Old Cars & Old Towns

An excerpt from Make Something Good Today, Erin and Ben's memoir about seeking out the good in life, celebrating the beauty of family and friends, and prospering within our communities—because everything we need to be happy in life is within our grasp. 

I'm a car guy and as my friend Josh says, the right time to buy a classic car is when your wife says she wants one.

When Erin told me what she wanted, I thought it was sweet, exactly what I would expect from her. A car in the form of Erin, if that's possible. I asked her to make me a list of everything she needed in a classic Beetle, and I started looking for one that met the qualifications. 

I was humoring her, to an extent. Her list was so specific that I knew it would be impossible to find: pearl white or candy apple red paint, tan or white top, tan tweed or light brown leather interior, good stereo with a CD player and iPod hookup, air-conditioning, and automatic transmission.

Sure thing. You got it, babe.

About a month later, a friend from church called to tell me that there was a convertible Beetle for sale on the edge of town. 

As soon as Erin laid eyes on it, I knew we had just bought it. It was a 1971 pearl white Beetle convertible with a tan top and tweed interior, with just about every option she wanted. The one strike against it was that it was a manual transmission, which Erin didn't know how to use. I promised that if she wanted the car, I would teach her how to drive it.

We settled on a price that included the trade-in of my first vehicle, a 1959 Studebaker Scotsman pickup. She cried and begged me not to trade in my truck, but I assured her that I didn't have time to get it restored anyway and that this was more important.

That old truck turned up for sale a little while later, and though I considered buying it, I never regretted trading it in. Erin wanted that car far more than I would ever love that truck. 

She named it Lucky.

The neighbors around Laurel High School came out of their houses to watch the spectacle of Erin learning to drive Lucky that night in the parking lot. The south entrance to the main parking lot was a short but steep incline. As we pulled in, she smoked the tires as though she were her older brother in his Mustang out on the back-road racetrack in Eatonville. She cried and gritted her teeth. She yelled at me that she wanted to go home. A man came walking up from a house on 10th Avenue in his wifebeater and gym shorts to give her pointers on getting her timing with her feet down.

An hour into it, she was ready to give up the car. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life. I told her we weren't going home until she drove us there. I thought about my dad, who, when teaching me to drive a stick, had made me drive home from church. It had scared me, but it had given me the confidence to eventually drive on my own.

It was not too long after that she was burning up the roads all over town. I don't know who was more proud- her dad, her, or me.

That car looked good on her; it just fit her so perfectly. I would see her backing out of our driveway or downshifting coming to an intersection with her Ray-Bans on and a silk scarf tied in her hair, and my heart would ache for how much I loved this most unusual girl, different from anyone else I had ever met. Different in the best way possible. A comet in the sky. 

Read the rest of Make Something Good Today and get your copy here!