Do you remember your first car? I do. There was a woman at the church I attended during the time I was in high school that had bought herself a new car and mentioned selling her old car. It was a 1984 Honda Civic hatchback and she was asking $800. I was 17 years old and I worked at Burger King which was on the other side of an avocado grove at the end of my street. I remember telling my mother about the car for sale and asked if she would buy it for me. I told her I would work on paying her back, and offered one half of each of my paychecks until it was paid off. My mom said that the only way she would do it was if I saved half of the cost of the car and gave it to her up front.
Great! Because I was still in high school, I could only work part-time and reaching $400. would take a while. I made $3.35 an hour back then and often worked less than 20 hours a week. I was worried that someone else would buy the car before I had accomplished my mother’s condition on our deal. But what else could I do? I worked and I saved and started to give up on getting there anytime soon. Though I really wanted the Honda, I figured if I missed out on that car, at least I could make the same deal with Mom on a different car.
One evening, when I was on break, I called my sister, Ginger, as I often did. We chatted about this and that—what time would I be home and what we would do when I got there—and then I told her that my break was over and I had to go. She screamed “Wait!” into the phone.
I was startled but replied, “Whaaat?”
That is when Ginger said very quickly, “Mom bought you a car and it is in the drive way. Bye!” Before I could say a word, she hung up the phone. That was just like her! Tell me something important or unusual or surprising and then leave me hanging, knowing I would not be able to speak to her again for several hours. Yikes! Can you imagine all that was going through my head and the different sensations I felt in my stomach?
As soon as I clocked out, I ordered some dinner in a bag to go and I nearly ran home. As I came down my street, I could see it there in the driveway. The absolutely spectacular Honda! I couldn’t believe it. I went right into the house and could hear my mother’s voice coming from the dining room, “Did you see it?”
Of course I saw it! How could I miss it? As I rounded the corner, my mother had her arm raised in the air and a key ring dangling from her finger. I asked her how she possibly managed it as it had been nearly four months since I first told her about the car and was sure it had sold by now. My mother shocked me when she said, “I bought it the weekend after asked for it. I asked the girl to hang onto it for a bit, so she did. You have been working so hard and have given me almost three-quarters of what you owe me, so I decided not to torture you any longer. But you still owe me $120!”
“She sold it to you for $400?” I was thrilled, but what my mother next said to me would be something I would never forget. She said that she had paid $800. as was being asked. However, because I was going to school—and doing so well, and maintaining my job—and saving as she has taught me, and being involved in honest activities with the church—rather than going out drinking, like I had done before changing schools, she had made a decision. My mother decided to match me dollar for dollar on what I paid toward the car. She was so proud of me that she paid for half and I would pay for half, though I still owed $120. I gave her the balance on my next paycheck, leaving me no money for gas, so she filled my tank too.
This experience is among the first of many where I learned that if you work hard and live honestly, it will, and does, come back to you. I thanked my mother, grabbed my bag of food, and sat in my car eating and listening to the radio. The car was several years old, but it was beautiful and spotless. I wish I could describe what I felt while sitting in my first car for the first time. It is a feeling I had never felt before and have not felt again since. I will never forget that night!
The photo above (scanners are so cool!) is of me standing next to that car, wearing the peach lace dress I wore at my mother’s second wedding, and holding the cap and gown that I would wear later that evening at my high school graduation. Have I ever mentioned that I was the Valedictorian of my 1989 class? I not only gave a speech at the ceremony, but I also sang a solo. Can you believe that picture of me was taken 23 years ago???