I was in short sleeves just the other day. It’s March. In Minnesota. And the sun was shining on my arm skin! Now granted, the reflection of all that whiteness was likely blinding those around me. But here in the northern end of the American Midwest, we don’t allow our calendars to dictate the arrival of spring. No, it’s much more of a democratic process here, as it seems we as a community come together to declare the transition when certain things align. Is the sun at more than a 35-degree angle in the sky at high noon? Are our down coats still hanging in the closet when we leave the house? Can we conceivably drive with the windows down and the sunroof open during at least half the days of the week? Then it’s officially Spring in Minnesota.
This time of year has usually always been marked for me by getting in my VW Bug and putting down those windows and sliding back the sunroof so I had pure unfiltered sunlight shining down on me. Pull out the sunglasses, put the hair up, let’s go for a drive! But just a few weeks ago, we finally sold my dear Bug; with an infant in the family, and slightly less reliable than it used to be, it was no longer practical to hang on to it. The Bug was my first car; I had managed to keep it in good condition for 16 years, over 255,000 miles, full of journeys and experiences all over the country. At 37 years old, seeing my Bug drive off with a new owner was heartbreaking. I held my 7-month-old son closely as we cleared out any last remaining personal items, and negotiated the selling price. I think I actually needed to hold on to him, like a security blanket, as I witnessed what I have dreaded for a long time. Fortunately, my husband had just gotten rid of his own first car just a couple years ago, and he was sympathetic to my tears.
It sounds ridiculous, perhaps, to be so sentimental and attached to a car. But during the Season of the Bug, as I’ll call it from now on, I was in my 20s and early 30s, doing a lot of exploring to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life and who I wanted to be. I moved to Madison, WI from Colorado just 2 weeks after buying it new, all my belongings at the time actually fitting into the back! Veterinary school started a little over a year later, and during the ensuing years I would find distinct families of friends among my vet school colleagues, among customers and coworkers while bartending at a microbrewery, and among fellow enthusiasts starting up what would be 6 years of skydiving. Both of the jobs entailed a good deal of driving as they were well outside where I lived in Madison. But that commute through the farm fields of Wisconsin was part of the enjoyment; especially this time of year, when I could relax in the sunlight streaming in through the windows, relish the fresh, warm(er) air, and turn up the music loud enough to be heard over the wind. Night driving was the best, as I could sing at the top of my lungs with the music and I told myself no one could see me!
The Bug also got to see trips across the country back to Colorado several times to see family (there is no better music than the Eagles, by the way, for driving across the Wyoming plains), moving out to Santa Cruz, CA, for a year of art school, and driving back again through Yosemite and Death Valley. In California, the Bug’s wide wheelbase and manual transmission allowed for especially fun driving along the coastal highways and up into the hills of the redwoods for some of the most magical hiking I’ve ever experienced.
Sixteen years of incredible experiences, of traveling to enjoy time with friends and family, of regular drives to hike among the bluffs and lakes of western Wisconsin: he was my constant companion through it all, and I admittedly cried as I watched my friend drive away. But as one magical time comes to an end, another begins. Now my constant companion is a sweet, thoughtful, happy little boy, who drives everywhere with my husband and I in our new trusty steed, a Subaru Outback. Though maybe not quite as fun and speedy as the Bug, or as sun-filled, it is doubtless in the beginning of its own Season, to be filled with even more amazing experiences and travels over the next sixteen years. And one day I’ll tell my son about all the beautiful places his mom drove to in her first car.