The best car, by far, that I have ever owned, was the first car I ever owned, 19 years ago. Not because it was sporty or sleek, "cool" to cruise in, or got great gas mileage, but rather, simply because it was a symbol of my fierce desire for independence, and a great equalizer among my peer group at school. Being a teenager is a time when the desire to "fit in" and "belong" is about the most important thing in the world. As a person with a physical disability, I felt that desire even more. Looking different, excluded from many of the social milestones of dating and sports achievements, which are often tied to popularity, being able to take driver's training and get my driver's license was a huge positive affirmation for my sense of self-esteem at that time.
The car was a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. It was a silvery-grey color with a burgundy interior. I inherited it from my mother because it was the one of the two cars at the time that we owned that could be appropriately modified for me to drive. I can't say that I loved the Oldsmobile when I first got it. It has a distinct "grandma" feel to it, with it's box shaped styling and cushioned rear suspension. I replaced the original tape deck with an in-dash CD player as soon as I could, and that helped to improve its "cool" quotient, if even just a bit.
Although the Oldsmobile was new to me, it certainly wasn't new. It was used when my parents bought it and my mom had driven it four years prior to giving it to me. This lessened the pressure of avoiding the inevitable dings and dents that often christen the car of a young driver. I made sure to keep the oil changed and listen for odd engine sounds, simply happy that The Olds (as I affectionately came to refer to it) would take me where I wanted to go: all by myself.
Over the years that followed I grew to really love The Olds because it never let me down. I came to appreciate its low maintenance, comfortable ride and dependable handling over the course of the nearly 12 years that I owned it. It transported me through significant milestones that continued to define my independent life: high school graduation; college life and graduation; a move to the Minnesota where it did just fine on that state's frozen tundra.
Unfortunately though, when I decided to move back to Washington State, I feared The Olds wasn't up for the trip. I was confident in its reliability for in-town driving, but not the Rocky Mountains. So I was happy when my boss offered to buy it from me. He was driving a motorcycle at the time and wanted a car for getting back and forth to work. Knowing that The Olds was going to be enjoyed for however many years it had left in it made it easier for me to be able to say goodbye'"to the car, and to that chapter of my life. It is indeed true what they say: You never forget your first.