GOODBYE, OLD FRIEND.
What I learned when we got rid of our old car.
Sometimes something represents more than the thing itself, but it’s still a thing.
In December 2010, I felt like a king as I drove home from the hospital in our minivan. A grown man with real responsibilities. A father with a wife and child. When we drove there a few days earlier, I was just a guy. Now I was a father.
It was snowing as we drove there, and I don’t think I had ever driven slower than I did that day. Everything was different. I was very careful. There was a new person who was depending on us. But I felt comfortable sitting in the driver’s seat in that minivan. He was already part of our family.
“Will the minivan start today?” my daughter will ask twelve years later when we are getting ready for school.
“I hope so,” I would answer.
And it would start. Not always smoothly. Sometimes it wouldn’t start after a few minutes. Sometimes after it needed a push. Sometimes it was accompanied by a strange noise.
But every morning it was a question. We didn’t know what would happen when I turned the ignition key.
It was time to move on.
When I realized I would never again get behind the wheel of the first car I drove as a father, it got hard. Sorting through the remnants of a life in which I was constantly moving from one activity to the next was fun, but weird. Buried behind the seat was a sweatshirt that last fit our youngest daughter five years ago.
My wife thinks I’m crazy for having mixed emotions about moving out of our minivan. For wanting to hold on to the past longer. For not wanting to spend money on something new and shiny when the old beat up version is still doing its thing.
I’m not overly sentimental about an old crappy car. But I want to take the time to appreciate what we often take for granted. It’s not unreasonable to say that it’s been a part of our family for a long time, or at least a home away from home for our family for a long time.
Our chapter on the minivan and all the changes and growth that took place in it is over. But the memories remain.
Do you consider your vehicle a part of your family?
A car gets you from one place to another. But it is also a reflection of how people perceive you. It’s the thing you look for when you leave the store. It is an extension of your home. It’s a place where you feel comfortable being yourself, singing on the radio or talking in a way you don’t do in public.
Our minivan was the first big thing my wife and I bought together as a married couple. I drove each of our daughters home from the maternity hospital in it. We have used this vehicle to haul boxes and boxes of our belongings each of two moves in the last seven years. Countless trips to neighboring cities and states.
My wife sees a vehicle that has outlived its usefulness. A car that is no longer reliable when we transport our girls across the state during the fall sports season.
That’s true, but I also see our old dog on the way back. He loved having his own seat in the back and always enjoyed our rides. I see our girls as very little girls. Daily trips to daycare and then to elementary school.
I see emergency stops on the side of the road to pee in the portable pink princess potty nestled between the back seats. I watch fireworks and movies from the back seat. I see my oldest daughter in the infant carrier in the back seat, and then in the booster seat and all the other booster seats in between.
Our family has grown up with this car. Every scratch, every dent, every tear, every crayon mark is part of our family’s story that we’ve been writing for thirteen years now.
Sure, there was the occasion when smoke came from under the hood on the way home from a doctor’s appointment, and when it barely made it through the teachers’ parade during a pandemic, but for all those years it mostly got us where we needed to go.
In many ways it has been our motorhome, a small but constant part of daily life for thirteen years.
It’s strange to look in the garage and not see it again.
Could it be that my wife is overly sensitive about disposing of it and replacing it with something new? Am I being too sentimental?
Most likely, both are yes. The correct answer lies somewhere in the middle.
An object represents more than just an object. It may evoke memories for us. But it is still an object. And our memories live on.
Remember to be grateful for the objects you have and the benefits they bring, but don’t get hung up on any particular object so you don’t lose sight of its function in your life.
I’m excited about our new car. It’s nice not having to think every morning about whether or not it will start. But I’m going to miss the old one. That’s what life is all about – moving forward without forgetting the past.
It was weird watching her drive away with another person behind the wheel, but nothing wrong with that. I have all the memories even without the car in the garage.
We are who we are because of our past. The items that were there are important, but they can be replaced. A van is just a van. A means of transportation. Moments are irreplaceable in our memories. In my memory, it will always take the place of the first vehicle I drove as a father.