We unexpectedly got a new car a few weeks ago. Well, "new" in the sense of "hand me down car from my in-laws" new. They wanted to upgrade to a newer car that had some fancy collision avoidance technology, because they are getting older, and my MIL worries about all the things. So, out of nowhere, they offered us their 7-year old Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Of course we said yes. It's in great condition, and has all the bells and whistles, and oh my god, no looking a gift car in the mouth. My in-laws are so generous. They're just great.
It solved some problems. We need two cars just often enough that we have been holding on to my 1998 Jeep Cherokee until it just cost too much to repair. I thought it was a goner about a year ago, and preemptively bought a Zipcar membership, and hunted online for the lightest, most portable carseats in existence. But the problem turned out to be fairly cheap and easy to fix, and it continued puttering along. So we didn't have to make the "can we do this with just one car" call yet. And voila! Gift car.
Well, obviously we didn't need THREE cars, so it was time to say goodbye to the Cherokee. I did what I have always wanted to do and donated it to NPR through the Car Talk car donation program. Seriously, it made me really happy to get e-mails from Car Talk thanking me for my donation.
My only gripe was that it took longer than I thought was necessary to schedule the pickup of the car. But the Car Talk people were SO helpful and nice when I called; it seemed there was some blip in their system that indicated the car had already been picked up, but they fixed it and got a tow truck to us the next day.
Of course, I took the obligatory artsy goodbye photos of my beloved Jeep. I loved that car. It was the first (and only) new car I have ever had. I did hours of online research on Edmund's, decided which car I wanted, scouted all the prices, printed out lists of options (I knew to the dollar how much each extra option cost). In August 1998, a few days after I took the Massachusetts bar exam, I walked into a Jeep dealership in Belmont, MA and said I wanted to buy a car. I ended up talking to the general manager, who did a quick search for the model I wanted. He told me "There is one car in all of New England in that model that has all the options you want. It's in Connecticut. I can try to get it from that other dealer, but if I do that, I need your commitment to buy the car." I said,"What color is it?" "Black." "I'll take it." We fixed a price, with the trade in of my old Toyota pickup truck. I remember my heart pounding as I took the VERY LARGE cashier's check from the bank, terrified that I'd lose it before I could pay for the car. A few days later, I was the owner of a brand new 1998 Jeep Cherokee 4WD Sport, black, standard transmission. I picked it up from the dealer, and the next day, I packed it up and drove it to Tampa, Florida where my Federal judicial clerkship was waiting for me.
That car took me up and down the East coast for nearly 18 years, traversing every state between Florida and Vermont. It bore New Mexico, Florida, Maryland, and DC plates. There was a memorable road trip where I filled it with Ultimate Frisbee players and drove to Ohio's famed Poultry Days tournament, listening to This American Life episodes that a friend had burned on a disc for me. It got me in and out of the neighborhood in all the blizzards. It carried my newborn babies in its backseat. It only sometimes didn't start; it was a city car, not getting driven that much at times, which is hard on batteries. When the batteries were good, it always ran perfectly. I loved the roar of its inline 6 cylinder engine, and the power of shifting gears. I could parallel park it on a dime. I can't even count all the times it was broken into; dumbass kids always tried to steal it, and they never succeeded. It went to every playing field in the greater DC area for countless Ultimate Frisbee games. It waited for me at the end of every long run on the Mt. Vernon Trail and the C&O towpath. It carried a lot of Ikea furniture. It was stained with sweat, smoothies, coffee, and ground-in Goldfish crackers. It was my car; it was me, in car form. Seth never drove it, because it was a stick. It was mine, only mine.
License plate held on with pieces of coat hanger wire, because I am classy.
But it was time to say goodbye. We had a good run, Jeep.
Ajax, of course, LOVED seeing the tow truck come and put the Jeep on the flatbed. He talked about it for days. And then would ask where my car was. Aww, buddy, I miss it too.
Seth and I started our marriage with cars that were distinctly our own: his Honda Civic; my Jeep Cherokee. We really never drove each others' cars. His Honda gave up the ghost after 18 years of faithful service, and we bought our Honda Accord, which became not so much his, as ours. But my Jeep was still solidly mine. Now, it's gone, and we have this Toyota Highlander that seems pretty seriously like a "parent car" with its roomy interior, leather seats, backup camera, third row seat for extra kids. And it's "ours." It's just "the Toyota" instead of "my car." I feel a little lost, like I'm driving my mom's car. I guess this is the time of life for "us" and "ours" and "together" and "family" and maybe someday, someday if I am lucky, I will again have a new car that is mine, just mine.
Miss you, my trusty Jeep. Travel well.