Wednesday, June 3, 2009

“Goodbye, Old Paint, I’m A-Leavin’ Cheyenne”

She was a good friend. Reliable and tough. But I cleaned her out and sent her off to that great auto parts yard in the sky.

I’ve driven my 1995 Jeep Cherokee longer than I’ve been married. We bought her in July 1998, three months before the wedding.

It was a leap of faith, buying her. I drove an ’87 POS Chevy Cavalier, but it was MY POS – the only thing I owned and could afford on my journalist’s salary. We needed a trade-in to buy the Cherokee, but I was reluctant to give up my POS for a car that would be in my not-yet-husband’s name. (FYI: Banks laughed hysterically when they saw my social security number on loan applications.) What if we broke up? Didn’t get married? Larry promised me I could keep the new car if that happened, but I’d been promised many things in the past by seemingly trustworthy men only to be faked out and left empty-handed.

Against my better judgment (not that I had a lot of better judgment in the first place), I signed away my little POS for $500 and we drove home in the Cherokee.

And what a ride it’s been.

Both of my girls learned how to drive in the Jeep. She’s been across the country a few times and gotten me out of more snow and mud than any car could have. She got me to Pittsburgh safely in the middle of a rainy night when Cassie was in labor with Claire. She’s been thrown up in (not by me, but by our four-legged creatures), spilled on (OK, that would be by me…she had no cup holders), dinged up, scratched, peed on (again, the four-legged creatures PLUS a few two-legged college students), bumped, dented and welded back together. She’s seen me through some tough times, let me cry in her, beat her steering wheel and crank her sound system. It’s a good thing she can’t talk. (To read a more about Old Paint, see my blog posts: The Tale of the Flat Tire and There’s Nothing Like A Good Jeep.)

Old Paint was also part of my decision to lose weight and was a gauge for how much I’d lost. I was seriously considering a seatbelt extension at 300 pounds, and my stomach rubbed the steering wheel. As I lost weight, I watched my belly inch further and further away from the steering wheel, and I required less and less seatbelt. It was as exciting as buying smaller clothes!
Old Paint’s sitting in our mechanic’s parking lot. Underbelly rust finally got the best of her. Our mechanic said if we tried to drive her again, something major – like, oh, say, the transmission – would fall out the minute we went over a bump. It would cost thousands to fix her up, so like a good old dog in pain, it’s time to put her down. We’ll get $150 for her parts, but to me, she’s still priceless.

Cleaning her out, I found remnants of the past buried in the glove box: Carlene’s broken Fugee’s CD, buttons from Cassie’s softball and cheerleading days, the receipt from when we bought her, and the service record from her previous owner, a lady named Margaret from Millville, NJ. I also found my Neil Young “Decade” CD – yay! – and three pairs of sunglasses.

We’re going shopping today for another vehicle. I’ve got my eye on another Jeep. A blue one, actually. We’ll see if she feels as good as Old Paint, although it would be unfair of me to compare. She was one of a kind and I miss her already. I hope this new vehicle has soul, though. I don’t mind driving my husband’s Subaru, but it’s his car and I have no real connection to it. This new one (well, actually, we’re buying used again) will be mine. I hope we are still friends in 11 years.

6 comments:

  1. Awww, you look so sad. I'm sure you'll love the new one too with time. Funny how we get so attached to things. I'm sure I will feel the same way about my old van when she goes (it's getting close for her too). So many memories. I'm hoping we'll be taking her to Florida in a few weeks, another memories for us with her. Good car hunting.

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  2. Awwww..... you'll love the new one, too!
    I remember my Geo Metro. I commuted in that thing 50 miles a day and beat the crap out of it. So many songs sung at full volume, coffee spilled, and friends carted around. I loved that car so much and then one day it died beyond repair and I was so sad to see it go.

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  3. I third the "awwwws" - it's nice to read such gratitude about a vehicle! Hope you find another good one that will go with you on your new adventures!

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  4. What a great tribute to a great car!

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  5. So true-- the cars we have, if we have them long enough, experience our history, and become such a part of it.

    Let us know about the new vehicle when you buy it!

    -Dina

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  6. Lynn, I most related to your description of the space between your belly and the steering wheel increasing as you lost weight! That was such a great thing for me, and I am still grateful today for that space!

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