The year was 1990. I was a very young mother highly frustrated with the enormity of it all. I had just recently started driving and after a particularly harrowing day with my infant sons and my idiot husband, I snatched up the car keys and went for a joyride through rural Georgia . I got more than just a little bit nervous whenever I would see a car coming from the other direction, so I was very lucky not to run into much traffic as I carelessly drove through several adjoining counties.
It was very late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you looked at it, and my eyes began to get heavy with sleep. Before I knew it, I had run over something. I immediately slammed on the breaks and got out to take a look.
All I could find were the remnants of a large branch, but I convinced myself that I had hit an animal and the poor wounded thing crawled off somewhere to die alone. So frightened was I by the ordeal that I shakily made my way back home and didn’t get behind the wheel again for eleven years!
Flash forward to 2001. I was divorced and now had two daughters as well as my two sons to care for. I was also a non-traditional college senior majoring in social work, about to begin my field placement.
Only two things stood in the way of me graduating and securing a job in the field that I loved: number one was I had no vehicle. Number two was that I was afraid to drive. I had never gotten over what I perceived to have happened all those years ago, but I couldn’t let a little thing like fear keep me from realizing my dream.
Right before I was set to start my placement at the local hospital, I found a cheap and dependable car. It was a red 1984 Chevy Chevette, which I nicknamed “Putt-Putt,” because I still was not a strong driver, but I did manage to “putt putt” all around town.
The fact that my car was old and unsightly was not lost on me. I was more than happy to be driving as opposed to walking, but whenever my class would meet to discuss how our placements were going, I would park off campus and walk to the social work building so no one could see what I was riding in.
One day, it began to rain heavily. I drove “The T-4 Posse” (a nickname for my kids) to school and headed to work. It rained heavily and steadily all day and by the time I got off work and school got out, a tornado had been spotted in town.
Because we lived in a small trailer and had nowhere else to go, my children and I were not safe. The closest family we had was 40 miles away. I didn’t believe there was any way that we would make it in Putt-Putt, but I had to take a chance. The well-being of my family depended on it. So, I bundled up The Posse and we headed for the highway.
As we headed away from town, the sky was almost pitch black behind us and rain water began to seep into a hole in the floorboard and pool around my feet. The windshield wipers all but blew off and at times the little red car hydroplaned as if it would leave the road completely, but by the Grace of God, we made it to safety.
So while my car was nothing pretty to look at, it was a real trooper and worthy of being parked on campus every day after that until I graduated. I eventually traded my car for something more fashionable, but it didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. When the chips were down, Putt-Putt really came through for The Posse and me, and I will never forget it.