I’ve spoken before about the nostalgia and melancholy with which I think of the sedan I once drove daily, but which has been consigned to the driveway due to passenger limitations. My escape vehicle.
When my husband and I bought the car, a Saab 9-3, we asked a mechanic friend for his take on the vehicle. He told us it was an electrical nightmare. But I’d grown up hearing stories my father had told with misty eyes about his own Saabs, “you know, the cars we owned before we had you.” I’d heard the wonders of heated seats with cooled air coming through the vents, uncompromising safety, and cool design. And they were born from jets, for goodness sake! What more could one want? I fired back at our friend the mechanic, who went on to bust me that I just wanted it for the prestige, “our baby will be sitting in the lap of safety!” Granted, we didn’t have babies, yet. But when we started our family within the next few years, our vehicle would be up to snuff with the latest safety standards.
We had no worries when Baby # 1 arrived. Then we had to install the car seat. Placed in the middle of the backseat, rear-facing, to ensure her ultimate safety, we cracked our heads times innumerable as we bent down to click the infant carrier into the base. When my belly swelled enough with Baby # 2 to make wedging myself into the backseat to strap her into her now convertible seat nearly impossible and very uncomfortable, we moved it directly behind the driver’s seat. Soon, we had another seat behind the passenger seat, too.
That’s when my husband started car shopping. His car, a Jeep Cherokee so old it actually looked like one, was rusting apart on the road. The girls loved riding in it because they bounced all around the back seat, but even my husband, an off-roading enthusiast, was getting nervous. He wanted air bags and latch-capability. He wanted more space. He did not want a mini-van. Neither did I – really. I wanted one when I sat inside it, flipped and folded the seats, slid the doors open. But when I stood back and looked at the thing, ugh. I was out-voted anyway. He decided on a Ford Flex, at the time, a brand-new vehicle from Ford. We got one with captains’ chairs in the second row, allowing for a pass-through to the third row, where we could put our oldest who was now more self-sufficient, should we need a third seat in the future, you know?
You know how people say the more money you have, the more you spend? Well, apparently the same goes for cars; the more seats you have, the more kids you will have to fill them. The Flex hadn’t even lost the new car smell before we found out Baby # 3 was on the way. Good thing we opted for the family car.
I was ambivalent. Three kids needing three car seats meant that the mommy who was home with them all day would be driving the RV-like vehicle all the time. No more Saabie. When I did drive it, I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of loss – loss of freedom, of my personal desires, of my tastes. Because I was no longer driving it wherever and whenever I wanted. Because I very rarely went out by myself anymore. Because it was cool – and now life wasn’t always such.
The Saab is a five-speed manual. It has a sunroof. It has bucket seats in leather. It is low-slung and hugs the corners. The Flex is automatic. It is has cloth seats that sit so high I feel as if I’m suspended above the road. It is a tank. Now, in deference to my husband, it is cooler than a mini-van. It’s got a cool, retro beach-wagon vibe that sets it apart from other vehicles on the road. It is beautiful and certainly has get-up and go. But it does not inspire in me a feeling synonymous with winding down a tree-lined road curving into oblivion.
However, that may be a thing of the past as well. In response to rising gas prices and only two girls needing daily transportation for the most part, we bought an additional car seat for the Saab. Today was the first day I tried out this new arrangement. I honestly thought I’d like it because I’d be able to run the Saab about more often and not chance the battery dying or the brakes rusting together. Plus, I love driving it.
But after looking down on the road from my perch in the Flex, I suddenly felt very small. The cockpit that always fit me like a glove suddenly felt tight. I felt claustrophobic as I ducked into the backseat to avoid the rain and fasten the kids’ seat belts. Little feet could reach the back of my seat and little hands could reach the window and door handles. Worst of all, my calm had been jettisoned out the window. That which I usually try to escape had stowed away in the backseat.
Escape has been compromised.
I do have a road trip planned this weekend, though, so we’ll see if I can reclaim some of the former glory of the Saab. Take-off is scheduled for 7 AM Saturday. No delays are anticipated.