My first car was a gold 1986 Chevy Cavalier. I drove her until I
was nearly 21. I ran her completely out of oil once. I also wedged her driver’s
side rear door into the tailgate of Jerry Friend’s truck in the school parking
lot one morning. By the time we traded her in she was using a quart of oil a
day (turns out, running a car out of oil is a bad thing…who knew?) and you
couldn’t go up a hill with the air conditioner on because her four little
cylinders were apparently very tired, but she got me where I needed to go. Sometimes
it took me awhile, but I got there eventually.
I turned 16 in 1989. It was a glorious time of permed hair and giant
bangs that jutted awkwardly off of our foreheads like unicorn horns, though far
less pointy but no less rock solid. My bangs were so high-in-the-sky back then
I had to drive slouched down in my seat because my bangs touched the headliner
and I couldn’t have anything encroaching upon their airspace. Apparently the
slouching weakened the seat support. One day, as I leaned back to smooth my
skirt underneath my rear, the seat gave way and completely came loose from the
car. I found myself looking up at the ceiling of my car, legs smashed into the
steering wheel, rocking back and forth, in complete and utter shock at the
abrupt change from vertical to nearly horizontal. It was then I also noticed faint
shoe prints on the backseat ceiling. Turns out, my sister and best friend
thought it would be completely hilarious to put those up there and then watch
my mother have a full-blown conniption fit right there in my car if she ever
saw them. After I righted my seat and found my way out of my car (all while making
a mental note to scrub that ceiling ASAP), I retrieved my father who was coming
in off of a night shift. He was exhausted and I was going to be late for
school, so he did what any other Oklahoma father in his situation would’ve done
– he propped the seat up with a brick and sent me off to get my daily dose of
public school education. It worked far longer than it should have and it wasn’t
until I was a newlywed that the brick broke and my new redneck husband drilled
a hole through the floor of the car and bolted the seat right to the frame.
The seats of that car were particularly quirky and the passenger
front seat would lie completely flat. One time while dragging Main in Miami,
Sis and I were smack dab in the middle of downtown, cars in front, back, and to
the side of us when she said something really funny and made me laugh out loud.
While I was sitting in the passenger seat laughing like a loon, tears streaming
down my face, she released the seat and laid down making it look like I was
entirely alone in that car, laughing for no reason. When my laughter subsided
and I opened my eyes to see her out of the view of every other teen on Main
that night I then began trying to make her sit up, begging her to stop making
me look crazy which only succeeded in making me look even more so because now I
was talking to myself as well.
One day Mom said she had a headache and was going to lean the seat
back and close her eyes while I drove us to town. About halfway to Miami she
quietly asked, “Kristin Dawn, is there something you need to tell me…like why
there are shoe prints on the ceiling of your back seat?”
And then it was Sis’ turn to laugh hysterically in that sweet
little gold Cavalier. And I had some splainin’ to do.
I was born a semi-diva. I married a redneck. Through the magic of osmosis or just because of a serious lack of sophistication over the years I have found a balance of the two that make me what I am today. And then I write about it all, much to the chagrin of my mother.