Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Family Holiday Tradition

My daughter had a school assignment to write a story about a family holiday tradition, and to collect stories from everyone else in her family. This is what I wrote for her:

When I was a kid, our family would always go for a drive on Christmas Eve to look at Christmas lights. My sister and I sat in the back, my mother in the front, and my father would drive. Unless my grandparents were visiting, then my sister would sit in the front between my parents (on the bench seat—no car seats in those days) and I would sit in the back between my grandparents.

We'd drive around looking for houses where the owner put up a lot of lights. One house in particular became famous for having lights all over the house and all kinds of sculptures covered with lights in the yard: snowmen, Santa and his reindeer, giant snowflakes, and even animals that would move their heads and tails. As the years went on so many people would drive by that house to look at the lights that the traffic jams became unmanageable. The owner ended up donating all his lights and sculptures to the city so they could put them in a park to avoid the traffic jams. As far as I know the lights are still put on display in that park every Christmas.

Sometimes we'd drive a long distance to go to where there were show-homes for new neighborhoods being built. The developers would cover every inch of the walls and roofs of the houses with lights in solid colors, which made the houses look like they were made of lights. Often it would be snowing, which made the lights look magical as the snow collected in the small gaps between the lights on the roofs.

I don't recall ever having a Christmas without snow. So it was a shock for me when I came to California and saw people put up lights with no snow. I just always assumed the two go together.

One year, when I was about 7, I told my parents I didn't believe in Santa anymore. That year we went for our Christmas Eve drive unusually late, so we were out past midnight. When we got back, there were presents from Santa under the tree! I had memorized every present under the tree before we left, so I knew they weren't there before. And there was a note from Santa thanking us for the milk and cookies my mother left out. The entire family went for the drive, and the house was locked. So it must have been Santa. I decided I did believe.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Goodbye old car, you've seen me through a lot

Lately the VW Cabrio I've had for 11½ years has been showing its age. The strip on the driver-side door (which I glued on about 7 years ago) peeled off (leaving a glue residue that would make it quite difficult to re-attach). The paint has been peeling off the hood. A friend accidentally backed into it behind the passenger door, leaving an ugly dent. And the rear bumper started sticking out from where it wraps around to the sides.

Mechanically it's been a great car. I believe I've only had to pay for three repairs, and if I recall correctly they were all under $50.

But it's old enough that it didn't make sense to put money into cosmetic repairs, and a two-door is just not practical with kids. So I decided it's time for a new car. And since I buy new cars pretty rarely, I was picky. That's a separate story, but I ended up placing an order for a Mercury Milan Hybrid, which I expect in about three weeks.

I decided to donate the Cabrio to KQED. I didn't like the idea of selling it in it's condition, and I doubt I would get much for it as a trade-in. I thought I'd show my appreciation to KQED and PBS for all the great programming I (and especially the kids) have enjoyed for years.

So it was not unexpected, but a little inconvenient when the Cabrio's clutch broke Tuesday. The repair would have cost just about $400, which I didn't want to pay to keep driving it for just a few weeks. Thankfully a friend offered to loan me her second car.

So I called KQED, and just handed the keys to a tow-truck driver for an auction company assigned by them pick it up. They make it very easy.

I felt fine seeing it go, though I did feel a little melancholy on Tuesday when I cleaned out all my stuff. I'm not sentimental about it, and it's been a while since I've enjoyed driving it or felt proud of it. But I have had it a long time.

Thinking back, I realized I had it for over ¼ of my life, and well more than ⅓ of my driving years. I bought it at the start of a new chapter of my life. I had just moved back to the Bay Area from New York City to work for a start-up. In the 11½ years since then I:
  • found an apartment in San Francisco
  • commuted from there to San Mateo
  • helped create two electronic toys
  • met Claire (who became my wife), and moved to San Jose
  • worked for LEGO (in San Mateo, with several trips to Denmark)
  • married, and honeymooned in Greece and Turkey
  • worked for Palm (in Santa Clara)
  • bought a house in Campbell
  • saw the birth of my daughter, now 7
  • worked for Altera (in Santa Cruz)
  • bought our current house in Scotts Valley
  • saw the birth of two sons, now 6 and 4
  • worked for VMware
  • worked for Netflix
In other words, I've seen more excitement and change in my life since I bought this car than in any other time of my life.

May my new car last long enough to be associated with half as many happy memories.