Over the years my first true love and I listened a lot to Cat Stevens. It was him who sang the lyrics,
“Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you….”
Whenever I hear these lyrics they take me back to that first love, who wasn’t quite the ‘good man’ I had envisaged for myself. Friends who knew me back then (in my early twenties), would attest to the fact that I was desperately seeking true love. I was on a mission to discover love, and it’s fair to say the first true one I found, would fill a void in me I didn’t even know I had.
It was a milestone birthday when that old blue Ford Laser entered my life, rolling up the driveway with my parents and sisters, a large bow covering both headlights. “Princess” as she came to be known on sight, was second-hand with her only previous owner being my (late) Nana Pat, who used her as a ‘get about’ in regional North Eastern Victoria. Seeing her again was like a homecoming to a known love. I was bestowed the gift of her life and we had already shared common memories and adventures.
To be frank while excited, I was slightly overwhelmed by her presence at first. I had spent twenty years of my life as a passenger (both physically and metaphorically) and I understood little of the responsibility involved in owning a motor vehicle. She wasn’t a “high powered motor vehicle”, but a motor vehicle none the less. Princess was dainty, and in hindsight the most high- powered aspect of her existence was the olden style club lock I used to keep her safe at night.
I was unconvinced back then, I could even manage to fill her with fuel when required. I was the youngest in my family, and have always been treated as the baby. I was flying blind when it came to the basics of the big wide world, driving around and being a responsible adult. None the less, I look back on that day as my own day of reckoning. That day (that Princess arrived) was my own Independence Day.
From that life-changing moment forward- Princess and I were inseparable. Oh, the adventures we had together! We took road trips, went on picnics, met friends and she provided me with a getaway vehicle from unsavoury elements (that I won’t go into). Princess saw out boyfriends… several of them. She was my lifeline, my ‘phone a friend’ and my shelter from the storms of life.
I never cared for the V6’s and V8 motor vehicles or utes my friends drove while they laughed and referred to Princess as “Puffing Billy” and “a piece of shit.” She was my partner in crime, and I knew she could hold her own. I cannot even categorically rule out the fact that Victoria’s ‘hoon legislation laws’ were premised on stopping some of the idiocy Princess and I embarked on. (Who else would think to learn the joys of ‘doughnuts’ in the carpark of their own workplace on a weekend?)
Princess and I made a big move together. From a temporary jaunt in North-Eastern Victoria she saw me safely back ‘home’ to Melbourne. And as the pages and chapters of life turned, she remained stoic, seldom making trips to Dad’s mechanic (which mainly occurred when I forgot to give her oil) which helped coin the phrase in my family, “You can’t kill a (Ford) Laser.”
Princess and I found a safe haven- a happy, vibrant new home in Melbourne’s inner suburbs to reside. She sat happily in that driveway for years, making odd trips down iconic Chapel St for groceries. She saw me through university, even though my degree took years longer than anticipated to actually accomplish. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end (although I’d never have willingly relinquished the keys to Princess).
Some 200,000kms after birth, Princess was held together my temporary fixes and band- aid solutions to failing mechanics associated with a ripe old age. One day my Dad put his foot down that Princess was no longer deemed safe. To be fair, her breaks had failed in Melbourne traffic, and this shouldn’t have come as a complete shock. However the devastation that ensued was immense. I was left distraught.
The day Princess rolled out of my life (on the back of a tow truck no less) I wept- for the adventures, the memories, my youth and mainly for her. She’d been my best friend and the key to my independence for years. She was my first true love. That “puffing billy- and piece of shit”- I couldn’t have loved a hunk of metal any more than I did (even if she was a bloody Porsche).
I still think of her often (and always fondly). Particularly, when I hear those old Cat Steven’s lyrics. It’s them that best summarize my feelings of loss over Princess-
“If you want it to last forever,
you know it never will…
And the patches
make the goodbye harder still.”