Why you should care

Because sometimes impractical choices are the best choices.

Kristina Wright lives in Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Narratively and Cosmopolitan.

Before I met my husband, I fell in love. It was an impossible kind of love, a case of the wrong place and the wrong time. A cute little two-door convertible. You know the type. A Mazda MX-5 Miata. Did I mention it was small? Tiny. The trunk wouldn’t hold a full-size suitcase. The commercial was what hooked me. It was 1989 and I was single and living in Florida. Much as I would’ve loved to own that sleek little roadster, I already had a car, one that was just 2 years old. I sighed every time I saw the ad, but resisted.

I fell in love the following year, with a guy this time, and we married after a whirlwind courtship. I moved to Virginia. We were that young-newlywed kind of poor — he was in the Navy, I was working retail. We ate ramen and mac and cheese, and played a juggling game with our finances. Date nights were long drives and watching Wings and Northern Exposure. We lived in an apartment that hadn’t been remodeled since the 1970s, with a harvest-gold refrigerator that needed to be manually defrosted and hadn’t yet become hipster-cool. We had no savings. We barely paid our bills on time. And still, I couldn’t get that Miata out of my mind.

Finally it was time to make a decision every sports-car-obsessed parent must eventually face: the kids or the convertible.

Soon, my husband and I were standing in a car lot full of Mazdas. “Let’s just take a look,” he had said. The salesman showed us all the different makes — the Protege, the MX-6. “Practical family cars,” I muttered.

I kept gravitating toward a tiny, sky-blue two-seater convertible. The salesman handed us the key and told us to bring it back the next day. The next day! I have no idea how many miles we put on that sweet little car, but before the sun went down I knew it was mine. I was in love and my husband loved me. We talked each other into it. A love triangle of the best kind.

It took eight years to pay it off. I found a good mechanic and asked him how long I could conceivably keep this car. He shrugged and said, “Take care of it, honey, and you might need a new engine one day, but it’ll last forever.” And so we stayed together, me and my Miata.

Then I got pregnant with my first son. By my third trimester I couldn’t get in or out of the Miata without feeling like an upended turtle. When I got pregnant the second time, I relegated my car to the garage. I missed it. It felt like a part of me was slipping away.

Three years later, it still feels like an impostor. Sometimes I do too.

Miatas aren’t kid-friendly, but I hung in there — driving my husband’s truck whenever I had to take the kids somewhere and trying not to weep when I saw him drive off in my blue baby. Finally it was time to make a decision every sports-car-obsessed parent must eventually face: the kids or the convertible.

I drive a practical family mobile now. A roomy SUV with a DVD player and heated seats. Three years later, it still feels like an impostor. Sometimes I do too. I’m not the same person I was when I drove my dream car off the lot 23 years ago.

But I’m still impractical. The Miata sits parked in the garage, gathering dust. Not long ago, I found mice nesting in the trunk. Once in a while, though, I take it out. I crank up the radio, drop the top and zip around my suburban town like it’s 1992 — and remember what it felt like to be young and in love.

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