When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m not talking about in adolescence or high school, when you have to start thinking about it for real. I mean when you were a little kid, and your mind didn’t know yet to censor your imagination. What was that super cool job you knew you would have someday? Astronaut? Movie star? Cowboy? Ballerina? Football player? President?
Although it was over 50 years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. My dream job, filled with excitement, glamor, and, undoubtedly, fame and fortune.
I was going to be a model at the Auto Show.
Could there be anything cooler? Decked out in a gorgeous, floor-length evening gown, you gracefully navigated around the equally dazzling vehicle, effortlessly pointing out its charms in elegant, sweeping motions while the whole display continuously rotated to the delight of the mesmerized crowd. Miss America, eat our heart out.
I get a kick out of this and many other fond memories I have every year when the Chicago Auto Show opens, as it will this coming weekend. Thanks to my dad’s career in the car business, we never missed an Auto Show growing up.
These days the event kicks off with a big charity bash before the show officially opens. I have no idea if we were afforded similar VIP treatment thanks to our dealership passes, or if we just mingled with the masses, but it made no difference to us kids.
We were there to see and sit in all the cool cars (both current and the magical “cars of the future”), run wild without parental supervision, and visit each display so as to collect every possible glossy booklet, pamphlet, postcard and brochure being offered. I can still see us trudging out to the car, paper shopping bags bulging with our bounty, all of which was then systematically spread out on the floor in the front room. I suspect that if there were a way to reconstruct all the paper we brought home over the years, it would be roughly equivalent to a giant redwood.
Eventually, our family trips to the Auto Show stopped. But that’s not to say that those outings don’t continue to have a lasting effect. For example, my brother, Steve, can identify the make, model and year of any car without having to think twice about it. I still find it difficult to pass up free literature of any kind, and my absolute favorite smell in the whole wide world (well, tied with puppy breath) is new car smell.
A few years ago, my husband and I went back to the Auto Show. The paper shopping bags have been replaced with reusable fabric sponsor bags, with a lot less printed matter to fill them, and the models looked more like sales professionals than lounge singers. As is usually the case, it didn’t seem nearly as big as it did when I was a kid, but all the good stuff was still there: shiny cars, cool demonstrations, and peeks at the magical “cars of the future.” And while I didn’t get to do my Vanna White imitation on a rotating platform, I did get to sit in my dream car, a VW Beetle, positively dripping with glorious new car smell.
So, keep encouraging those early fantasies, because you never know what may come of them, or how they will affect your life. My grandson has already decided what he’s going to be when he grows up: an ice cream man. I have only one thing to say to that: shotgun!
—Laurie O’Connor Stephans
Underneath these glamorous and grandiose childhood fantasies lurked an even bigger one for Laurie O’Connor Stephans – to someday be a writer. She is living that dream every day, and often writes about it, and how it came to be, on her blog, We B Late, which is part of her website.