It’s official, Figs: the weather is getting frightful, the mistletoe has been hung, the lights are twinkling–the holidays are upon us! To celebrate, we’ve asked some of our favorite authors to share holiday memories with us. Tune in all through December to get in the holiday spirit!
Rachel Friedman is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, a delightful travel memoir about straight-laced Rachel’s journey from perfect student and dutiful daughter to world traveler. Always eager to be on the go, Rachel confesses the gift she wanted most as a teen: a car.
When I was a teenager, there was only one thing I wanted, whether for Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanzaa. I would have gladly participated in any holiday ritual if my parents would only buy me, please, pretty please, seriously I will do anything–a car. After a brief encounter with a stop sign when my father took me to the mall parking lot to get behind the wheel for the first time (“This one’s on me, next one’s on you,” he had said), I had proven myself an able driver. I was cautious but not overly. I didn’t speed because I was the kind of girl who followed rules. There were no cell phones back then so fears of teenage distraction were focused on fiddling with the radio and I promised my parents I’d choose my music before I revved the engine and never take my eyes off the road. My parents trusted me but still they didn’t think a sixteen year old necessarily needed a car. I knew, though, that it was all I needed. It was the only thing capable of initiating me into a world of independence and freedom. One day I was going to get out of this do-nothing town and it was a car that would take me away.
I went to a private high school, but the off-beat kind where many students (me included) were on scholarships of some sort. But there was a lot of money on display, too, of course. The parking lot was stuffed with shiny Audis and Land Rovers. My parents could not see the point of giving a teen a fancy car, much less were they willing or able to shell out the cash for one. “Let’s just get a crappy car,” I begged. “I’ll drive anything.”
I worked on them for three months after I turned sixteen and by the time the holidays rolled around we were car shopping. It was a blissful few weeks of scanning classified ads in the local paper and calling up strangers who had the keys to my future.
During Hanukkah, we found my car: a beat-up 1986 Dodge Omni (it was 1997) selling for $1100.00. My parents and I split the cost, me contributing money I was making as a hostess at a local Ruby Tuesday’s. The vehicle was rusty in places and when it rained water entered through cracks in its flimsy foundation. I duct taped the places that were leaking but it was a temporary fix. The “bombni,” as my friends and I called it, couldn’t make it up steep hills. It often slid gracelessly off the road during snow storms. It broke down no less than six times during the first year I owned it. But it was mine, warts and all. And I knew it was more than adequate to get me where I needed to go, which, at sixteen, felt like everywhere in the world.