It began as the usual 'great knowing you, you're a great friend, good luck next year' blather, but then morphed into this: "...I believe that one day you'll meet that great guy with all the brains and money and you'll be driving a station wagon full of kids with a smile on your face".
What 17 year old writes that in another 17 year old's yearbook?
A Station wagon? Full of kids? With a smile on my face?
He didn't know me At. All.
I had plans back then. Big Plans. Big Plans that did not include a family vehicle of any kind.
My BFF and I had crafted our future plans together during a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when we were 14. We were going to live in a loft in SoHo. We'd throw fancy Great-Gatsby parties with real cocktails in real glasses. She was going to be a fashion designer or actress, whichever was more lucrative. My career plans were up in the air, but I was definitely down with city loft living thing.
I'd do the chic city-girl gig during the week, but on the weekends I would free my car from the high priced parking garage (easily affordable with my six figure career) and cruise down the turnpike to the Jersey Shore in this:
My Dream Car.
The I-Don't-Have-Any-Responsibilities JEEP. Shiny black. Soft top. Adventure ready.
The kind with a removable top and doors. The kind that is required to be driven with flip flops. The kind that can take you to the beach or four wheeling through mud. The kind that reminds you that you are young and fun and not closing in on 40.
I was insulted by my friend's prediction back then. Who did he think I was?
Clearly, I was much more THIS
Than (God help me) THIS
I went off to college in upstate New York that fall, broke, clueless and car-less.
During summer breaks at home I drove my sister's used Dodge Omni* or, when my mother was feeling generous, her Acura to my summer job at Contempo Casuals in a quintessential New Jersey mall (and crossing off 'retail' from possible career choices).
By my Junior year I convinced my parents that I needed a car so I could
They helped me buy one of these:
After college I moved to Washington, DC, found myself gainfully employed, and out of touch with my Soho-Loft-friend. My '87 civic was starting to show signs of being not so reliable anymore so I spent my entry-level job paychecks on my first New Car.
mine didn't come with a palm tree. Or an ocean view.
Another practical Civic***. [Sigh] Black this time, but it was no free wheeling Jeep. City driving, as it turned out, was not 4x4 vehicle friendly.
The years went by, cars came and went. My Black Jeep was always in the back of my mind, but there never seemed to be a right time to add its whimsical wheels to my life.
The Husband and I got married, moved a few more times and started a family. The cars were always sensible, fuel efficient and reliable. A Honda. A VW. A Toyota.
Not too long ago, we planted ourselves in New England suburbia with two kids to feed, a lawn to mow and a mortgage to pay.
And where I can currently be found driving around town in this
A Passat Wagon****. Full of kids. With a smile on my face most of the time.
How did he KNOW? Twenty years ago, how did he KNOW?
Did my 17 year old persona scream 'FUTURE STATION WAGON DRIVER'?
Was I that transparent?
I didn't think so.
But then people tend to see us differently than we see ourselves.
Maybe it was my spot on the tennis team that gave me away. Or my sensible chin-length bob. Or even the canvas LL Bean book bag I carried to school every day.
Whatever it was, it was the image I had chosen to show the world.
I guess I may have done a pretty good job of playing the Future-Domestic-Girl role on the outside, but on the inside I was, and still am, the ever hopeful Barefoot-Jeep-Driving Girl.
A girl can dream, can't she?
Someday I will get my Jeep*****. I may be the only flip flop wearing 85 year old at Sunset Farms Retirement Village driving one, and I may not be able to see where I'm going, but there I'll be, in the driver's seat, heading to the beach.
*caught on fire as I was driving to the mall
**traded in for mere pennies at the sleazy car dealership
*** totaled a week after it was sold by the teenager who bought it.
****no longer being held together with a binder clip and pony tail holder
*****waiting patiently for me
This was originally posted in '09. But I'm thinking of my jeep a lot lately, for many reasons. And with any luck I will cross off 'go 4-wheeling on a beach in a jeep' from my bucket list in the next few weeks.
What's on your bucket list?