The Joy of First Car Ownership

Katie Burke's ForerunnerJackson, the namesake of my childhood idol Michael Jackson, was my first car. Its original owner, my father, had previously named this gold, 1990 Toyota Forerunner “Buck.”

My dad gave me the car in December 2005. A senior in college at the time, attending Fairfield University in Connecticut, I had wished for some time that I could move to San Francisco after graduation. However, I mistakenly believed that living in San Francisco without a car was not possible. I had settled on Plan B: moving to New York and pursuing a back-burner pipe dream of acting.

The moment I unwrapped the keys to Buck on Christmas morning, I abandoned my plan of being a New York actor and resumed the path of being a psychologist in San Francisco, where I now live and practice as an attorney.

As I picked up my friends Christmas night, with “Wanna’ Be Startin’ Somethin’” blasting through Jackson’s carriage, I felt an indescribable and, in retrospect, irrational joy to own this car, which I’d long admired.

My only previous driving experience had consisted of sharing the use of my mom’s old Volvo with my four siblings … so, to my mind, sole possession and exclusive use of a fifteen-year-old, hand-me-down SUV was the equivalent of top-of-the-line, new-release Ferrari ownership.

Never mind that within a few months of Jackson’s shipment to Connecticut for my final semester, he began breaking down during traffic stops, costing me thousands of dollars in repairs. As far as I was concerned, my car was perfect.

When the world lost Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009, friends and I danced to his hits late into the night. And though I had lost his namesake to old age over ten years before, I couldn’t help knowing that somewhere in First Car Heaven, a Forerunner born as Buck Burke turned over his engine in loving memory.

Katie Burke, 2011

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