Callum passes his driving test first go. No problems. He’s a natural driver. Now he can’t wait to get on the road by himself.
We have a Ford Laser hatchback, our teenager learn-to-drive car. Callum needs transport to work so he takes charge of the Laser.
Then one day I get a call: “Mum, the car’s overheated. I’m stuck in town.”
It seems the car has more than overheated. The head gasket is irreparably damaged. It’s an old car and not worth fixing, so it’s towed away for scrap.
“Dad, can you help me find a new car? I need something quickly so I can drive to work.”
Andy thinks about having to get up at 5.30am to drive Callum to work. Callum is right, He needs a new car fast. Andy soon finds him a nice reliable safe Toyota Camry.
Andy finishes his Masters degree and gets his first job as a primary school teacher. He is over the moon. There’s only one problem. He has to travel 40 minutes up the freeway to school. He needs a car. So Andy goes car hunting again and comes home with a green Commodore station wagon.
Callum looks at Andy’s car with longing eyes. “That’s just the sort of car I’d love, Dad!” His safe Camry has lost all its appeal.
For weeks Callum repeats, “I’d love a car like that, Dad!” And one day, Andy gives in. He knows all about being a teenager and having dreams.
“Okay, we’ll swap cars.”
Callum grins. “Really? Do you mean it?” He smiles for days. He goes for long drives enjoying his big new car.
Duncan passes his driving test and he also needs a car. Living out of town, with no public transport worth speaking about, a car is essential. Andy offers Duncan the Camry which he readily accepts. A nice reliable safe car for a nice reliable safe son. Perfect fit.
Andy goes car hunting yet again and this time comes home with a Hyundai Excel, not exciting but fuel efficient. He’s no longer a teenager with dreams, but a man with a family to support. Fuel efficient is good.
Then one day Callum’s dream car goes wrong. The power steering breaks. Maybe other things aren’t working. After getting a quote to fix everything, Callum sadly agrees the car isn’t worth the investment of any more money.
So Andy and Callum go car hunting again.
“You should see what I bought, Mum!”
Callum has bought himself a Toyota Cressida. It’s not really the kind of car I expect him to buy. It’s old but has leather seats and lots of luxury features. It’s the sort of car an old man might have owned for years. Probably did.
Callum turns his Cressida into a young man dream car by applying numerous trendy stickers to the rear windscreen, and lowering the suspension. Now he and Casey can scrape over every speed bump in town. A set of super alloy wheels arrives in the post. “It was such a great deal, Mum! I bought them online for less than half price!” Callum is happy…
… until Andy makes a mistake. He says, “One day we’ll have to buy an old Commodore that needs renovating. It could be a father-son project. We could spend time fixing it together.”
Callum’s eyes light up and before long he has bought an old Commodore station wagon to do up.
One day some huge bright yellow springs arrive in the post (bought on the Internet), and Callum starts pulling bits off his car. But he hits a problem and the car remains on the driveway without wheels for a few weeks. But he can still drive to work. He still has the Cressida. Or does he?
“Where’s Callum?” I ask Andy one day.
“He’s gone to pick up his new car.”
“New car? What new car?”
Andy shrugs his shoulders. He’s given up. Boys and their cars…
A couple of hours later, Callum arrives home with a wide bright green thirty-something-year-old Holden Kingswood that stretches on forever. How will he park it?
“Where’s your Cressida?” I ask.
“I traded it in for this car,” Callum explains with a huge smile on his face. “It’s a classic.”
It’s old. It’s huge. It will guzzle fuel. Boys and their cars… I shrug my shoulders. I just don’t understand.
Callum calls the girls. He wants to give them a tour. They have to admire their brother’s car. That’s what sisters are for.
“What’s that?” asks Gemma-Rose pointing to a small electric fan perched on the dashboard.
“Air conditioning,” replies Callum.
Air conditioning? I hide a smile.
“Those are strange seat belts,” observes Sophie.
“They’re not inertia reel belts,” I explain. We had seat belts like those in our car when I was a girl.” Years ago.
“What are you going to call your car?” asks Charlotte.
“The Jolly Green Giant?” suggests Imogen.
A few days later, Callum arrives home from work. “Two people offered to buy my car today. One man asked me how much I’d be willing to sell it for. Another man said he’d swap his car for mine.”
"What sort of car?" we ask. A newish reliable expensive car.
“Why didn’t you accept the offer?” asks Andy. “That man’s car is worth much more than yours. I would have taken the other car like a shot.” But Andy is a family man with a budget, not a young man with dreams.
“I like my car,” says Callum, his smile disappearing. “I’ve only just bought it.”
Andy and I giggle over the thought that anyone would want Callum’s Jolly Green Giant. “You should have taken the other car,” repeats Andy. We giggle some more.
Callum is no longer smiling. He goes off to the kitchen in search of dinner. A little later, I see him sitting silently at the kitchen table.
“You okay, Callum?” I ask.
“I’m fine, Mum.” But he doesn’t sound fine.
Later that evening, while I am cleaning my teeth, I think about Callum and his green car. Suddenly a sentence appears in my head. It's a perfect sentence. I go in search of my son.
“It must be really lovely having a car other people want to buy,” I say. And I mean it.
Callum’s face lights up instantly. His mother understands. I have said the right thing.
“I’m sorry, Callum. I shouldn’t have laughed. I can see the car is very special to you.”
“That’s okay, Mum.” He gives me a hug. “You know, I’ve always dreamt about having a car like the Kingswood.”
“I shouldn’t have giggled. I shouldn’t have made fun of you and your car.” Callum generously brushes my apologies away. He’s happy again.
One afternoon, Callum drives his Commodore station wagon (you remember – the one that’s been sitting immobile on our driveway for weeks) to the local workshop for a safety inspection. He’s fixed it. The wheels are back on. The car’s back on the road. He is now the proud owner of two roadworthy cars, both paid for and maintained with his own money. No loans. No debts.
Boys and cars… Every boy needs to pursue a dream. Before very long, young men with dreams turn into men with families to support. That's good. They all have to grow up. But for now...
“Any chance of a lift to town?” I ask.
“Of course! I’ll take you in the Green Giant.” Callum can’t wait to show off his car.
“Wow! Listen to the engine. That sounds good!” This time I’ve said exactly the right words.