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Ride, Sally, Ride: Memories Of A '72 Mustang

This afternoon I cruised around town with my baby and dog in the back, windows down, the breeze blowing through my little guy's locks, our favorite playlist cranked up (to an appropriately baby-safe decibel) and the sun shining down.Days like this remind me why I have a beat-up Mustang sitting in my garage gathering dust even though it fills with smoke whenever it manages to actually start. Back in its hey-day, breezy spring weather was made for driving 'The Mustang' - the windows down, my favorite music playing and a feeling that I was right where I should be.The Mustang was my first car. Originally my grandfather's car, it was driven by all of his children at one point or another. During family get-togethers when I was younger I remember piling into The Mustang with my cousins for trips down to the boat dock with my cousin Zach at the wheel. My side of the family didn't spend as much time with everyone because we lived further away, and those brief car trips with the cousins gave me a sense of being part of the clan. As I got closer to driving age, that feeling of connectedness to my family was what led me to ask for The Mustang. My dad and grandpa worked to bring it back into prime condition. Grandpa took me on a few driving lessons as the day drew near - he taught me how to pump the gas just right, how to read the speedometer (the wheels aren't the original size, so the reading is off) and how to turn corners (the appropriate way to steer The Mustang around corners is with only the palm of one hand circling the wheel, Grandpa instructed very clearly). On one practice run the passenger door hadn't latched all the way and a slightly jerky one-handed turn attempt almost threw my grandpa from the car!The Mustang treated me well through high school and college. One high school boyfriend commented that a perk of Dating me was he could brag that his girlfriend was the one who drove The Mustang. It was a bit of a boat to park, but I knew all the tricks. Jealous middle-aged men would stop me at gas stations and ask about the year ('72), the engine (302 V-8), and if I was selling (ha!). The summers were brutal in my metal oven and the backseat was cramped for any passengers of adult proportion, but on an open road by myself, the world was my mustard-yellow oyster.I didn't treat The Mustang as well as it did me. I hit many a pothole. I drove it down to the fumes of an empty tank, and then some. I bumped into dumpsters and fence posts, and nicked the door at a gas pump. Yet The Mustang kept chugging along despite my youthful inability to maintain it as I should have. Its downfall was in the end mechanical, and no fault of my driving naivete. With no knowledge of mechanics myself, I was left to rely on local car shops. The problems compounded until The Mustang ended up where it sits today, waiting for me to get my act together and bring it back to life. I've been urged to let go and sell it. But for all I've gotten out of The Mustang over the years, and for all the neglect on my part since then, I owe it another life. For the work my grandpa put into making it safe for a sixteen-year-old girl's first car, I owe him a bit of mechanics education of my own to make it road-worthy for adulthood.Why do I keep an old Mustang I can't drive and don't yet know how to fix? Because it's a part of who I am. It's my roots and family history on four wheels. It's country music and hot seats and freedom. It's my grandpa. It's my connection to what's important to me in life, and someday when I drive it again on a breezy Spring day with the windows down, I'll know I'm right where I should be.

This article originally appeared on The 5 Year Project blog.

By Amelia Shearer - Amelia has been in the education field at various levels since 2000, and is certified in K-12 Spanish education. She has traveled Spain extensively, and is passionate about culture and the arts. In pursuit...  

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