The first car Daddy got me was on cinder blocks.
It didn’t run. And I don’t remember asking him for it.
I was a freshman in college at Wayne State University. I had a full ride with the Journalism Institute for Minorities. And up until that day, I was still catching the bus back and forth to school.
You gotta understand. This was 1989, and at that time, Detroit wasn’t the Phoenix from the Ashes city it is today. On the contrary, Motown was choking on crack rocks and Wayne State’s campus where I traveled daily for classes was located in the Cass Corridor — Smack dab in the middle or it.
I suppose Daddy knew that. I honestly don’t remember talking to him about it. He worked so much and was always traveling, so I often wouldn’t see or talk to him for months – and later – years at a time.
But one day — I don’t remember the date or season — I woke up to a rusting, pea green Chrysler K car parked in my momma’s driveway.
Well, parked is a strong word. It didn’t have any tires and was propped up on cinder blocks. And how me, Momma and Gina slept through him sneaking it into the backyard in the middle of the night, I’ll never know.
But there it was: My first car. No money. Car title in my name. And Momma was pissed.
“Why the hell would yo’ Daddy give you a damn car that don’t run?!”
I didn’t have an answer for her. I was just happy I had a car, running or not. And I was determined to get it going.
So, we enlisted the help of Porter, our ponytail sporting mechanic who ran the neighborhood auto shop that had saved momma’s cars more times than we could count. And somehow, I scrimped, saved and paid for him to bring my car to life.
The first thing I bought were new used tires. Luckily, I had savings from my scholarship funds and I was earning a little money as a journalist intern, so I was able to pay for the litany of things Phyllis needed. (Oh, yeah. That’s what I named her. 🙂
For the next two years, I have no idea how much money I spent on Phyllis to keep her running — Spark plugs, here. A muffler, there. And Momma helped me with the car insurance. All the while, Daddy didn’t give me a dime for any of it.
I could have resented him for that. Now, that I think about it, I probably did. But in retrospect, it was the best thing he could have done for me. Because it taught me adult responsibility.
And the truth is, Daddy knew I would rise to the challenge. So much so, that I was able to pass down Phyllis to my sister after he gifted me with a caramel brown, hatchback Cadillac Cimarron that I named Stella two years later.
Stella had her own tires. She wasn’t on cinder blocks. And boy, did she have a kick.