Riding in a Pathfinder, 1998

As much as I have a complicated relationship with automotive vehicles, my first memory is, in fact, being strapped in the backseat of my family’s Nissan Pathfinder. I was exactly a week shy of turning 2 years old, and Daddy was driving me to the hospital to meet my brand-new baby brother. Most of my memories from that year involved cars, actually: losing the arm of my baby doll in the Pathfinder and never recovering it, watching Mama sing while she drove, or riding shotgun in my carseat as Daddy flew around tree-lined hills in his black Mitsubishi 3000 GT with the pop-up headlights that were my favorite because they looked like eyes.

But mainly I remember that Pathfinder. I remember the sunlight through the front windshield filtering to the back and my feet swinging over the edge of the seat. I remember Daddy in his purple polyester tracksuit with the college logo embroidered on the front. I remember going uphill, and NOT going the way I thought we should be.

I remember when my baby doll’s arm rolled under the seat. I remember Mama coming to my side of the car and looking all over the floorboard. I remember telling her where it rolled when I lost sight of it. She couldn’t find it.

I remember getting sick in the back seat and Mama pulling over on the side of the highway to clean me up. I remember the State Trooper pulling up behind us and Mama fearing she’d done something wrong. I remember the State Trooper giving me a plastic star to wear for being brave. I remember having to sit on the conveyer belt at the Target checkout to scan the new clothes Mama bought to replace what I’d been wearing.

I remember goldfish and Mama singing. I remember green apple Dum-Dum suckers that Mama would only give me if I wasn’t going to fall asleep. (Somehow putting the sour sugar in my mouth always made me more drowsy.)

I remember bits and pieces of the Pathfinder. But most important was my brother on the other side of the car and Mama driving up front, tossing things back to make sure we were ok.

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