Saturday, November 22, 2008

the car, the companion, and the chrysalis

Given that my treasure lies in heaven, I have a hard time explaining to anyone (even myself) my strange attachment to certain fixtures in my life. Take, for instance, my old, sheet-covered couch. I will not get rid of it. I suppose I could find another couch that comfortably seats 4 and fits under my windowsill, but it would have no personality and I wouldn't like it. It did not come from the beloved old intern house, where it made its way from the porch to the living room to my very heart. So there is my couch. I will refurbish the whole thing (pricey, I know) before I will kick it to the curb.

But today I sold one of my beloved possessions. Pat and I agreed at some point that it was the best thing to do, both for us and for the person who bought it, but somehow I don't really remember why. I know I decided to do it (finally) in order to make dealing with its parting easier, since I know the day will come sometime. I went forward with the deal in many ways just to know I could do it.

So, today, Myrtle is no longer part of the McCrory family. (Really, she had no last name, but if she did, she would've had to have married into "McCrory.") Myrtle and I have an 11-year history of adventure together. As with many of the best relationships in my life, I didn't really like Myrtle at first. She was neither trendy nor old-school cool; she was a little frumpy and I felt a little frumpy by association. But we went together most everywhere because she was, after all, my first car: a teal-ish green used 1993 corolla with rounded features. She carried me and my best friend on after-school adventures and wasn't hurt at all by the couple of minor run-ins she had with my friends' cars. She hid me when I was late for work and changed into my work clothes on my way down the road. She waited for me to take her to college the second semester of freshman year and she didn't mind the small tear I gave her door when packing my dorm refrigerator. Myrtle moved with me to Michigan that difficult summer and loved that the speed limit was faster up there just as much as I did. She was not afraid when we were lost all alone in a bad part of Chicago on a road trip. She snuck with a small group of my friends to the rock quarry to swim at night. Do not be fooled by appearances; Myrtle was tough.

She was a bit sentimental, though, and proudly wore the good-luck mouse given to me by my friend from Russia. She gently carried Katya (our cat) to my appartment for her first night's stay and Sophie (our dog) back to our house after driving to get her from New Castle. She was soft enough to listen when I cried by myself while driving the roads around Muncie after seemingly losing my future husband. Myrtle heard some of our worst fights before we were married and took my side without saying anything. (I know this because she opened her door for Pat and then took me home every time.) She later proudly drove away, decorated with paint and tin cans on our wedding day.

In latter years, though, she also wore several scars made by people who didn't care about her. I'll admit she was starting to take on somewhat of a victim's attitude as people bumped her in parking lots, bashed her on a snowy night before driving away, and carved a word that I later turned into "Pluck" on her driver's side door. She didn't really say anything about it, but I could tell she struggled with a lack of self-worth as she stopped hiding her age, letting her paint peel and her ceiling material sag. She was starting to let herself go. She was still my first choice for bringing home our new little baby boy and I think we were both glad she made it to see that milestone in our transportation needs. I was willing to stick with her, even when someone stole her ability to play music on our rides together. But when she could no longer clear her back windsheild when it became clouded with cataracts in the wintertime, we both knew she couldn't carry the car seat any longer and her time with us was coming to a close.

So today she became the companion of a 20 year old guy who will hopefully be able to restore to her some of her youthful vigor and bring out that tough side of her. Even though I know she'll have many more adventures in her life with him than she will with me, I felt sad to bid her a fond farewell. I put Armor-all on her interior again and Pat vacuumed her out. I emptied her glove box of the souvenirs we collected (whether we meant to or not) over the years. I took the high school parking passes she used to wear on her rear-view mirror, but she kept the scratch over the passenger side door from moving day. I left her with the door handle broken by someone in need of a ride in hopes someone will be able to reattach it, though I could not.

I know its really silly, but I didn't watch as she drove off. I've had a good deal of fun personifying her over the years and it's funny to think of her as a cranky old lady who cared for you when you were younger. I guess I figured I would drive her until she died. I mean, after all, we came this far. Selling her at this point feels a little like sending her to the nursing home -- not nearly the way you would like to leave someone, even if they've become cranky or feel a little sorry for themselves most of the time. So I didn't watch as she left for what would probably be the final chapter in her mechanical life.

When I've told friends that I sold my first car today, they say, "Yeah. That was a sad thing to do." Perhaps it's a kind of sad thing to most people because it's saying goodbye to a space in which their life has taken place. It's like moving out of your first house. Your family is too big and the house is too small and many days you've hated the cramped quarters and cursed the plumbing, but you also remember the craziness with fondness and are hesitant to leave the landscape of years of your memories. As you close the door behind you, you know you are closing the door on a chapter of your life -- one you won't have the key to open ever again.

Sometimes objects become a sort of chrysalis from which you have to emerge once you've grown so much, so, like the caterpillar in Israel's book, today I nibbled a hole in the cocoon.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I understand a bit of that feeling, though I didn't have Red as long as you had Myrtle. I still find myself looking for Red when I'm searching in a parking lot. Unlike Myrtle, though, I believe Red has since passed away from a choking incident. I won't go into any more detail. You had a great car. I think the Slusher family has picked animals the same way we pick cars. Something to think about...anyway, here's hoping your next car has half the enthusiasm of Myrtle.