The image in this post is my 1997 Ford Taurus, taken from a sad angle with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. I could’ve used my Samsung smart camera (I forget the specs on that one) or my simpler LG phone, but the camera I’ve been too lazy to keep charged and the phone just does poor quality images. I’m a terrible photographer these days…
What’s the point of a digital image of part of my car? Well, I didn’t want to show the license plate, but I did want to show the wear and tear (we’ll call it love) that she (yes, my car is a girl) has sustained over the years. See that chipped paint? See those scratches? See the windows all stuck in the down position? This is the life of my car, the life of me.
If I had angled it a bit better, you might see random stickers placed by sweet children. You might see the refuse of a commuter lifestyle on the floorboards. You might see what rain does to the inside of a vehicle. You might see the broken air vents and, when checking the knobs, realize that some are missing and most don’t work, that the HVAC is shot. You might hear that the stereo is full of static. You might hear random and odd noises when I perform basic vehicular maneuvers. You might discover all of the electrical issues. She’s old, and she’s crotchety.
Still, this car means so much more to me than a falling apart hunk of metal and glass. It means more than its current Kelley Blue Book value. This car has taken me and my children to Arizona (twice) from Arkansas and back again. This car has taken us to New York (state), Texas, and many points between all of these states. This car hauled 5×8 Uhaul trailers across country (twice). It was in this car that I cried when discovering (sadly, more than twice) that I would be homeless, foundation-less, drifting. It was in this car that I buckled safely in two different newborns at two very different points in my life. This car has seen my eldest grow from a precocious preschooler to an eclectic eight year old.
In 2010, a couple of months before the birth of my soon-to-be 5yo daughter, the man I was then married to, father to both daughters, who was supposed to have been the love of my life, brought home a car for me to drive. He’d purchased it cash paid from a local buy here, pay here lot. He’d used a combination of my student loan money and his work bonuses or something; I forget exactly how he came up with the money. It cost more than it should have, but, at the time, was in pretty excellent condition for its age, having probably one or two owners in its life. It still had (and has) the original owner’s manual and quick reference guide in the faux leather case. Everything seemed to work swimmingly back then; I’ve since sunk thousands into various replacement parts and labor costs. When people joke about Fords falling apart, she’s living (so to speak) proof of that, but she’s pretty sturdy in many ways.
A friend of mine is at the forefront of an anti-bullying campaign for the month of October. Part of the campaign is to wear an odd sock on one’s clothing or wear two odd socks on one’s feet. She explains it better than I do, but basically Dobby in Harry Potter was given a sock which granted the house elf freedom, so the socks in the campaign represent our freedom from bullying. Although domestic violence (including verbal abuse) has its own awareness campaigns, I still made the connection between “Master has given a sock. Master gave it to Dobby.” and my own oppressor giving me a car.
Within less than a year of receiving the car, I packed it full of babies and toys and drove away from him. I managed to stay gone a solid year before lies and old memories took me back down that road. What I found was that the relationship, like the house in which he lived, had deteriorated beyond repair, but I nevertheless tried to stick it out until the unthinkable happened. However, I was able to pack up that car and pick up the pieces after his arrest; I moved three times that year, thrice the next, and once this year, all in this car.
At this point, the car has seen better days. She’s a shell of her former self, for sure. I haven’t even listed all of the things wrong with her, and its ridiculous to get sentimental about an automobile, especially one that isn’t considered a classic, isn’t it? Still, I’m not sure whether replacing or repairing is a good idea. People have suggested that I save up or acquire the money to replace it; others say to keep putting new parts on til she stands up, declares, “I quit!” and trots herself off to the dump.
It’s not that, because I still have the car, I still have him. He’s long gone and any love I had for him has faded. Because I still have the car, I still have the feeling of freedom, though. The car is, I suppose, a security blanket of sorts. As long as I still have it, I can still enjoy freedom. Every time I’ve tried to sell her, something hasn’t worked out, and with me she remained. It’s almost as though, like I’d once joked about doing, I’m meant to just keep her around ’til that formerly precocious preschooler paints it purple and drives it to her first job. Which, if the last five years of driving have taught me anything, is not that far into the future.
Julie Roberts–The gas gauge leaning on the edge of E; I’ll be danged if the rain ain’t pouring down; Something smoking underneath the hood; It’s a-banging and a-clanging and it can’t be good.
Eddie Rabbitt–Well the midnight headlight find you on a rainy night; steep grade up ahead slow me down makin no time; gotta keep rollin.