A Farewell to Car

carBy: Jana Greene

I usually do not entertain the follies of loving inanimate objects, but I fell for this one and I didn’t see it coming. She was regal, I tell you. And not just because she was, well… literally a Buick Regal.

In contrast to a man’s manifestation of Middle Aged Crisis – a sleek, beautiful car with a sexy prowess – I love this car because she is crinkled and bockety, and full of memories.

I got the car when I first met my husband. It was several years old by then, but looked brand spanking new (if you didn’t know your makes and models, which I didn’t.) It had quite literally been driven to and from the grocery store by a little old lady. Shiny and green – my favorite color, even! –  it came to replace the ancient Honda with the trash bags in the windows that wouldn’t roll up that had been driving since the transmission of my old minivan fell out. A single mom, I hadn’t many dollars. I was practical to the core.  It was a fine set of wheels and driving it felt like piloting a chariot of Heaven on a cloud, comparatively.

I was so grateful.

A year later, I was newly married. I drove that wonderful chariot to work every day,  and shuttled teenagers to malls, skating rinks, and church functions. Our daughters were 11, 14 and 14, respectively. In later years, my husband and I chauffeured many a date in that car. The rear-view mirror had been adjusted countless times to watch sheepish couples and their awkward hand-holding in the backseat.

Two out of our three daughters learned to drive at her helm, and she has the scars to prove it. Her exterior is a bit scraped and battered. Her front end crunched in, banged out by hand. The hood at the nose end is still crinkled in, like she has a permanent grin in spite of her trials. I like that about her. I can relate the crinkled-ness.

It was sturdy, and safe.

What the first daughter didn’t Christen with bumps and dents, the second daughter plastered with bumper stickers. Oh lord, so many stickers. Stickers for every cause that makes me shake my conservative head and say aye carumba.

Somehow, this Regal Lady carried it off, like an old Hollywood legend who has become saggy and wears too much lipstick, but nobody has the heart to tell her she isn’t fabulous. (Because she still IS.)

She has been ferry and barge.

She has been parked in apartment complex parking lots, the sun baking her paint.

The plush foam around the steering wheel is gone in places, and there are stains on the seats.

I swear I’ve nearly punched a hole in the floorboard of the passenger side, hitting the ‘invisible break’ during seasons of Driving Permits.

Her trunk has held nearly ten years of nostalgia…

Fishing gear.

Office supplies.

Suitcases for Mission Trips.

The earthly possessions of an angry child moving out of the house after a big fight with her mother.

Empty soda cans and CookOut bags …

and memories. So many memories.

I poke through the interior to make sure nothing of value is left in her pockets and under her seats. In the side compartment, there is a straw wrapper, a paper clip, and a single earring. Of course there is.

I took her tags off today. She won’t pass inspection again, it’s time. There were only three screws holding her metal tag in place, one stripped so bare that it turned to rusted dust in my hand. I stripped her of her legality, and took liberties to remove a couple of the bumper stickers that had adorned her rear window. I felt kind of bad doing that. It felt like she could feel the band aids being pulled off slowly.

A chariot of Heaven driven on clouds deserves better.

I left the owl air-freshener from my daughter’s driving time on the rear-view mirror that says “Life the Life You Love.”

The Regal, meaningful as she is, is not sound to drive anymore, and the cost of replacing her parts is more than the sum of her value. Her innards don’t turn, twist and fire like they should. I don’t know much about mechanisms; I only know that she lasted so much longer than we imagined. She can’t keep her drivers as safe anymore, so she’s got to go.

After taking off the license tag, I sat in her passenger seat for a while in the driveway, just because. And I cried a little. I don’t care if the neighbors think I’m crazy. Their children are still small and don’t drive cars; what do they even know? This car is worth crying over. Can’t they see that she is still so fabulous!?

I’ve never really loved a car before, but I do love this one. It feels right to love her for her decidedly low-key, un-sexy prowess.

Yes, she is crinkled and bockety. But sturdy and safe.

She carried memories regally.

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