't have Volkswagens after that for a long time. Mustang convertible and then a Mercedes convertible we could not afford for him; huge Cadillacs, used, for me, then station  wagons and vans. But somewhere along the way I decided I was leery of those big cars, so as a third car Joel bought me an old VW that had been rolled and still had all its dents, with a bumper sign saying "Old is beautiful." I graduated from that to a black-on-black classic convertible with a burled wood dashboard--this was about the time they stopped making the old bugs.
I loved that car. Maybe my all-time favorite until now. I remember coming out of a grocery store and having a woman say to me, "My husband would kill for that car." Another time I took the chldren for ice cream cones--four kids plus the driver was a squeeze but it was before the days of seat-belt laws. We drove home with the top down and I realized my mistake--ice cream flew all over the car and us. Good times.
Single, I decided I needed a bigger car so I bought a used VW camper--long before the Vanogan days. It embarrassed the daylights out of some of my kids. I remember once picking up Megan, then a tween, at a party only to hear her say, "Let's get out of here before anyone sees this car." Piqued, I drove away banging on the horn--no wonder Meg and I had our share of battles in those years. I got more sensible--drove a minivan, then a couple of Sterlings (no longer made) and finally Camrys.
One day driving in Dallas with my oldest son, I looked over at one of the new VW bugs and said, "I'd really love to have one of those." Colin, bless his heart, said, "Mom, if you want it, you should have it." In those days, you had to put a deposit down and go on a waiting list but eventually I got a bright blue bug. We gave Jordan my Camry and traded whatever clunker she had in on the VW. I remember driving to get my new car when her car made such alarming noises that Colin said, "I'm afraid we won't make it." But we did and went to celebrate and show off at friends' restaurant. The car had a sun roof, which I thought was the cat's pajamas.
After a few years, I began to long for a convertible, and younger son Jamie egged me on. He went with me to look, did all the bargaining--we were about to buy a car and they sold it out from under us on the showroom floor, so Jamie, the quintessential salesman himself, bullied them down in price and into throwing in the burled wood luxury dashboard plus some other amenities.
So today I drive a VW bug convertible. I think part of my reasoning was I didn't want to be a stodgy grandmother, and this was one way of breaking the mold of any aging woman. Last summer it went from cold to hot so fast, I don't think I put the top down more than three times. This spring was heavenly, and even now that summer has arrived, I can put it down in the early mornings and late at night. My hair and complexion suffer but my spirit soars.
Jacob at first didn't like the top down, but now he says, "Juju, please fold that back." Sometimes coming home from his house at dusk with the top down, I take back and scenic ways with Alex Beaton singing Scottish ballads blasting from my tape deck. Love it.
Last night as I was leaving the Old Neighborhood Grill, a woman smiled at me, and then impulsively asked, "Are  you the woman who drives the Volkswagen convertible?" I said yes, and she said, "I've seen you driving around." And probably waving madly at everyone I know. That and Alex Beaton are why I love my car.


Susan M. Boyer said...

Judy, when they first came out with the "New Beetle" I had to have one. It was lime green--they called it another color but I can't recall it. I loved that car! I drove it for about six years before trading it. I thought long and hard about getting another, but my husband voted for something larger as I'm on the Interstate a lot these days.

I hope you enjoy yours--I know you will!

Anonymous said...

Next time you take a pic of your vehicle do not include the license plate. It is easy to "run" the plate and come up with your address. I don't know if you care about that sort of information been easily accesible to people, including people who may prey on the older folks.