I had honestly hoped it wouldn't come to this but last night I resorted to purchasing a new car. A brand spanking new car. Most people would have been excited for this experience, so far I have felt a lot of things but not excitement.
There is a lot to this story. I lost more than I gained yesterday, even though I took home a new jeep.
You see my old Jeep, a beautiful white Grand Jeep Cherokee, was in need of major repair, far beyond what made sense to fix. That jeep had a few bumps and bruises that had been collected since I picked it out in 2006. A while ago I noticed a chip over the passenger door from a branch that fell during the tornado. And there was the broken side mirror from the softball sized hail that fell in 2009. It was dirty from the road I drive everyday to my first home. It has some scratches from tailgate tents and tables coming in and out. Sand was permanently in the back fabric from beach trips. There was a small dent from a car door when it was parked in KPF. It brought my wedding dress to the airport and my new born daughter home from the hospital. That car was my dream car from the day I drove it home from Johnson City, TN on a snowy day in February 2006. I had been dreaming of a Grand Cherokee since I was 16, and after a lot of saving and searching I was able to take one home. That was where the story started. I remember the day quite well, I went right to Darby's house to show it off and celebrate. Emily and I brain stormed names and I choose Miles because of course when you have new car you watch the miles add up each day. It was a big moment for me, owning my own car. It was my name on the paperwork tucked into the glove department. It was me alone that went to the dealership to make a choice. It took me to PA, DE, TN, and then Oklahoma. I hooked up a u-haul and moved myself across the country that summer. Just me and my jeep. Then shortly before Reagan arrived, I paid it off! 6 months early! I was so proud, I was so happy!
My first few cars were not so glamorous. I got our family white station wagon hand me down in high school, then I bought a green sunbird which I named Grendal, followed by a silver Alero Mom surprised me with during college. All those vehicles served their purpose at the time and I should have been glad to have them but all along I was dreaming about my Jeep. I used to play a game with myself whenever I was in a parking lot returning to my car, I would think "If I could drive any of these cars home, which one would I choose". But then I got the jeep and I stopped playing that game. Even 6 years later, after some wear and tear and more than 50,00 miles that jeep was still my dream car. I love it, I lived in it, I was proud of it and proud of myself for working to pay it off. I never wanted to sell it, trade it or upgrade. It was MY JEEP. I told the salesmen the day I bought it that my kids would learn to drive on it and I had every intention of keeping my word.
May 1 was the last day I drove it, and I never would have thought those days were numbered. After the diesel torn it up, it was a down hill spiral. I guess we will never know for sure if the diesel did the damage to my cylinders or if it was strange coincidence that those broke at the same exact time. All I know for sure is the jeep was in great shape before my fateful trip to Loves and now it was kaput. We tried to repair it only to have more and more problems. When the mechanic said his best recommendation was to replace the entire engine I knew we were done. I no longer had a reliable car, and that was important for me with the baby.
Today I cleaned it out so it could be taken to the dealership as a trade in. I took out maps and umbrellas, little pink sneakers, old CDs, and pennies from the ashtray. Then I looked a little closer. I unclipped a photo from my passenger sun visor of me and my best friend Christina that was taken after church sometime during high school. Gosh we looked good back then didn't we Chrissy tina? My hair was so long and naturally blond. We were both so thin, so happy and carefree. I began to realize that picture had been in one car or another with me for more than 12 years. It had seen the sun from 6 states. Its now a bit faded, wrinkled and scratched but I proudly slid it into my new Jeep. I sat in the drivers seat looking at those two girls smiling back at me and I began to smile too.
Then there was the old key from one of the closets at VIC. We had installed new locks and for whatever reason I slid one key into my pocket that day. When I discovered it later as it poked me while I drove I put it in the compartment next to my gear shift one day in 2005 and there it sat until I picked it up today. Just one lonely old key, from a lock that no longer existed, from a closet in Virginia. I put that key into the new jeep too.
I dug around and found the magnetic strip off my first name tag I received when I accepted my position with OSU (which I thought was lost and had replaced). I found a backstreet boys CD, a cherio, and roll of tape. All with their own stories, memories, that now seemed displaced. This jeep meant so much to me, it had been through so much with me over the last six years, it was hard to face that was over. To say I was attached was an understatement. This jeep represented so much to me, my independence, my ability to conquer the world, it was home and happiness to me. It was a part of me, an achieved goal, a dream come true. Most people probably don't feel that way about their vehicle, but I did. It didn't just get me from point A to point B, it helped me find new homes, new friends, it was the one constant thing in my life during years when I moved states, apartments, and jobs often. It was stability when everything else was in flux. It was mine when I didn't have anything else.
And then there was nothing else to find, that was it. I sat back and looked at the old dusty jeep, now in pieces and looking worn down. A tire was flat, the engine was pulled apart, the OSU stickers were faded and chipping and it was no longer mine. I turned to face the new jeep, smelling strongly of new car and promising years of payments. I should be ready to face this new chapter but I wasn't. I didn't cry because who cries to leave a car, but I wanted to. I felt regretful to leave the old jeep, even if I was pulling away in a shiny new one. It felt like I was leaving a lot of hard work and memories behind. It felt like I was discarding an old friend, someone who had been by my side for a long time. It felt wrong. But go I did. Of course I indulged myself in a glance back and I began to think about the next person who would put their name on the paperwork in the glove department. After the dealership gets it put back together and shiny again maybe some young girl would find it and jump up and down to take it home. Maybe she would sing along to the radio at the top of her lungs. Maybe she would take it to the west coast, for new adventures and memories. Maybe someone else would love it next. Maybe, just maybe, it's days weren't over, they were just over with me.
I bought a new car and signed up for 7 years of payments for lots of reasons. I hope it was the best choice for my family. We have already been trying to work with a tight budget and now we are adding another monthly expense. After more than 6 weeks of stress, worry and expensive repairs I needed to have a reliable vehicle that felt safe for me and my daughter. I had thought about a lot of options leading up to this day but suddenly the decision was so fast, so sharp, I was surprised it had come to this. I left my dream car, the one with my maiden name on the title for a smaller, cheaper comprise of a jeep that was jointly owned by me and my husband. It wasn't MY JEEP, but it was what I needed right now. With better gas mileage, side air bags, and a bumper to bumper warranty, this car made sense for me.
Now I guess I face a whole new pile of debt and the task of making new memories with Reagan in the Jeep compass. I guess it will have to do even though I realized today there is no sunglass compartment...