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An Ode to the Dreamcrusher

[This post was featured on Freshly Pressed as part of the Daily Post Challenge!]

It’s funny that I should be writing a tribute to my car. I have never cared about cars, nor found any romance in them. I didn’t even bother to learn to drive until I was 19, which sounds like sacrilege for an American teenager, but back then I went to school in New York and never intended to leave. I thought I would take the M4, and then the F, and work my way through the alphabet for the rest of my days. Now I live in the Boston suburbs with two children, and when I told my five-year-old that his Manhattan cousin takes the bus and the subway everywhere, he said, “What is he, French?” I don’t know what happened.

Now, too far from the diminutive Boston T, with its colonial-sounding stop names (like Alewife and Quincy Adams, and don’t forget Wonderland), we all ride around in another bit of alphabet soup, our Honda CR-V, and it is in praise of this car, which we call the Dreamcrusher, that I write.

The Dreamcrusher.

Half the people in this town must drive CR-Vs. The other half drive Subaru Outbacks (one of which we also own). Though I try not to meet the gaze of a passing driver in an identical navy blue car, I don’t really mind this type of conformity. For me, car choice is not where I choose to express my individuality. I don’t want to turn any heads as I drive down the street; I don’t put on bumper stickers (COEXIST!); I don’t even fix all the dings I’ve received in the nursery school parking lot (none of which were my fault, in case any insurers or my husband is reading this).

We chose the car to get from place to place safely; to have enough trunk space to tote groceries and a stroller; and not have to worry about a temperamental engine that might require service in the middle of any given hectic week. Which is what I guess every CR-V driver wants. They are probably, like me, in their thirties, with young children, and care that the passenger door opens to 90 degrees so you can haul a car seat out more than that it only has four cylinders. I don’t even know what I’d do with two extra cylinders. Route 2 is not the Nurburgring, though people drive as though it is.

My husband and I started calling the car Dreamcrusher after watching the CR-V’s latest the ad campaign. Open any Real Simple magazine, and you’ll see a pleasing two-page spread, featuring a little vignette about some guy who’s about to get married wants to tick x, y, and z off his bucket list (in the ad they call it a “leap list” – ie, things to do before you make the leap to marriage or children). There’s also one about some nice young lady who wants to do ever so much before she has children. These hopeful types dream of backpacking in Yosemite, learning to fly, starting a garage band…the usual prosaic stuff that marks youthful accomplishment prior to settling down. The ads are meant to say: “There’s so much in life yet to do! This car will take you there!”

But anyone who is seriously contemplating buying a CR-V can read the subtext:

“It’s too late to buy that Mini, or the Jeep with no doors. It’s not practical now. I’m about to make the leap from the corner bar to my couch every night, so I might as well get it over with and get the boring family car. I can tell myself I can always throw a drum kit in the back, but I’d have to move all those reusable grocery bags I keep forgetting to reuse and the portable potty. The garage will house a Cozy Coupe now, not a band. Let’s face it; if I haven’t done it yet, it’s not going to happen in these last months of pregnancy. My dreams are officially crushed.”

Your new roadie van.

Why do you think Honda chose Matthew Broderick to front their new ads? An actor who, even in squidgy middle age, is still Ferris Bueller, still embodies that young American vigor, the spirit that tells you you can do anything, and then you do. Just take the Ferrari keys and go. But look at him now. He’s not that guy anymore, and neither are you. But I see him, with salt-and-pepper hair, and his shirttails hanging out hopelessly, and I think, I’m OK with that. Where do I sign? No, I don’t need a moonroof.

Matthew Broderick

The Ferrari’s been crashed. (Photo credit: nick step)

I like the ads. They’re not lying to me. They are letting me down easy. They’re giving me a little wink toward my past, and a reminder that my present and future is not about me, it’s about my boys, and their dreams. The places I’ll take them. In a car with five-star crash test whatever and side airbags. So Honda, for that, danke schoen.

And now, in spite of the CR-V’s ubiquitity, the Dreamcrusher has become a microcosm for our own particular family life. There are the scrapes where the two-year-old threw a rock at the bumper (now you know, Dad), the Wiggles and the Guided by Voices discs that alternate in the CD player, and the Matchbox cars tucked into every available pocket. The sippy cup of sour milk under the seat. The Saint Anthony card from my grandmother’s funeral watching over us from the dash. Fourteen half-full wipe containers, and just as many empty sunscreen and Purell bottles. Sand from five different beaches. A Star Wars book I held out the window, threatening to chuck it if a certain someone didn’t calm down. A world of lost Lego.

Well, actually, not anymore. Somehow I felt that if I cleaned up our dirty family car, and organized it with color-coded pouches for every eventual necessity, that my whole life would feel more orderly and calm as well. So a week or so ago I took the car to be professionally cleaned. In the cool morning, with fall in the air, I pulled out the car seats. It was like when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault. Remember all that dirt that fell out of that thing? That’s how many Goldfish crumbs were under those seats. I hoped that saint card on the dash wasn’t a secret portal to my late Italian grandmother‘s soul, because if she could have seen the carpet of bright orange nightmare that was under there, any protection she might have sent me from on high would be revoked. Oh, the shame.

Now, it’s September. We’ve said goodbye to the beach, we’re getting ready for school (which we can walk to, thankfully). As I take the Dreamcrusher to the car wash to vacuum out the last bits of summer, I think back to when I was little, when my Dad drove us in his red 1966 Corvette down the causeway to the beach near where we lived in Long Island. I, the oldest, sat between the seats, with one sister on the floor, the other in my mother’s lap. He’d point out rabbits on the roadside as we sped along to the oceanfront, the salty wind whipping our hair. Those days we’ll never see again. Mainly because my parents would be arrested if they put all those kids in a car without restraints.

But thinking of those days reminded me how much romance there is in our cars after all. They don’t have to be red and screaming, but whatever they are, our cars do more than drive us from the supermarket to the playground to karate and home again. They represent the open road, the conveyance of our dreams, all the things we want for our families: vacations we’ll never forget, graduations, visits to friends and family, unexpected adventures. The Dreamcrusher will take us there. And when our kids grow up, God willing, we’ll take out the car seats and the potty and have room again for the drum kit, or the camping gear, or a Metrocard – all those silly youthful dreams that took a backseat to what would be our best dreams. But hopefully we’ll have a new car by then.

46 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lauren #

    You are the best blogger in the whole world.

    September 5, 2012
  2. Thanks, L. It means a lot coming from a writer such as your bad self!

    September 5, 2012
  3. We have such cheerful car names. That’s why mine is the Hatemobile.
    (Because of the license plate with HTR in it).

    September 5, 2012
    • The Dreamcrusher and the Hatemobile…our driveway full of joy! BTW every time T sees another blue Subaru, he says, “Daddy’s car!” Which means he says “Daddy’s car!” practically the whole time during our drives around town…

      September 6, 2012
      • Too funny…my son says “Mommy’s Car” when he sees another blue CR-V.

        September 9, 2012
      • Same here! He must wonder how Mommy and Daddy can be in so many places at once…thank you for reading!

        September 9, 2012
  4. That you have named your car The Dreamcrusher is HILARIOUS to me….totally something my husband and I would do. And you’re absolutely right about our parents being arrested for the way they drove around with us kids. My dad had a Chevy Nova in the ’80s when I was a kid and he thought the seat belts were “not cool.” So he took a knife and cut them out of the car. Can you imagine a parent doing that today?!

    September 5, 2012
    • “Not cool” … that’s hilarious! It is a different world today – my parents still think that I am way too uptight about car seats, but that’s just the way it is now. Our other car growing up was an Oldsmobile station wagon, and it had a fold-down trunk seat, so the three of us would ride on a bench in the trunk facing backwards, with no seatbelts! No way that would happen now. Thanks for your comment!!!

      September 6, 2012
  5. Tom #

    Every car I own begins with the name “Awesome-mobile” and somehow ALWAYS ends with the name “P-O-S”… lol thanks for sharing

    September 7, 2012
    • Ha! That was definitely the case with our last car, the ’94 Accord which we just got rid of…it seemed so great and then I couldn’t pay someone to take it off my hands…thank you for reading!

      September 7, 2012
  6. really enjoyed this! My friends and I as teens lived by a rule that your car had to have a name.. looking back that was the right thing to do! It seems that when we do that the car moves from being a prop to being a character in our story.. thanks for sharing!

    September 7, 2012
    • Well put, that cars become characters rather than props, and thank you! It was true (still is) of my Dad’s car as well, Claudette is almost like another sister (though my Dad may like her best…)

      September 7, 2012
      • clr0513 #

        I recall there being a choice between a pool and a garage for Claudette .. guess who won .. your blog is THE BEST .. makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis, while nodding in agreement all along the way .. CONGRATULATIONS on the being “pressed” .. now everyone can see how fabulous you are!!xo

        September 7, 2012
      • Thanks sis! I must say I went to the source and asked Mom and Dad if they really considered A POOL since I couldn’t believe they would ever dream of such a nuisance in their yard! Well, Mom said it did cross her mind (above-ground, though), but I still don’t believe it! Claudette was going to win that one, hands-down.

        And Dad still makes C sit on a towel when he pretends to drive it!

        September 7, 2012
  7. lsurrett2 #

    Every day I end up finding a blog that continues to make me laugh–yours is it today. As a mom with the last one graduating this year, I can tell you that as long as you transport them, there will be stuff left in every unimaginable crevice of your vehicle. Soured milk, magazines, candy wrappers, homework, bills, ear phones, etc. We kept the Toyota van-it’s great for hauling the dog, camp chairs, groceries, even recycling.

    September 7, 2012
    • Thank you so much! This is so encouraging to read that people can relate to what I write on this blog. And all I can hope is that I remember to get all that sour milk out of there!

      September 7, 2012
  8. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Enjoyed your post – it brought back many memories!

    September 7, 2012
  9. Great post! 4 kids and 16 years later, I have still refused to buy a mini-van. But I have a Suburban which isn’t really a step up in regard to the coolness factor.

    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed. My blog entry was selected today also. I have been so giddy, you’d think I won the lottery!

    September 7, 2012
    • I know how you feel! This has been so much fun. Congratulations to you too!

      It’s funny, my 5yo thinks a minivan is the heights of coolness (because his friend has one and I guess because he can jump in) – but I can’t go there, at least not yet!

      September 8, 2012
  10. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    We have two vehicles, a nameless Jeep and a red Golf named Sweet Sassy Molassy. Neither of them deserve a post as amazing as this one!

    September 7, 2012
  11. Fish Out of Water #

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Great post.

    September 7, 2012
  12. You know you’ve officially become a grownup when a vehicle’s looks are no longer the first thing that concern you. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    September 7, 2012
    • Thanks! Yeah, you definitely don’t see any cool twenty-somethings driving around in Dreamcrushers. They don’t care about the mirror that lets you spy on your kids in the backseat!

      September 7, 2012
  13. Yay! Congrats to you! I saw your next post and had to come back. How did I miss this? So excited for you! Love the post. 🙂 My silver van holds so many memories. We got it just before my son was born and now he’s nearing 10. I blogged about it awhile back too. We have been through a lot in that rattletrap thing!

    September 7, 2012
    • Thanks!!! It’s so exciting to be on Freshly Pressed, as you know! I even forgot to put my groceries away this morning because as soon as I got home from the store I saw the email. Goodbye, pancetta!

      September 7, 2012
  14. I love it!! I had a car called Ulysses once. Absolutely rubbish as cars go, but holds a very very special place in my heart for so many reasons!

    Great post!

    September 7, 2012
    • Thanks! It’s been so cool to read in the comments all of the names people have given their cars. A car with a name you can’t help but love, no matter how lousy it is!

      September 7, 2012
  15. I’m sorry, you lost me after I read “’66 Corvette.” (Perhaps the Robert Moses causeway?) My dream car IS your dad’s ’66 Vette (in blue, preferably), but instead I drive a blue Subaru for the kid, the dog, Home Depot, the kayak, etc.. It’s done me well at 234,000 miles, and now when I see a vintage Vette pass me on the road I still smile and say,”One day,” though I know that day will never come. Great post, and congratulations!

    September 7, 2012
    • Thank you! You’re right, there is some magic in the ’66 Vette, and the sound of my childhood is hearing the roar of my Dad’s car from blocks away when he was coming home from work (back when he drove it to work – now he keeps the Vette in the garage and drives his Subaru!). And yes, the Robert Moses sometimes, but mostly the Jones Beach Causeway!

      September 7, 2012
      • You know, Vincent, Jeanna’s mom may have a car to sell you. . .

        September 7, 2012
  16. This was a fun post to read – found in the FP section of my local WordPress ‘store.’ Our car is Zee Lip. Huh? Why? Well, cuz the license plate is ZLP. And an old friend’s was Zee Jaw – yup, ZJW. I’m waiting for Zee Face (ZFC) to come along and tie us all together. Love your blog!! 🙂

    September 8, 2012
    • Thank you! Those are some good names – we call our Subaru the Hatemobile because its plate includes HTR – as in “hater” – so cheerful!

      September 8, 2012
  17. great post! I love how cars become a small micro-cosmos of our lives, like an extended universe, a home that we bring with us. My husband recently cleaned out the “family” car (which I use to get to work) and there were treasures abound under those seats and mats. Thankfully the kids are a little older, so there were no cups of sour milk.
    Congrats on the FP.

    September 8, 2012
    • Thank you very much! Definitely, since those cars are like little versions of our lives, I feel like a clean car means an orderly life…so of course it is disturbing when my mom tells me my car smells like a barn! All the dried leaves, and grass from the park (never mind the sour milk). The car’s pretty clean now but it won’t last! Thank you for reading!!!

      September 8, 2012
  18. I so enjoyed your lovely post, since I recently bought my 4th Honda and second CRV.
    Cars are a part of our home and identity, besides needing to be functional. I tend to hold on to my cars. They become family in a way. Take care of them, they’ll take care of me while I travel here and there.
    After talking about getting a newer used car for years, I finally found a great deal locally and bought a 2011 Honda CRV EX-L! It’s not as sexy as some, but it’s comfy, has great reliability (which is very important to me), low miles, AND it has a moonroof!
    I always wanted a moonroof and now I have one. We enjoyed the views from that roof window while traveling from MI to Maine, just 2 weeks after I bought this baby – named the Bluemoon.
    We had a great time and she performed excellently.
    Congrats on being FPd! Enjoy the ride )

    September 8, 2012
    • Thank you! I think cars are definitely part of our identities, and you’re either a Honda or a Toyota person (you must choose!). I’m a Honda person, and part of why we chose the CR-V versus other similar, safe cars (like a RAV-4 or Murano, say), is that it was familiar, it is what I know. My first car was a ’94 Accord that my Dad handed down to me (I only got rid of it last year), and before that, our family had an ’86 Civic. So those cars have always been part of my life. Thanks again for reading!

      September 8, 2012
  19. I love this. I am so uncreative when it comes to car names, apparently. I had no idea. You have inspired me. No more will “The Prius” and “The Truck” do. No, not at all. Though, I, like your son, really want a mini-van, but there’s no way my husband would permit such a travesty. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    September 9, 2012
    • Thank you! I hope you find some great names for your cars! But you gave me an idea – if we do ever make my son’s dream come true and get a minivan, we can call it the Travesty! Would go perfectly with the Dreamcrusher…thank you for reading!

      September 9, 2012
  20. My favorite car was my first car. It was a 1963 Valiant with push button gears. It had bright red interior and I got my first speeding ticket in that car, even though it was not a car built for speed. I worked in an ice cream parlor to make the payments and I was majorly proud to drive that car to school each day. Now, at 60-something I have driven a lot of cars and currently drive a Audi A-4 with a little turbo which has also seen some speeding tickets. It’s a gorgeous car and certainly a step up from the little Valiant. But the first car was my dream car. It had a personality of its own. Go figure.

    September 9, 2012
    • Reading this comment and so many others is really reminding me how much our cars are bound up in the stories of our lives…more than I even thought! And those old cars have such amazing details on the inside, like your Valiant’s push button gears, and my Dad’s car has a steering wheel made of wood – they are totally different animals than today’s cars. Thank you for reading!

      September 9, 2012
  21. sweeeeet, love the name, cheers!

    September 9, 2012

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