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Humble beginnings will stick for future

My family does not just own cars, it loves them, cherishes them, christens them with names.

When my parents buy a new car, we warmly welcome it into our family, as though it were just another (adopted -- my parents never buy new) sibling. Of course, that doesn't happen too often. After all, the sentiment seems to be, why exchange your car for something newer, just because it is old, leaks and has a few parts that rattle, when you wouldn't do the same to your dog?

A little gray Mazda my parents used to drive had a problem with the front driver's side window. So every time we went through a drive-thru, whoever had the misfortune of being the driver that day would have to open the door to place the order.

Then there was the car that didn't have a latch on the hood. That one, I am told, created quite a scare when it flew up while my dad was driving on Crosstown through the Cities.

The little green Mazda 626 I currently drive to school runs well, gets good gas mileage but only one radio station -- local and country -- and the alternative music source is cassette tapes.

These little quirks have become part of our family -- kind of like how one of my little brothers won't go to sleep without a certain stuffed animal, or the prayers we say before meals.

For a while, my parents' driving of old cars bothered me to no end, but I've come to terms with it. In fact, I've increasingly realized that the old cars my family -- including myself -- drives are my last remaining attachment to the Real World, a world I will soon have to face.

So far, I've had it pretty good in life. It was by pure chance, the luck of the draw, that I was born into a family that is not only basically functional, but also lives on a nice lake as well. I sleep in a comfortable blue room with fresh paint, eat good meals (which have become increasingly extravagant since dad hit his midlife crisis), and wear clothing that not only fits, but, because I'm the oldest, is purchased new.

But I am not ignorant enough to believe that it's going to be all butterflies and sunshine forever. I'm reconciled with the truth that I have some poor years ahead of me: college, the years immediately following college, and -- given I decide to become a writer -- the rest of my life after that.

My parents always told me to follow my dreams, and 10 years from now, I'm sure I'll be doing just that -- in some disease ridden apartment in the nether regions of St. Paul. I can see it now: a typewriter or Windows 95 (with an Apple monitor) I found in some skuzzy thrift shop sitting in my "study" -- actually a converted back bedroom, flannel seven days a week, rejection slips for toilet paper, Friday night wiener roasts with the guys -- over an oil drum. It all seems very real to me.

But when I get discouraged by all the filth and poverty, I'll think back to my roots and the kindly church ladies and family friends who complimented me on the column I wrote back in high school, and tell myself that the breakthrough will be coming any day, that publishers can't just ignore a talent like mine...not forever.

And then I'll think back to the old cars my parents used to drive, and be grateful to them for driving those cars and easing -- if only in the slightest way -- my descent into a primitive, impoverished existence.

Thus, it is probably just as well that I not be completely sheltered from what lies ahead, that there be one aspect of my life that's not completely plush, something to keep my feet on the ground even if I can't get my head out of the clouds. After all, I can't run away from my future forever.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.