My grandfather died when I was in high school and we inherited his Cadillac.
I already had a car at the time, a Merkur XR4Ti. Even though it was a hand-me-down with 200k miles, it was still pretty cool. Leather seats, sunroof, turbo injection. And stick shift. Every kid’s first car should be stick shift.
Since my parents already had vehicles of their own I now could drive one of two cars to school. The sporty Merkur or the enormous 1981 Cadillac (the year was 1993). Both cars were equally ridiculous, free to me, and nice.
With the exception of the first year of college I’ve always had a car. Each has been handed down or purchased by my parents. I remember when I got married my wife and I went to buy a car. We cut a check for the amount and I was thinking, “I’m thirty-two and this is the first car I’ve purchased.”
When my wife filed for divorce she wound up with the car. I made do without for a year here in Chicago. I would rent one to get groceries, but otherwise it wasn’t all that difficult. It sucked getting to gigs on a bus. Certainly not very rock and roll. But I was able to make it to work and back either on my bike or the subway.
Then, last fall, my mom was due for a new car. She had been driving her Jaguar for about nine years. She loved that car. It was the first luxury car she had purchased and now needed something bigger. She offered the Jaguar to me. I was thrilled. I would finally be able to go to pet store to pick up food whenever I wanted. Or go do anything!
This may sound strange but I hadn’t even really thought about the car being a “Jaguar.” It was a free car from my parents and I was desperate for wheels. My mom had some serious work done to get it ready to be handed over. Until I went to Peoria to pick it up I had forgotten that it was this big-deal luxury car. My ex-wife and I had a Mercury Mariner, but this was really nice.
I was single at the time and a year past the divorce. I realized I would soon be ready to start dating and excited to have a vehicle to drive around. The weird thing is that I had a Jaguar. That was given to me by my parents. That I could never afford. In fact last year I made just about the least amount of money I’ve ever made as a professional. This year alone I had to borrow a few grand from my sister to pay the mortgage.
The thought of picking up a girl on a date and then having to explain that I wasn’t a rich guy was shameful.
Yes, mommy and daddy gave this to me because I’m spoiled. I’m really a screw-up, you see. I can’t take care of myself!
Now, please understand I am grateful to have a car at all. Quite frankly I’m not sure I would have been able to even lease one at the time my cash flow was so low. Yes, they did save my butt. And yes, I am aware that there is no bitching allowed when you are handed a free luxury automobile. I get it.
It’s been a year and it’s still feels weird. First, I didn’t earn the car. Second, I’m not a luxury car guy. Third, I couldn’t afford it even if I had wanted.
My mom has suggested that if it bugs me to trade it in and get something else. It’s not a bad idea except every time I bring the Jaguar home she wants to drive it for nostalgia. She loves this car and has said many times that she’s glad it’s still in the family. I can’t sell it. I don’t even want to. It’s been with us for over ten years.
Now, it’s a 1999 so it’s not exactly new. But it’s pretty much in perfect condition and runs great. My friends all think it’s hilarious my mom gave me her nice car. And that is funny.
I wanted to write about this for a year now but I had a lot of shame about it. I didn’t want to admit that a luxury car that was given to me for free resulted in some discomfort. It seems like something a self-absorbed dick would say. And maybe I am. Trust me, the gratitude is not lost on me. Not for a second.
But every time I drive somebody who doesn’t know me around and they remark that they like my car I immediately say, “My mom gave it to me.” I feel like a fraud otherwise. This is silly because families and friends help out when we struggle. But if mom would have just given me a Honda Civic, I’d be a heck of a lot more comfortable. I’d still be a fraud, but I’d be driving a car that was appropriate to my feeling of self-worth.
So really, this is my mother’s fault. She should have given me a cheaper ride. It’s really all on her. You know what? Now I do feel better!