We lived seven miles from town while our children were growing up. We were never quite brave enough to figure out how many miles were put on our various cars making that fourteen mile round trip. We were probably in the minority when it came to parents and their attitude toward their children learning to drive. We couldn't wait for them to reach 14 years of age, the age that qualified them for a permit to drive to and from school. Driving tractors and riding lawn mowers for years before that age, the driver's training classes they took before getting their permit were almost unnecessary.
We made do without buying a school car as long as possible but eventually it became a necessity. Those cars were a source of great joy and sometimes great disappointment for the gang. Their dad always did the shopping with no input from them justifying his actions by claiming it was his money to spend, not theirs. He didn't pay much attention to how the used car he was purchasing fit into the kids' ideas of what was cool - the highest praise they could offer a vehicle. Value and safety trumped looks during his car buying trips. He would come home and announce, "We have a school car. Come out and see." They did, but it was usually with trepidation, always afraid it would be something as dorky - another of their words - as our family car. We thought the smartest thing we ever did was buy a station wagon because there was no way any of the kids ever wanted to borrow it.
One of their cars was dubbed the Blue Hornet. The driver's door didn't always stay closed while the car was in motion but it remained in use even after that problem appeared until the inevitable happened. One of the boys turned out of a parking lot and almost fell out of the car. He hung onto the steering wheel which kept him from falling to the pavement but it made the car turn into a tree and stop very suddenly. The Blue Hornet suffered fatal injuries and was sent to the junk yard. Their dad brought home its replacement and this time he not only didn't disappoint, he became a hero. The first sight of the burnt-orange 4-door Impala parked in the garage brought out hoops of joy. It eventually gave up the ghost, too, but its principal driver treasured it and has since bought a restored one just like it.
We wondered what vehicles they would drive when they had their own money and could buy what they wanted. Uncle Paul's sweet gold 1970 Pontiac LeMans won their highest praise but none of them bought a similar dream car. They surprised us by being as sensible as their dad when it was their own money they were spending. There was one thing their dad didn't pass along, at least not to his oldest daughter, and that was money-sense. She bought a little red Pinto on a time-payment plan. It was a shock to her when her fiancÚ pointed out that she could be buying that car for a decade and not have it paid for. She was paying the interest on the contract but only a few dollars each month on the principal. She was a used car dealer's dream customer.
Some of our adult children are now buying school cars for their own family. A son's first purchase had his oldest daughter complaining about her "retired farmer's car". It was a four-door grey Buick. It certainly wasn't flashy, but her dad was quick to remind her that it was not, after all, HER car. It was his and he knew it was heavy enough to withstand a bump or two without putting her into casts or the hospital. It was an echo - his own dad's words from a decade or so earlier. He mollified her a bit when he surprised her by having a nice music system installed in the "retired farmer's car". It may have looked dorky but the new sound made up for many faults. firstname.lastname@example.org