My husband and I went out for breakfast the other morning. We had a great meal, chatted and laughed, walked back to the car holding hands, used the key to centrally unlock the car and headed for home.
It struck both of us at the same time that it had been a long time since he’d opened the car door for me.
When we started going out in 1980, we had a get-in-the-car ritual that carried us through dating, engagement and early marriage – he would unlock and open the door for me and I would get in and reach over to unlock the door for him.
By the Nineties, when we got our first centrally locked car, it was so tricky to load half the house into the car if we wanted to go anywhere with our two young kids that unlocking the doors with one push of a button was welcome relief.
“Remember when you used to open the door for me?” I asked. “I do”, he said. Cars with central locking took the chivalry out of our relationship. And it got me thinking about our various family cars and how each one has reflected our time in life.
We each had our own car in the beginning. Mine was a 1974 Mazda 1300, full of shoes and rarely washed. It got me where I wanted to go. I desperately wanted a Suzuki Hatch but a new car was out of the question on a 17-year-old’s wage.
He longed for a 4-wheel drive but drove a 1980 Gemini SL-X, always washed, polished and tidy to a fault. This was the first guy I went out with who had his own car and when he opened the door for me I swooned. Calculating on his part? Maybe. But it worked. This was the car we took on our honeymoon.
Our next car was purely practical: a Subaru station wagon. We figured it was still a bit fun – we could take it off-road if it wasn’t too off-road – but it had room for all the stuff that other parents assured us we would need for the baby we were expecting. After the baby was born, whoever wasn’t carrying our precious bundle opened the door. And we only took it off-road once. Our baby was a projectile vomiter and bumping around off-road wasn’t a wise move, although we did learn that 80 was a good speed to soothe a screaming baby at three in the morning.
Along came a second baby and another car. We stuck with a station wagon, a 1987 Toyota Camry CSX, which, in classic urban myth style, we bought off an elderly lady who had used it to go to church on Sundays.