Sunday, September 23, 2012

RITE OF PASSAGE--In Retrospect

That fateful day, I became a senior citizen.

No, I didn’t turn 62—or even 55. That came later. The change, while unofficial, was much more fundamentally significant than mere age.

I bought a luxury car.

Yes, it’s true. No longer would you see that gumball red sports car zipping around town, careening around corners, leaping away from stop signs at the head of the pack as I plotted the next chapter of my novel.

At the height of my mid-life crisis, after I’d cast aside the practical economy cars of my youth, I was often heard telling people I’d drive a sports car until I couldn’t find room in it for my wheel chair. But I failed to consider that irresistible and inevitable force brought to bear on those of us of a certain age and familial persuasion. I became a grandmother.

At first it wasn’t so bad. An infant seat could be wedged into the anatomically shaped, albeit nearly nonexistent, back seat of the turbo-charged, five-on-the-floor bomb, and an infant needs almost no legroom.

True, when I wanted to take my husband and daughter along on my outings with the grandbaby, one of them had to more-or-less curl up into a ball to fit into the other back seat. But it was only for short distances. They could handle it.

But babies grow. And this one grew and grew, until, at age six, she could barely walk under my outstretched arm. My back seat still had enough room for her lanky legs as long as I didn’t have to move the driver’s seat to get in and out. But I could see my fate staring me in the face from a year or two in the future. I couldn’t let my granddaughter be uncomfortable, no matter how short the trip.

Then fell the final blow. She became a big sister.

Talk about fate staring me in the face. The little guy was built like a fullback from day one. And now we had to use two cars for a family outing. The logistics were beginning to get unwieldy. I had to give up and admit I needed the dreaded “nana-mobile.”

I set out on a search to find something of adequate size that wasn’t too much of an affront to my self image, firmly believing no such thing existed. I must have looked at every van, mini-van, SUV, and sedan in town before I heaved a heavy sign, patted the hood of my sports car, and bid it a fond farewell. I had selected a sleek, black two-door with room in the back seat for three adults abreast. My grandchildren would be comfortable even after they outgrew me (by the time they were 10 years old).

What sold me on that particular car? Well, it wasn’t really the prestigious maker and model. It wasn’t really the roominess or living room comfort. It wasn’t even really the somewhat ominous look of it.

I think it might have been a comment the salesman, unaware that I’m a writer of horror/mystery novels, made while showing me how spacious the car was.

“Wow,” he said. “I wonder how many bodies you could stuff into that trunk.”

note: The granddaughter in the essay now drives her own car. The grandson is looking forward to driver's training later this year. Theoretically, Hubby and I could be back into a sports car in less than three years, provided the crack about the wheelchair remains only a joke. That'll be another rite of passage--into second childhood. : - ) We'll see...