As mothers and wives, we give. That’s what we do. So when I recently “gifted” my old car to my youngest son upon his college graduation, I felt good.

The car was in great shape: safe, reliable and, most importantly, debt-free.  My husband and I would share his car unless another became necessary.  So, for the past eight months, I have made this work. This is nothing in the scheme of life when I consider how fortunate we are to afford so many of life’s added conveniences and pleasures.

After months of strategic wrangling to enjoy a few solitary escapes in the car and creating endless drop-off and pick-up spreadsheets for coordinating our busy needs and schedules, I’m done. It’s time to turn the wheel – literally – on my bucket list.

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When I gave my old car to my son,  I was excited about fulfilling a long-time dream of owning a convertible.  After decades of driving sensible station wagons and SUVs filled with our three sons, their friends, and our Golden Retriever (and all her hair,) I was ready to own a true California car.  I had lusted over one particular convertible, but when I discovered the price, I took it off the wish list.

Maybe owning a convertible wasn’t that important after all? I would make do. That’s what we women have spent centuries doing – in the smallest and biggest ways.

But don’t misunderstand my mindset. I have a great husband and family. Our children have grown and my husband and I have adjusted to life being the two of us again. Car sharing has taught him that my beauty salon appointments cannot be rushed or questioned.

But I have also learned that no amount of reminding him of my impending schedule and transportation needs will guarantee he remembers to provide me with said car, ride or timeliness of the requested ride if there is a project on his beloved boat.  I can use Uber and I’ve cajoled rides from my understanding friends on several occasions.

But the subtle grunts over a readjusted driver’s seat, the mirror settings, radio station controls, or even the climate changes I’ve made when using my “husband’s” car have made me crazy.  When I return the car and minute blemishes are noted, something chips away from the years of hard work that I’ve invested in my well-earned freedom.

The inventory of my life somehow felt like it was reduced to the boxes in my garage that made room for everything else but a car that suddenly seemed unnecessary.

women drivers, car shopping, PCH, bucket list, road trip, convertibles, female drivers, car shopping, Pacific Coast Highway, bucket list, empty nesting, Uber, freedomCase in point, for months one half of our garage was still filled with boxes from our cross-country move from the northeast to California.

Over the seven months of sharing my husband’s car, I know I have been more patient than my husband ever would have been had he lost the use of his wheels.

But admittedly, when I noticed him beginning to load his car with boxes and shuttle them to a nearby storage facility, I knew he recognized my growing frustration.

Before long, the garage was cavernous again and his car was neatly parked to one side.  Like the measured man that he is, he calculated the remaining space and proudly producing a list of cars that would fit. Okay – feeling excited, but do I push that convertible I’ve always dreamed of owning?

Off we went one sunny Sunday afternoon to test drive a few cars.  He knew we were in trouble from the moment we arrived at the valet parking attendant-yes valet parking at a car showroom!  I assured him with words like “due diligence, fuel efficiency and investment in safety”.  Inside, I felt the rush of my turn at the wheel. It was sensory heaven.

The array of buttons was dizzying and the soft leather seat in the convertible – yes, convertible – cradled me like a newborn.  I knew it was a gorgeous, pricey car, that was too ostentatious for my modest needs.

Our next test car was smaller in size and interior but nicely outfitted with all the latest features.  We put the top down with the push of a button and we zipped down the crowded Pacific Coast Highway, with my hair flying.  At one intersection while waiting for the light to change, a woman in the lane next to us, stuck her head out her truck window and loudly asked the salesman in the back seat if this was the 2018 model.

He confirmed that it was, before I mischievously sped ahead of her as the light changed.  “Well that’s never happened before!”  our salesman laughed.

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On to the next car demo, a car I wasn’t  really interested in based on the research I had seen online. Yet once seated in the driver’s seat, I felt completely at home.  Nothing was too fancy or complicated, and the car felt safe.  It was quietly stylish, yet easy to drive. Eureka!   When we heard the price, yikes!  Five years out of the car market and I was feeling sticker shock. My dream of owning a convertible was slipping away.

Over the next few days, we spent hours online looking for pre-owned vehicles. Not finding anything suitable, I realized I had lived without my dream car for the past eight months, so maybe I should be content to wait a little longer. And that’s when it hit me. I have been waiting 25 years for this bucket list dream.

The thought of it used to carry me through some lean periods when we struggled to afford things at the expense of our kids.  Now that our sons are grown and out of the house, when would I make the most of this new phase in my life?

I have fond memories of late-night calls for pick-ups from my boys in the freezing New England winters.  I happily drove smelly Boy Scouts home from camping expeditions, and endured messy food wrappers, stained seats, stinky socks, and mud on the upholstery.

How many times did I get lost trying to find their sports games, parties and school events without a GPS, ever-patient even when they gave me the wrong addresses!  But what I will cherish most are the car chats about girls, school, and their dreams. My car was more than a way to transport my boys – it connected us.

Later that night after the last test drive, I thought about all of these things and decided to take a quick look at some used car sites. Maybe something would pop up? And there she was – a beautiful, vibrant red convertible.

The next morning, I excitedly called the dealer and asked a few questions. We scheduled a test drive and as we walked through the vast lot with the sales associate, the red car parked in the corner of the lot caught my eye.

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This is a new chapter in my life and my five-day-old car is stocked.  In the glove box I have an extra tube of sunblock and hats for those “topless” adventures I plan to take.  I do not miss Uber, mooching rides from my friends or being dependent on my husband’s car.  I will still miss the smell of sweaty boys and the dog fur, but the scent of leather seats reminds me that this is a time for new discoveries and life changes.

Some may call it a mid-life crisis car, but I know I’m fulfilling a bucket list dream. Life is too short not to enjoy the occasional joyride!

Denise Benson

Denise Benson is a photographer, creative writer and traveler. Discovering new ideas, people, places and cultures is a lifelong passion, which Denise enjoys sharing with her readers using her unique perspective as a photographic storyteller.

An avid sailor, she and her husband Brian have sailed 10,000 blue water miles exploring the South Pacific. Along with sailing, she enjoys travel, food & wine, books and nature related activities, including napping on the fore-deck of her boat, Moonstone.

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Denise Benson

Denise Benson is a photographer, creative writer and traveler. Discovering new ideas...

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