I collect old books and learn a lot from them. At a recent visit to my favorite used bookstore, a 1918 book by Richard Haigh caught my eye, both because of the subject matter (World War I) and the title: “Life in a Tank.” I have often thought of our kids’ as having “life in a tank” because of the cars we wrapped them in from the time they started driving around 20 years ago. Back then, the safest car on the road was a Volvo. Ads trumpeted the wrecks kids walked away from because they were in a Volvo. Our kids’ “life in a tank” experiences started with their driving lessons and driving permits and our purchase of a 1996 white Volvo sedan which carried them safely the 5 miles from home to school. All three kids used that car through high school, after which we sold it to another young family whose kids were just starting their driving journeys.
When our oldest child was a sophomore in college, we realized he’d be needing a car for his trips, belatedly disclosed to us (!!), to visit a serious girlfriend (now his wife, mother of their four kids, and our beloved daughter-in-law!) several states away. In our minds, borrowing his friends’ cars had no future, but we hoped the relationship with his girlfriend did. Enter the used 2001 gold-colored Volvo we drove cross-country to deposit outside his fraternity house. That Volvo, and his girlfriend, then moved to Boston with him for law school and followed him (and her) to New York where parking it was more expensive than their apartment. So, we had it transported back to Denver at a cost which may have exceeded the value of the car and proved that hypothesis by donating it to a local charity which received scrap metal reimbursement.
By then, our middle child was a junior in college and our youngest a freshman at the same school. Between the two of them, there was enough need for a car that we again went shopping for a used Volvo and found a 2004 station wagon which could hold all their club paraphernalia and sports teammates – better our kids should be driving a tank than riding with teammates in their four-wheel firetraps. That Volvo stayed at college until our youngest graduated and took it upstate for a summer internship, after which it went south where our daughter was in graduate school. It stayed with her until she earned that degree and then moved to New York where, again, a car is more of a burden than an asset. Despite the wear and tear of its college career, that Volvo was still drivable and worth the expense of transporting it back to Denver where it sat in our garage until our youngest and his wife moved back home and reconnected with that loyal little white station wagon. Somewhere along the way, the car lost its emergency brake but, unless on a steep hill, that didn’t change its usefulness.
Now, fast forward 4 years and our oldest and his wife, they of the long-distance relationship way back in college, moved back to Denver and needed a second car. Graciously, and because our youngest and his wife upgraded to a now-very safe Subaru (blasphemy, I know!), our youngest bequeathed the 2004 Volvo station wagon to his big brother for his commute to his downtown office.
And so, our kids have lived their lives in 3 different tanks for nearly 20 years; we are grateful for their safety, and we have slept better during all these harrowing driving years. Looking ahead, if our oldest grandchild lands in a tank 8 or 9 years from now when he’s ready to take the wheel, we’ll be grateful all over again.