In 1981, I thought I was getting a car for Christmas. During the prior 2 weeks, I had noticed my parents speaking in hushed tones (something they never did) and giving each other sly, knowing smiles (another thing they never did). I concluded, therefore, that they were planning something special. So either (a) they were going to give me the car I had been asking for, or (b) they were sending my brother and me off to military school.
For an entire year, I had assailed my parents with one request on a daily basis: I wanted a car. However, my pleas fell on deaf ears. When we were out driving, I would point and shout, “Look at that cool (Jeep, Triumph TR6, 1965 Mustang, Porsche, Cadillac Hearse)! I want one of those.” None of it impressed my parents, who stared coolly at the road ahead of us.
As a junior in high school, I was horrified that I was one of the last upperclassmen still riding the school bus. Most of my classmates had already received cars for birthdays, quiñceneras, or upon some somber occasion, like the death of a grandparent. Not me. I had to ride the bus with the freshmen and sophmores. To avoid them, I would sit right behind the driver and read a book until I got a headache.
Christmas morning was the usual fun. Dad made pancakes in his robe and blasted Handel’s Messiah on the stereo. Mom curled up on the couch with her coffee insisting that we save all ribbons and wrapping paper. My brother and I handed out and opened presents, modelled new sweaters, perused new books, and tied ribbons (that my mother deemed unworthy of saving) on the cat and dog. It was all great, but no car. I was disappointed, but not defeated. I knew that there was still my next birthday, then Christmas, then another birthday…
Later that day, my dad told us to get dressed so we could go to the movies. We piled into his Thunderbird and headed for Century City, stopping on the way, as my dad said he needed to pick something up at his office.
When we pulled into the underground parking lot, my dad said we should come up to the office. Getting out, my parents came toward me and covered my eyes with their hands. Leading me further into the garage, I could hear my brother laughing. My dad yelled, “Ta da!” Uncovering my eyes, I saw before me a gray 1979 Toyota Corolla Liftback. It was not the jeeptruimphmustangporsche that I had hoped for, but it did not matter; it was cute, and it was mine.
I got in and adjusted the seat. My dad got in on the other side and said, “See, just like one of those little European sports cars!” He was right. It was. It was great.
My parents took me out driving everyday until they were confident I could do it on my own. Then I was allowed to go out – but only if my brother came with me, and only during the day.
After the New Year, my brother and I happily drove to school. When we saw the school bus, we honked and waved. Life was grand. We went to the movies, the mall, the grocery store, anywhere. All this lasted for about a year. One rainy day after school, my brother, our friend Armida and I were driving home. The light in front of me turned yellow, then red. I stopped, but the pick up truck behind me did not! We were hit so hard we ended up on the other side of the intersection. We were wearing our seat belts, so we were not hurt, but my back windshield was shattered and the back of the car was smashed in by about 3 feet. Fortunately, my brother was not crushed.
I got out of the car to see what happened. The man who hit us drove past me slowly and pointed at me as if it was my fault. I screamed at him to stop but he kept going. I took down his license plate number and drove to the nearest fire department. My mom picked us up about 20 minutes later.
A few days afterward, we found out the man who hit me did not have a license or insurance. My insurance company deemed the car “totaled” and gave us a check for about $300.00. Monday morning I was back on the bus. It was not so bad. I later heard that some guy bought the car, fixed it, and was driving it back and forth to Mexico.
Adriana Estrada, 2004