Monday, November 25, 2013

Are My Topless Days Gone Forever?

Not too long ago, I drove a convertible.

Frequently with the top down.

It was a big, grown up convertible, a Chrystler Sebring that had followed in the steps of a Ford Mustang, and before that a Mitsubishi Spyder GT convertible (a far less grown-up car). I had consistently owned and driven a convertible for years. I hunted on the internet for ages to find just the convertible I wanted; the size engine, the leather interior, the color. My husband and I drove to Charlotte to get it and we mutually hate Charlotte. It was paid for and didn't leak too bad.

I loved to drive it at night with the top down and look up at the stars. I loved to drive it when the temperature was in the 80s and take my hair down and let it whip in the wind. I loved to bundle up and run the heat and drive it in the spring and fall when it wasn't really warm enough, but I just wanted to feel that freedom. My husband drove it in the Christmas parade and I threw candy while sharing the back seat with a load of dogs.

I hated to see convertibles that should have been doing what they were made to do instead being driven with the tops up. What's wrong with you, I wanted to ask. Why did you bother with a ragtop?

I loved my convertible.

Then, along came E1, and up went the top.

I had managed my own children in the back seat of a Camaro years ago, so negotiating a baby seat in and out of the back seat wasn't an impossible feat. But I'll admit, we generally didn't go anywhere we didn't have to. It was a little easier once she got big enough for a frontwards facing seat, but not long after that she became a big sister, so the back seat wrestling continued with a second baby seat.

Still, once in a while, on a perfect day when we weren't going far, I would occasionally try to put the top down. That resulted in learning that E1 did not like the wind in her face. She was big enough to talk and tell me quite plainly how much she didn't like it.

Essentially, that meant I never got to drive my convertible with the top down, or at least so seldom that it seemed like never. But the car was in good shape and I thought, one day, the girls would be bigger and appreciate the sun on their faces, or looking at the stars. One day it would be fun again.

When the arrival of E3 became more than just a possibility, as in, "We're pregnant," one of the first things I did was put the Sebring on the market. There was no room for a third car seat in the back and it would be impossible to manage even if there were. My daughter pointed out that I had one more summer, but you don't sell a convertible in February, when the baby was slated to arrive.

In early June of 2012 I sold my car on Craigslist and began searching for a car I could afford, that met my somewhat irregular needs and tastes, and that would have room for three infant/child seats in the back. I consulted my mechanic on the ones I preferred to see which gave best service and that he would prefer working on.

I finally found a Nissan Xterra that fit the bill, a high milage vehicle with a low pricetag, four-wheel drive, cargo room, a great sound system, a dirt proof color, and room in the back seat for three children, barely.

For that first winter, the girls enjoyed their own doors and easy access, but when baby arrived I had to scoot the older ones together so that I could access the baby's seat. It's not ideal, but I don't need a full time mini-van ride. Occasionally, I do go somewhere when they aren't with me.

I've enjoyed the Xterra. I like riding up higher like a truck and being able to park in less than ideal locations. I relish the security of four-wheel drive, just in case it ever decides to snow again. I love the big cargo area in the back. The bronze color is almost as good as the gold on the Sebring at hiding dirt. And even if I haven't figured out how to set the clock, I like being able to play MP3 devices through the stereo system without burning CDs.

At the same time, I'll be honest; I miss having a convertible. Not today, when the cold winds blow and the bare limbs of the maple shiver against the sky. But on warm summer nights when the stars are bright and the moon is a huge silver ball, or when that first really warm spring day makes me want to shake off winter and the ache of growing older, then I long to be able to get in a car, drop the top, turn up the radio and drive.

Letting go of the convertible wasn't something I was ready to do. It was a farewell to a part of me that wasn't really gone, but instead has to be pushed down and kept quiet for now. A part of me that like a lot of things I'd like to do has to wait until I'm not so badly needed in the role I've chosen to accept and come to love.

So despite three little girls who may have to make a transition to liking the wind in their faces, I think it's safe to say my convertible days are not entirely behind me. Maybe not a Mazda Miata any time soon, although that would be a real escape with no room for car seats. I'm thinking more along the lines of a convertible crossover.

Anything that will give me the room I need, both for the girls in the back and the wind in my hair.


  1. I've always wanted a convertible, but of course I had to put in family practicality first when I chose my starter, back when I was a lot younger. I ended up owning a minivan as my first car for utilitarian reasons, but I've learned to love it through time and use. When I had to let it go, I realized that I was very sentimental about it. It's like that with all cars, they really grow on you. I totally agree with you on how to properly ride a convertible, well I guess if it's not snowing or pouring. Haha! Anyway, I hope you're doing fine.

    Sarah Erwin @ Baldwin Motors

  2. I'm topless again Sarah! Funny that I mentioned a Mazda Miata in in that blog, because that's exactly what I bought. Used. Dropped. Five speed. I love it as much as I remembered. I have yet to drive it with the top up! My daughter's work schedule changed so that babysitting is alternate weeks, so I have time to drive alone and I'm loving it. My daughter, with three kids, loves her minivan because it meets her needs and she wonders why it had be so far down her car list.