Saturday, January 31, 2015

Goodbye, Car. Sorry I Never Named You.

Today, after almost fourteen years, I said goodbye to my car. I don't get attached to material possessions. I've never named a single car, bike, or musical instrument that I've owned, but I do think my car was a girl. Despite the fact that I'm not sentimental about this kind of stuff, and that keeping her made zero sense financially, I definitely cried the whole way home after saying goodbye. 

The last picture.

What better way to honor our time together than to share our stories. But first, a pre-story.

This, but longer to accommodate four doors.
My first car was an '84 Chevy Celebrity. It was a maroon boat on wheels, and you had to choose between the radio OR the air conditioner or the car would just stop running. As a music-loving, heat-hating young woman in Texas, it was my Sophie's Choice. The rule in our house was that you drove an old tank for a year, and if you didn't break it, then you could get an upgrade. I think even as a teen I recognized that was a pretty sweet deal considering I didn't have to pay for the tank or the upgrade.

Our first date.

June 2001. I was seventeen years old when my mother surprised me with a dark blue '99 Chevy Blazer. She finished her night shift and immediately drove three hours to Waco, Texas to see my final concert and pick me up from Baylor Band Camp. As we left the concert hall, she said, "I came in your car." I was totally confused why she wouldn't take her car, a car that understood that you just can't choose between your children (or music and AC). Then I was more confused when she handed me a set of keys I didn't recognize. She stopped at the passenger door and said, "Happy birthday!" My birthday was a month earlier and we'd already celebrated, but I gladly ignored those facts.

I drove us to the dorm to pick up my bags and had a great time telling all my fellow band nerds that I'd just gotten this sweet new ride. We took lots of pictures on multiple disposable cameras, then it was time to go. At this point my mom was probably on hour 24 with no sleep, anxiously awaiting her long nap on the ride home while I drove, and I wasn't sure if I should come clean or not. Being the way-too-responsible-to-be-a-teen kind of teen that I was, I confessed.

"Mom. I... left my driver's license at home..." She gave me the look she'd given me many times before; the one that said, "Why can't you just be a normal teen and break the rules? Just this once?" A few weeks earlier she'd complained that she didn't fit in with her friends; they were talking about their teenagers sneaking out, drinking, doing things teens do to terrify their parents, and all my mom could add to the conversation was, "My daughter got a C on a biology test! And I'm a doctor! Teens, amiright?!" After telling me that story she joked, "I mean, can't you just get pregnant or something?" [side note: gay people rarely get pregnant by accident]

She took the keys from me and drove home.

After that, the girl got around. Just between school and youth orchestra, I averaged about 500 miles a week my senior year of high school (country living!). She's lived with me in Texas, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Her "states I've visited" map is almost as filled in as mine.

She also went to Canada

She helped me take a whirlwind 13 hour drive to take a ten-minute audition in Tallahassee and another 13 hour drive for a two-minute audition in Buffalo. She and I single-handedly pulled a Uhaul trailer from San Marcos, Texas to Cincinnati, about an 18 hour drive. She taught me how to parallel park ridiculously well, something you definitely do not learn growing up in the country ("This patch of grass looks like a perfect parking spot!"). She let me beat the crap out of her steering wheel when said parking was impossible to find and she didn't take it personally when I threatened to leave her by a fire hydrant so she'd get hauled away and I'd never have to deal with searching for parking again.

More than all of that, she gave me freedom. That's the exciting part about turning 16; it's not (solely) the popularity factor of being the only driving friend in your group, it's the fact that you're no longer dependent on anyone to take you places. When I felt stuck or sad, I would go to my car, squeeze in a quick cry, and hit the road. It was a nice reminder that we have a choice in life; if things were really that bad, I could just drive to a new city and start over.

So goodbye old friend. Sorry I wasn't there to wave as you went off into the midday haze of winter in Chicago. I'm always awkward, but goodbyes make me worse (I hope my future children read this and understand why I will hide in the bathroom when they leave for college).

I'd love to wish you a happy future, but the reality is you might be sold for parts, and you're a car so you won't know the difference. I'm sure I will miss you more as I learn the downsides to living without a car, and I will fondly remember the great times we had together (by reading this blog post because my long-term memory might be garbage (I will also post about my children when they leave for college for the same reason, sorry kids!)).