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What a Ride...

Do you name your car? Or find your auto so hard to part with, someone has to pry your fingers off the steering wheel before you drive a new one? Your car tells a story of many journeys through life.

MY FIRST CAR was a little blue 1983 Honda Civic. Purchased with hard earned savings during my final year at the UW, my companion dutifully drove me to my first teaching job, graduate school, and followed me cross-country from one Washington to the other when I married in 1994. In 1995, my husband finally declared it unreliable. I left a note in the glove compartment for the new owner stating how dear it was to me, that there was nothing wrong with Little Blue, and that though not driven by a little old lady, it should be treated as such. The day Salvation Army picked it up, I stayed away, feeling like a traitor. When I returned, Little Blue was gone.

WITH OUR FIRST BABY ON THE WAY, we purchased a Washington Redskins-colored station wagon that became a new member of our growing family. From Fairfax townhouse to Loudoun farmhouse, it adapted to life in the country, hauling baby lambs and sheep, even matching our red shutters and barn. The wagon brought my babies home from the hospital, had car seats checked out by the local Fire Department; and with its capacity to hold crushed cheerios and crackers, gave new meaning to Meals on Wheels. The family car chauffeured sippy cup bearing siblings crying out “How much farther?” to shopping trips and playdates and witnessed the mother lode of all meltdowns (mine). Our Saturn hauled Christmas trees and bicycles, and even carried our sick dog to the vet for one last visit.

In car years, it was 128,000 miles when my husband went looking for a new car. I balked. We owed nothing on our car, but I felt we owed it much in memorable miles. Besides, a new car meant the fear of firsts: dents, door dings, soda spills, a rock or deer hitting the windshield, and of course, the assurance of higher taxes, registration, and insurance.

At the Toyota dealership, the salesman handed me a strange keyless fob to a red Prius, proudly asking if my husband had told me about the keys. Apparently, this fob didn’t even need to be inserted into the ignition to start the car. I was unimpressed.

“While I’m driving my Saturn, I can pull my keys out of the ignition and it still runs!”

The salesman raised his eyebrows.

“And I can even raise or lower the window on the driver’s side by just banging on the door!” My husband signaled for me to cut it out, but I was resistant to give up my home away from home. What history did I have with this hybrid that knew my keys were in my purse even when I did not? And it ran on batteries?

FOR DAYS, THE REPLACEMENT STAYED IN THE GARAGE. At last I needed to take the girls somewhere. We sat in the garage, my little backseat drivers fielding questions.

“Do you know how?”

“What if we crash?”

“Don’t back up and hit Daddy’s car.” (I guess they remembered I had done that with the last car.) And finally, they encouraged me,

“You can do it Mommy!”

As the Prius inched silently down the lane, I tapped the steering wheel proudly, “This is MY CAR!”

“You did it, Mommy,” they confirmed. “Good job.”

“My Car” chauffeured my kids through elementary, middle and even high school, taught my girls to drive, then took them away from me, hauling their belongings off to college. The Prius was totaled by a deer, and still I drove it. The radio doesn’t work and there is more bent and dent than there is sheen, but to me, it’s is a beautiful work of heart. Fourteen years of my life has been spent in that car but now my husband says it’s time. I’ll fight it a little longer. At 194,250 miles, I want to share the spin to 200,000.

From my years in the driver’s seat, I’ve learned a lot from my cars. Older means I have mileage but also memories. Older means I don’t worry about door dings and marring my exterior. Older means I don’t stress over making life-changing mistakes. Older means I’ve gained wisdom from my road trips and see much in the rear-view mirror.

The Upside of an old car is many. I will celebrate watching the odometer turn over, making more memories and milestones, as well as the journey ahead.

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