Parenting Blog

Michelin First Car Moment

This post is about cars but it’s also about photos; those we have, those we don’t, and those we’ll see in our mind’s eye until the end of days.

A photogenic memory isn’t something I could legitimately claim to have. I’d be found out the minute someone asked me to describe the nightstand of the last hotel I stayed at. Umm, wooden? I think. “Fraud!,” they’d shout.

There are, however, scattered slides still occupying the floor of my dusty mind, still life images from my 6th birthday party with the original Phillie Phanatic, the exact location of that one conversation about Pearl Jam’s Ten with an older kid at the driving range where we both worked, and idling in the Burger King drive-thru lane waiting for my nightly chicken cordon blue sandwich, fries and chocolate shake to be handed over through a square window in the middle a brick wall, while listening to 103.3 WPRB Princeton when the concert calendar was read and the Afghan Whigs gig in Trenton was announced.

I can see certain core memories like those three in technicolor, as if they each took place yesterday, but it’s been a long long time since Dave Raymond was in that fuzzy green mascot costume, I haven’t heard any Pearl Jam music — let alone their debut album — in forever, and it’s been more than a dozen years since I had that kind of fast food, the kind that isn’t In-n-Out or Steak-n-Shake.

Another time and place burned into my memory is the sight of my first car, my First Car Moment. I see my dad and I driving to the Somerset neighborhood of NE Philly, a couple of towns over from where we lived in 1992. The house was on the left, halfway up the hill, and the burgundy Honda Civic waited in the driveway, pulled in frontways. $2500 later, I was a car owner.

FirstCarMoments Title Image

Not MY 1986 Honda Civic, because, well, read on…

She was my first and she got me around to that job at the driving range, to that Afghan Whigs concert in the worst part of Trenton, thru too many Burger Kings, and to my first serious girlfriend’s parent’s home…often. All I needed to do was keep pouring oil into her, the car not the girl. Sure, there was some strange smoke, clunky sounds, and dead batteries (again, the car not the girl) but she was mine and she was beautiful. For the third and final time, I’m speaking solely of my first car here. 😉

In a strange coincidence this past weekend, my car-obsessed 15-year-old nephew started up a first car conversation with me, to ask my take on my niece’s — his older sister’s — possible first car. In short order I had put in front of me a cell phone photo of a shiny, sporty red convertible, a Mazda I think, and my first thought was, “that’s a magnet for car thieves, right?”

Forever the pragmatist, I guess. I simply never lusted after cars; shiny, sporty or otherwise. I remember thinking Jaguars were kinda cool when I was a kid, but mostly only because of the hood ornament and the curvature of the roof. It was unlike the boxy cars I saw parading around our suburban town. I’m pretty sure I never saw a single Jaguar live and in person during my childhood, so I was most definitely not getting one of those as my first car. And for some strange reason I had an full page print ad, cut out from some magazine, of a red Nissan Pathfinder thumb tacked to my bedroom wall. I remember only that I found the triangular side window of that SUV pretty radical.

Nissan Highlander red triangle window

I don’t, however, have any recollection of asking for a certain type of vehicle when I turned 16. I just wanted something, anything, to get me around town. Didn’t matter what color (although I’ve always been partial to red), what kind, or what year. My non-specificity led my dad and I to that driveway in Somerset and to that burgundy ’86 Honda Civic. Not quite Red Wings red, but close enough. I only had that oil guzzling car for a year or two, plenty long enough for at least one photo op, but neither my mom nor I can remember ever seeing a photo of me with it. Or of it without me. I mean, who doesn’t take a picture with their first car?? Me, apparently. A First Car Moment alive only in my mind. Perfect.

No doubt about it, getting your first car is an emotional and joyous time, a time for photos and videos and mementos if you are a normal person, not someone like me who has only these photographic First Car Moment memories lodged into his increasingly foggy brain. It’s also a time for conversations about safety on the road and behind the wheel. With cellphones and texting now, parents have yet another thing to be wary of when putting a young driver into a car. Not to pile on, but tire pressure is also huge factor in keeping kids (and adults) safe while driving. No kidding.

Michelin tires guy

Michelin reminds us that ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of car you or your teen drive. What matters most is that your tires are safe. Checking tire pressure with a pressure gauge monthly and learning the proper way to check tread depth are two easy tasks that can help you correctly maintain yours and your teen’s tires, and make all the cars in your family safer to drive.

So when your teen is growing into their very own #FirstCarMoment make sure everything from tires to the hood is safe and sound this summer, because their first car, like mine, may not be in the greatest shape but their tires should be.


Finally, and this is so freaking important, please talk to your teens about safe driving this summer. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is called the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. The ominous nickname for summer driving is based on accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council. And 12% of the 2.2 million accidents that occur each year with inexperienced teen drivers are due to tire-related issues. Be safe out there and make your your teen’s First Car Moment is forever a positive one.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Michelin for this promotion. I have received compensation for my participation, but my first car memories are my own.

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