Last night realizing time was short we quickly piled the kids and an impromptu picnic into our eighteen year old sun-bleached blue Honda civic. Never turn in a car with extra fuel in the tank, we thought. So Sunday evening drive we must. We drive west in near silence, chasing the sunset through miles of fields and orchards. Unidentifiable greens erupt from the soil phasing in, bare walnut tree silhouettes fading out. The end of one era and the necessary beginning of another. Funny, I thought we hoped we could drive the car figuratively into the ground; it will be literal instead. You can check my review here to know more about our car.
The car coughs, rattles, clanks and vibrates, straining to go and go and go as it always has. Perhaps this inanimate object of a family member is somehow imbued with the knowledge that this really the end; its replacement has already taken over the garage. It’s just a car, and not even a fancy one, but it’s feels like a loss letting it go.
I did a double take when my husband walked back in the door twenty minutes after leaving for work at the end of September. The little Civic was the jelly filling of a five car sandwich less than a mile from our house. Bumpers scraped and jostled, frame bent. We knew our car was done for. The responsible parties’ insurance took months to come to the same obvious conclusion. When your car has the blue book value of one semester’s tuition at BYU, you know auto body salvation isn’t likely. Battered but not completely beaten, we kept driving they bruiser waiting for the claim to clear. Finally the shop announced they’d take the car and total it on Monday. The time for an unexpected, but necessary change had come.
On the ride home we waxed nostalgic about the eras this car has driven us through: my husband’s teenage years filled with less than legal car tricks (get more information from his parents’ since they purchased the car new as the kid car [yeah, mine didn’t do that]), this was the car he had in college when we met, he taught me how to drive stick shift in it, which we also strained over as we made out because it seemed more chaste than the back seat. The car became ours the day we drove away from our wedding reception with the windows covered in shoe polish scrawl. Each of our babies rode home from the hospital strapped into the back seat with the next size up car seat bought to fit that tiny back seat. We’ve witnessed miracles in that car- it was saved by a kind shop in San Francisco when an old lady t-boned it an intersection when the damage was a stack of nickles away from a total loss because they knew we looked like we would be rubbing nickels together without that car. The year I bought milk in glass bottles ended abruptly when I took a sharp turn and broke one all over the passenger side; yet again the heavens smiled upon that car and somehow it didn’t smell like old cheese afterward (baking soda and vinegar FTW). I’ve said more prayers than I can count holding that wheel begging for yet another miracle of some sort. Not all of them were answered and our kids still got carsick in it anyway.
We’ve zig-zagged it all over the country as we’ve moved and moved and moved and moved. So many of our memories are have been shaped in the compact carriage of that car.
For years we’ve wondered when we’d move on to the next thing (or when we could even afford it). Somehow it felt wrong to just get rid of it too soon and we’d talk hopefully that we could pass this little piece of family history on to the kids for their use. But it didn’t happen that way. Instead with the odometer reading 159, 773, I surrendered our old friend, little blue today. It’s necessary replacement is nice, and so much quieter to drive, and has lots of fancy features (like unbroken sun visor clips, uncracked cup holders, working power locks and interior lights!); we are excited for that, but I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for the car that has taken us so far.
Have you lost a good car too?