Am I really defined by my possessions?

Marian on her “mini-truck.” Mim’s Matrix and Marian’s Camry in the background.

Several days ago Mim learned about the need for a $2,300 repair on her 2003 Toyota Matrix. We briefly considered whether or not it was getting to be time to replace the car, and quickly concluded that now is not the time for us to pay for a new car.

Today I hope to clean up my “mini-truck” – my tricycle – from its winter’s rest in the garage at Whispering Winds. It’s time to start pedaling back and forth between the farmhouse and the condo. I have mixed feelings about that. My mini-truck is handy for carrying groceries, laundry, and odds and ends back and forth the scant mile between the two places. It’s cheaper and environmentally more responsible than taking the car. And it’s good exercise for me. BUT, I still feel like a funny old lady riding my 3-wheeler.

My brother Dan on his sporty tricycle, with his dogs.

Ironically, my brother has a 3-wheeler, too, which he rides with pride. His 3-wheeler is a hyper-cool recumbent trike. Dan bikes frequently for good exercise and fresh air. A couple years ago he had back surgery, which resulted in him being unable to safely ride a traditional bike. One of those low recumbent 3-wheelers is perfect for him. His is the “flashy sports car” of adult tricycles. Mine is the “strictly functional pick-up truck.” Not that we’re competing for who is “coolest.”

That brings me back to cars. The first car I ever got was a 1963 Corvair that my parents bought for me for $600 in 1966 when I turned 18. I needed a car to drive back and forth to Madison for my summer job.  The Corvair was functional and cheap. I got exactly what I needed.

1963 Corvair – engine in back, trunk in front.

During my college years, I traded cars with my brother when he got married so that he could drive the cheap and functional Corvair and I would get his 11-mile per gallon sporty Pontiac LeMans. I let it sit in the garage during the school year and just drove it to work in the summers. Even with gas costing $0.30 a gallon back then, it was still too expensive to drive much, so after a year or two my dad traded the car in on a brand new Corvair for me.  It was the perfect car for my dad, but not for me. It was completely functional, without even an ounce wasted on beauty or comfort.

Over the past 45 years I’ve had 10 cars. I’ve really liked only one of those cars. It was a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass. It’s the only car I ordered from a dealer, specifying exactly what I wanted on the car – everything down to the number of speeds on the windshield wipers. It was a beautiful and comfortable car. I was proud to drive it. It was the perfect car for me – except it was a lemon. Almost everything that could go wrong with a car mechanically happened to that car.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass – the only car I ever liked.

After just a few years of equal parts enjoyment and frustration, I traded it in on a practical car, an intermediate-size Oldsmobile without a hint of sportiness. It was comfortable enough, but it was just a functional car. Nothing more. It had as much style as my old Corvair. Or my 3-wheeled mini-truck. I was a little embarrassed to drive such an old-lady car.

Today I drive a 2003 Toyota Camry, another old lady car. But at least it’s comfortable and doesn’t need a $2,300 repair.

I spent about an hour “window-shopping” on the Internet last week to see what cars might be a good fit to replace Mim’s Matrix, to help Mim find a car that would meet our transportation needs, reflect our values, and not clash with our personalities. Fortunately, I didn’t have to window-shop long before I concluded that spending $2,300 on a car repair doesn’t clash nearly as much as spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new car would.

So, with all this reflection on my lifetime of cars, including my 3-wheeled, muscle-powered mini-truck, am I really afraid that my possessions define me to the world – my car and my tricycle in particular? Do I think that people will assume I am a funny old lady because I ride an adult tricycle with a big basket in the back? Do I care what they think?

Obviously, I must care somewhat by the fact that I’m talking about it on this blog. I can’t deny that reality. But that raises a much bigger question: How much of what I do is controlled by what I perceive people will think about me, rather than what I personally think, or what I believe to be God’s perspective on the matter?

Do you ever think about which of your possessions define you to the world? What possessions or daily activities shout out who you really are? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting on this blog post. I’m curious to read what you think.

Without a doubt, Dan’s dogs think his tricycle is more fun than mine. But I can carry a lot more groceries on mine.


6 responses to “Am I really defined by my possessions?”

  1. Mardelle Burrowes Avatar
    Mardelle Burrowes

    I remember your first car! It seems like yesterday….we were young with so much yet to learn. Am musing on your thoughts. Your mini truck is perfect for some things, and what others think don’t change that fact a bit.

    Fitting in to our communities is good to some extent, though. I think I will always try to dress in ways that do not stand out as odd. A good balance in everything, perhaps?

    I once did the math about repairs vs a newer car, and came to the same conclusion you and Mim did. I hope I can make my older car last forever!

  2. Thanks, Mardelle. In some things, fitting in to our communities saves us a lot of time. Otherwise, we would have to think too much about every little – and big – decision we make.

    It’s fun to think back over some of the decisions we’ve made in our lifetimes. And it’s fun to share those thoughts with friends that go all the way back to our early years. I appreciate being able to continue our friendship through Facebook and this blog.

  3. I enjoyed reading about your favorite cars!
    On the other hand, I have never cared for what kind of car I have, as long as it runs safely and economically. The first car I bought by myself was a brand-new 1978 Datsun that I drove until 1994 when I bought a brand-new Toyota Corolla, which I still have in my WA home. In WI I bought a used 2001 Toyota Corolla that I will probably drive until it drops. And if and when I get another car, it will probably be a Camry!

  4. Another Toyota fan, apparently based on the longevity of the cars… That’s partly why we decided to invest in a $2,300 repair. We expect to keep driving the Matrix (and the Camry) as long as possible. Hopefully, my “mini-truck” will last forever, too.

    1. Mardelle Burrowes Avatar
      Mardelle Burrowes

      Toyota and Honda products are definitely worth repairing. I drive a 14 year old Acura, which is comfortable as well as solid. It should last for the rest of my life.

  5. Interesting and fun to read except having to spend that much , however, as you found even a good used car would cost more and you do not know anything about a different car. What needs to be done? Tell Mim hello. After all the rain we had the farmers are buzy getting in the beans and corn. A lot of the corn has been planted.


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