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I got teary-eyed thinking about my old car.

July 29, 2010

"Misty water-colored memories of the way we were ..."

On a recent evening, the day’s work done and a glass of wine in hand, I sat down on the couch and pulled out an old photo album. In several of the pictures was a character from a former life, and I felt a pang of longing for her.

The character: A silver-ish (the absence of color, really), four-door 1994 Nissan Sentra with ‘90s-style automatic seatbelts and a bumper sticker that read “Vegetarians are sexy.”

When I opened the album, I expected to feel nostalgia, but not for Claire.

During the five years we were together, Claire played a big role in my life:

  • She was the first car for which I ever held a title.
  • She took my friends and me on a senior year college spring break trip to New Orleans.
  • She moved me from Indiana to Colorado for the first non-Midwest living experience of my life.
  • She provided me with many a breath-holding moment as I nudged her four-cylinder engine over 10,000 foot mountain passes.

Claire was a dear, old friend, but I have Gracie now—and a wonderful, rewarding car-free life about which I get to pontificate to people twice a week.

So why did I still miss Claire so much?

I leafed through the album some more and looked more closely at the pictures of Claire:

  • There was one of her parked in front of a rustic log cabin, with Sara and Kate waving from the front porch.
  • There was one of her faded khaki interior, an old boyfriend in the front seat smiling because it was the first mile of a week-long road trip.
  • There was one of her, curb-side and hood popped, with Tracy and Meredith laughing about her breakdown on the way to the beach.

Claire took me to some beautiful places with some of my favorite people.

But I still go to beautiful places with my favorite people, don’t I? Two years ago, Meredith and Tracy and I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest where we biked through lavender fields and kayaked around orcas. Just a couple months ago Kate and Sara and I met up for a weekend in Chicago, and when I was car-free in Italy, a beau took me for an afternoon of sailing on the Adriatic Sea.

My life contains just as much adventure and beauty now as when Claire was with me.

In fact, due to unpredictable weather, unreliable bus schedules, and uneducated car-drivers, the adventure quotient has increased considerably. I’m in better physical shape, making a smaller environmental impact, and feeling invigorated by my self-reliant mobility.

Still, there’s a part of me that misses Claire.

I miss her for what she represented: Fast, efficient, personalized transportation directly to the destination of my choice, with the hauling capacity of four of my favorite people and the items they need for a weekend of fun.

I miss her for who she was: A used, mid-level Sedan with a fuzzy steering wheel cover and a tendency to stall on rainy days, who helped a young woman move toward her dreams.

But everything I miss about her is a thing of the past.

Claire is now a totaled vehicle, whose whereabouts I can best estimate to be a junkyard in rural Delaware. And, especially in urban areas like the one I reside in, speed and efficiency are concepts more and more seldom affixed to car travel.

I’ll leave Claire in the past, and I’ll stick with Gracie for the present, BUT (and this is a big but) I’ll honor her memory by recommitting myself to a car-memoir project I started years ago—and, if it’s all right with you, I just may share some of it with you all from time to time.

Keep an eye out for future posts about the car this car-free girl once loved.


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