She’s been with me for years – through some really tough times and then, thankfully, through some much easier ones. She’s never let me down, always been ready to go at the jingle of a set of keys. She’s always provided a “safe place” for me to vent pain, or sing praises, or just bounce around different ideas.
This “friend” is not a human, by the way. She’s a big, blue Buick Park Avenue.
She became mine September 19, 2001, and the day I drove her home for the first time, her odometer read 20,500. Now it reads almost 170,000 miles – she’s been a workhorse for me, that’s for sure! She’s also been somewhat of a stabilizer, and at times a comfort – that sounds odd, doesn’t it? I mean, for a car to be a comforter?
In 2001, I was a wife and mother with a career (I refuse to use the term “working mother” because I believe that ALL mothers work, regardless of whether or not they “clock in” somewhere). My job was hectic, strenuous, and stressful. I was trying to juggle that with the demands of being a mom to two daughters in college, and a son in high school. My marriage was failing, and I knew it – but I was trying desperately to figure out someway to prop it back up. Again. I often felt like everybody wanted a piece of me, but there wasn’t enough of me to go around. One day, I realized that the only place I was ever truly alone was in my car. That was the day that the big blue Buick became a sanctuary, of sorts. The rest of the world could be screaming and shouting at me, exploding in its fury – but I was safely cocooned inside her blue shell.
I could put a worship music cd into the player and sing, or pray, or meditate as I commuted. That car bore witness to so many prayers as we sped down the road. Would it surprise you to know that I’d talk to myself, aloud, in that car? Sometimes I’d question myself about what I was doing, where I was going, what I really wanted out of life. Sometimes, I chastised myself; other times, I encouraged myself with an “Atta Girl!” That Buick always roared to life with a turn of the key; on particularly stressful days, I’d push the button for the heated seat and soon she’d warm my back, easing the stress away.
There were days when I’d get near my driveway, but I really wasn’t quite ready to face the hassles that waited in the house for me in the form of laundry that needed washing, floors that needed cleaning, meals that needed cooking, bills that needed paying, and a husband that needed pacifying, just to name a few. Those were the days that the Buick would just sort of miss the driveway on the first pass, and we’d drive around a bit longer, circling through my hometown and around on a country lane, then back around to the driveway. It wasn’t a long delay – maybe ten minutes at most – but it was enough to give me the encouragement I needed at the time.
In early November of 2003, I realized that my marriage was no longer worth salvaging and for my own mental and emotional health, I had to get out. For months, my beautiful blue Buick had heard my cries to God, my teardrops had fallen on her gray leather interior on more than one day as I wrestled with the questions of “Do I stay or do I go?” and “Where can I go?” and “How will I make it alone?”
On the day I moved out, a couple of dear friends came over with a truck and helped me load the few pieces of furniture I chose to take with me. After they left, I took my clothes and put them in the back seat of that car. When I started the car, the radio came on – and Tracy Chapman’s plaintive voice was singing “Fast Car” as I began to drive the car out of the driveway one last time. (“Give me one reason to stay here and I’ll turn right back around…”) I had to smile – even then, that Buick was in my corner! I have to admit, she kicked up some gravel as we made our escape! I think that is one of my favorite memories of that car – she made me smile on one of the most difficult days of my life.
When the dust of the divorce property settlement cleared, there was only one thing I owned outright: that beautiful blue Buick.
Since those days, she’s taken me to work and back until I retired. When I later dated and married David, she took me to South Carolina every other weekend. Together, we’ve traveled from here to Ohio and down to Florida and back!
So the miles have added up, and my husband and I decided that it might be time to trade to a different vehicle. I’ll admit – I’ve had mixed feelings and emotions about it. Along the same time, we realized that my mother-in-law was getting in need of a decent car. So we decided that we’d give the Buick to her and buy another car for ourselves. A couple of weeks ago, I found my “dream car” – a gently used Toyota Solara. I’m having fun driving it, getting to know it, getting used to the smaller sized vehicle. (I made sure that it had heated leather seats – just like the Buick!)
The past couple of days, I’ve been cleaning the blue Buick, getting her ready to make the trip to her new home in Florida. I conditioned the leather seats one more time, cleaned the dust off the dashboard, cleared all of the papers and maps out of the glove compartment. David re-filled the window washer fluid, and we drove her through the carwash one last time. I patted her hood and posed for a picture with my old friend one last time.
So now she’s retiring to the warmer weather of Florida. She’ll spend her days making the rounds at the local thrift stores, and I’m sure her trunk will be laden with all sorts of bargains very soon. I’ll miss her, that’s for sure. But I know she’ll take care of her new owner, just like she took care of me.