“You should get a newer car,” my wife suggests gently.
Without even a pause, I sternly state, “I don’t want a different car.”
Because, no matter what “they” say, my car doesn’t speak for me.
Oh, yes, car ads love to promote the idea that the look of your vehicle sends a message about you, before you’ve even opened your mouth or stepped one foot out of the car.
Well, if my car creates people’s first impression of me, then I too, am slightly salty, make strange noises when running (ME! Running…ahhaaha!), and subsist only on high-octane fuel (coffee).
To be sure, like my car, I am beginning to show signs of wear and tear. I’ve been around the block – many, actually – and I certainly could use a tune-up. My wheel wells have started to rust, and frankly, some things no longer work as they should.
In summary: My driver’s side window no longer closes completely, so I can no longer visit drive-through banks, fast food joints, or Dunkin Donuts. One of the side marker lamps has been burned out for years, only protected from the elements through the creative use of zebra-striped duct tape.
My car makes a clunking noise during each left turn. Sadly, this intermittent thumpity thump-thump can only be heard by dogs and me, and never by our local car mechanic. Yet, he somehow remains certain the tires won’t fall off. It’s been this way for so long, I was light years ahead of those UPS drivers who brag about never making left hand turns.
Yes, I am the proud owner of a 1993 Honda Accord with 180,000 miles on her (Betsy). If you do the math, that makes her 25 years old with an average of 7,000-ish annual miles.
I’m told that’s a low number of miles?
Somehow, I have morphed into the clichéd “little old lady who only drove it to church.” (Only, we didn’t actually go to church, but you get my drift.) And, while I have not been her lifetime owner, Betsy has, in fact, lasted longer than many of my other deep relationships.
Confession time. When I look at my car – inside and out – I see not a junker car at all.
Rather, I see a beautiful repository, or a gold-filled vault, if you will. This “rust bucket” is actually a veritable treasure chest overflowing with the memories my daughter and I have created through the years.
Long ago in my mind’s eye, I can see my toddler daughter in her booster seat; me in mine. Sometimes, I’d reach back and hold her perpetually moist and sticky hand in my own. And yes, I’ll admit sometimes the rear view mirror was tilted to gaze at her adorable little face as she jabbered at me. (Spare me the safety lectures; I’m having a moment here.) Aah, they were the glorious days when she called me “Mommy,” and if I think really hard I can still hear the echoes of it.
All too soon, she grew and grew. Before I knew it, my daughter was riding shotgun in the passenger seat, which had good points, too. For one thing, it was easier and safer to hold her hand. Also, it was handier to hold the imaginary microphone to her lips as we sang duets with songs on the radio. She can sing, I cannot, yet we both sang at the top of our lungs, misheard lyrics and all.
My daughter learned to drive in this car...although I had my doubts it would ever happen. In fact, after the first lesson, I got out and kissed the ground. But with numerous practice drives, white knuckles (ours), sweating (ours), swearing (mine), crying (hers), she procured her driver’s license on the first DMV attempt.
With her extracurricular activities, we’d often find ourselves journeying back home after the sun had set. Looking back, I realize we’ve had our deepest and most vulnerable conversations under this cover of darkness.
I’ve wondered why for a long time, and I think I figured it out.
Darkness is somehow safer to throw out the scary or controversial questions or revelations. She knew I couldn’t drill her with my mom eyes, because I had to watch the road. When the topic is uncomfortable, it’s far easier to stare out of a dark window rather than make eye contact. Good ole’ Betsy provided a quiet, uninterrupted cocoon in which my daughter had my full and complete attention. They were the best of times.
That’s not to say we’re talking all the time, although she’d probably jokingly tell you that *I* do. I recall once we were both lost in our thoughts, and she turned to me and said, “Mom, I like that we talk. But, I also like when we are both quiet, and we are comfortable with it.”
It brought to mind a Brian Andreas print on our wall which reads, “We had gone far enough together to listen easily in the quiet spaces.”
Sometimes the deepest moments happen in those quiet spaces.
When we arrived home after every adventure, I’d pull Betsy into the garage, and turn off the ignition. As the light dimmed, inevitably, my daughter would lift the armrest divider, turn in her seat, and say our code words, “Garage Love.”
Garage love is our ritual that signifies we’ve reached the end of our adventure, and it’s time to have one last peaceful moment and snuggle before we venture into the house…where responsibilities and activities and homework await us. It’s the period at the end of the sentence.
God bless garage love.
I’ll take garage love and my 1993 Honda Accord over a fully loaded 2018 model cherry red Ferrari any day.
My daughter is off at college now, but she’ll be home again soon, and Betsy and I are waiting.
You know, maybe my car does speak for me. If it does, I think it says: I’m here, I’ve been here all along, and I’m going to be here as long as you need me. I may not be flashy and sleek, but dang, I am dependable, and I’ll get you where you need to go. Always. You can bank on it, Daughter.
They Come Home and Leave Again (and Again)…Sigh
The Surprising and (Very) Bearable Lightness of My Empty Nest Life