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Illustration by Chelsea O'Byrne

Summertime begins the day I renew the insurance on my Mazda Miata – it’s the start of convertible season.

I am on my third convertible. The first was a 1997 Miata in British racing green with a tan leather interior. I developed a fascination with that car in high school, over the vociferous objections of my friends. I didn’t care. It was the sports car I always wanted – and more importantly, could afford. I saved my summer wages, working at the Canadian National Exhibition and various retail jobs. I test-drove countless examples before finding a nice one and paid for it with 60 crisp $100 bills. There was just enough left over in my bank account to fill the gas tank and take my girlfriend for sushi. As we drove home late at night with the top down, pinpricks of starlight illuminating the night sky, I didn’t think it was possible for life to get any better

Over three years, I gave it as much TLC as my meagre postrecession earnings would allow, but as the odometer rolled over to 200,000 kilometres, I knew we were on borrowed time. Seventeen years of harsh winters and deferred maintenance were not kind to the thin sheet metal and featherweight chassis that made it such a nimble, deft-handling sports car when it rolled off the showroom floor. My Miata needed real help, preferably on someone else’s dime. A colleague with a taste for gaudy modifications offered me double what I’d paid for it. Easy decision. I rationalized it as a way to simultaneously free myself of attachments to material objects and pad my bank balance. I never knew what happened to that car, and under no circumstances do I want to find out.

Three months later, I bought another one, imported from Florida and kept pristine by the elderly owner. Unfortunately, I was still underemployed, so I ended up driving it through the winter, too. The vinyl soft top provided scant protection from the cold, and though I was used to wearing a parka, hat and gloves with the heater huffing and puffing at full blast, I knew that every drive in the salty streets of Toronto advanced the Miata’s eventual demise. Two years later I handed it over to another optimistic buyer, a small profit being a consolation for letting it go.

Why I became a flight attendant in my 40s, and never looked back

There’s a reason they say what they say about third times. I had undergone an incredible stroke of good fortune that led to an exponential increase in income after landing a job at a Bay Street private equity firm. I came into the office at 7 a.m. and left past midnight every single day, decompressing on the drive home in a powerful European performance car that I’d presumptuously purchased to show that I’d “arrived.”

Firms like these are “up or out” and despite my best efforts I was unequivocally in the latter category. I left the job feeling utterly defeated, like I had been given a shot at the big leagues and failed to make the roster for next season. Flush with the proceeds of one final bonus. I knew exactly how I’d spend it, and returned to the classified ads.

Again, another Miata, but this one had just 38,000 km on it and it had never been driven in the winter. At the owner’s home, I examined it with an unsteady hand, prepared to encounter the structural weak spots, the signs of a slipping clutch or a soft top that was about to tear. It was so perfect that the new car smell still lingered. I bought it on the spot.

I knew my colleagues would be as merciless about my newest Miata as my classmates had been about my first one – this time on social and economic grounds rather than perceived masculinity. I didn’t care. Driving it home felt like, well, home. There was a muscle memory ingrained as I shifted gears and adjusted to the brakes and throttle, which were both weaker and far more tactile than I remembered. Coming from a modern car, it was a cacophony of mechanical sounds, not all of them pleasant. It darted around on the highway and required a more deliberate touch. But the engine revved so freely and the steering felt alive in my palms. I spent the summer reliving those earlier years, driving around with the music up and the roof down running through the gears and taking turns far faster than I had any right to on public roads. For the first time in years, I felt the anxiety and mental paralysis melt away, partly as a result of feeling like I had given my all to an improbable professional moonshot and partly because I felt like I had been received with open arms by an old friend, one who had been loyal and unerring, even when I hadn’t.

I still get inquiries from friends about buying a newer or “better” car. Something faster or more modern looking. Perhaps if fortune permits, I will add another performance car to the stable, but the Miata – this particular Miata – will always have a home with me. I cherish every summer I spend behind the wheel, anxiously awaiting the day that I take it out of hibernation for the first drive of the season. My Miata is a link to a bygone, carefree chapter of my life, both for myself and the people that still text me out of the blue, to say, “I saw a green Miata and thought of you…”

Derek Kreindler lives in Toronto.

I’m a successful mom because I’ve trained my children out of my life. But it’s killing me