Last weekend, I exchanged one set of keys for another and walked away from a companion I’ve had most of my adult life. I have a new, safer, more spacious vehicle that is better suited for transporting children and taking family trips. In the process, I traded in my old sedan I bought 11 years ago, shortly after graduating from college and getting my first real job as a newspaper editor.
I started waxing sentimental while I cleaned out my car the night before my husband and I bought the new vehicle. I breathed in the familiar scent of the carpeted seats and plastic interior, and memories from the past decade rushed back. I told my father-in law the next day, while he accompanied my husband and me at the dealership, that even though I was looking forward to letting go of my old car, I was a little sad now that the moment had come. My father-in law nodded in understanding.
“It’s always hard to give up a car,” he said. “You go through so much with it.”
I spent years driving my sedan around on newspaper business. As my paper’s faith editor, I traveled to just about every church in town at some point, as well as the Islamic center and the Jewish congregation. When Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came out, my town’s movie theatre was delaying showing the movie, so two local pastors and a nun rode with me to a theatre a few counties over to watch it and participate in an interview. (A representative from the local Jewish congregation participated in the interview as well, but he wanted to drive himself.) I did the same thing with a few kids when Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie came out.
I worked the evening shift at the paper, from roughly 4 p.m. to midnight. My newsroom colleagues often packed into my car when we occasionally went out for dinner together. We stuffed ourselves at Texas Corral or at family owned places near the shores of our local landmark, Lake Michigan. On the way to Texas Corral once, we passed the printing company where my dad works. He was just getting off for the evening. I beeped the horn and my colleagues all waved at “Rachael’s dad” when I pointed him out in the parking lot.
One summer, my younger sister rode with me to Maumee Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, where we spent a week camping with my parents. They had recently purchased a small camper, and my sister and I pitched a tent nearby. A good guy friend from college who lives in Ohio met up with us and lived out of another tent for the week. My friend, sister, and I struck off on a few day trips together. We swam in the lake and saw sights from my friend’s childhood, took in the Toledo Zoo, and visited an oddball drive-through safari where a buffalo stuck its head through my driver’s side window and my sister and I fed carrots out the windows to giraffes. I found animal feed in the recesses of my car for months afterward.
About two years into my job at the paper, I set out early one morning on a day off and drove three hours to Champaign, Illinois, to meet a guy I had been corresponding with for several months via eHarmony.com. His name was Josh, and he lived in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, six hours away from my home town. We agreed to meet halfway between our homes and selected an Applebee’s restaurant on a busy street in Champaign. It turned out the restaurant was closed for employee appreciation day, so we parked next to each other in the empty lot and walked next door to eat at Cheddar’s.
For the next two years, Josh and I drove back and forth between St. Louis and my town on Lake Michigan. I also made trips to Kentucky to meet his family. On June 24, 2006, we married in my home town. The following week, Josh, my parents, and I caravanned down to St. Louis to help me move into Josh’s former bachelor pad.
In January of 2008, Josh drove me home from the hospital with our first daughter, Megan, in the back seat of my car. We had a second daughter in 2011, but she rode home from the hospital in Josh’s sedan. My sedan has been a family vehicle for the past five years, transporting our daughters to doctor’s visits, the library, zoo, preschool, and play dates.
My car has served us well, but as we added children, packing for trips became more complicated. The car was also old enough that we began looking for something that would offer more updated safety features, especially for our children buckled into their car seats in the back.
The time was right to make the change. We upgraded to a small SUV with excellent crash ratings and more cargo space. The new vehicle is easily superior to my old sedan, but it comes without the memories. That, of course, will take time. Our first family vacation with the new vehicle is coming up this summer. It’s a camping trip. Our new tent arrived this week. Let the memory making begin.
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