I have this thing where I personify my cars. Not all the time - I don't pet them or give them treats. But I do see a face upon adopting them from the car dealership and upon release - when I hand him (or her) over to some stranger who drives it away to a sad corner of the used car lot and I swear I can see tears squeezing of the headlights.
I blame it on Herbie. Herbie the Love Bug, the Disney sensation from such film classics as Herbie the Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes Bananas, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie: Fully Loaded (featuring the multi-talented Lindsay Lohan). I've met just a handful of people who know Herbie the way I know Herbie. People who can actually sing Herbie's theme music, the music they play in EVERY Herbie movie when cheeky Herbie takes his unsuspecting owner on a crazy ride through the streets of San Francisco or Los Angeles or Mexico (go Ocho!). Herbie made me see headlights as eyes and bumpers as smiles............and taught me that cars get their feelings hurt when you admire other cars.
Which makes getting rid of cars really hard on me.
We just said goodbye to our trusted Biscuit Hauler, the car we've had the longest in our entire adult lives. AND the car that Liam has known his entire life. The car that brought him home from the hospital when he was known only as "The Biscuit" - hence the name Biscuit Hauler.
We found the Biscuit Hauler after a highly hormonal incident at a Lexus dealership; I was 13 1/2 months pregnant and Mike had found the perfect car for me and our unborn biscuit. It was sturdy and reliable and could win a fight with a semi in a highway collision. Frankly, it was a little too nice for my taste but I understood Mike's need to provide for his family. But upon signing the papers I started crying softly, signing and sobbing, trying to hold back the big fat tears. I did not want that car. Mike put the pen down and took me outside, panicking because he didn't have a clue why I would suddenly start crying in a car dealership.
"What's wrong?!" (panicking)
"I don't think I can do it." (trying not to sob)
"Can't do what?" (confused)
"I can't drive that car." (holding it in)
"WHY?!" (getting frustrated)
"Because....(sob)......people will think I'm a republican."
So we went back inside and told them the deal was off. It helped that I was crying.
The next day we found the Biscuit Hauler. And it was much more liberal. Practically socialist. It was European and utilitarian and I felt much more comfortable in my skin. And I drove my Biscuit around in that car for the next 8 1/2 years.
Until she started losing body parts.
And when the car doctor came to us recently and told us that she needed an operation that would cost thousands of dollars, we decided to pull the plug. We decided to trade our trusty Biscuit Hauler, all 109,000 miles of her, for something newer with more resilient body parts.
I immediately felt melancholy for my old friend. And I started playing a music video in my head of Barbara Streisand singing "The Way We Were" while misty water-colored memories rolled across the screen in slow motion. Liam as a newborn coming home from the hospital, Liam as a baby in his rear-facing carseat struggling against the straps and crying because he couldn't see where he was going, me pulling over at Babies R Us to buy a front-facing carseat when he was not yet 20 pounds or 12 months old because I couldn't take the crying anymore, Liam as a toddler saying over and over and over again "Can you play Puff the Magic Dragon on the radio, please?" except it's in a foreign language that Mike can't understand so he ignores the babbling in the backseat until I scream "WHY CAN'T HE LISTEN TO PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON ON RADIO???!!!"
Oh, there's more........(big breath)
Me driving in a circle for 2 hours at a time because he's fallen asleep in the carseat and will wake up if I so much as THINK about touching the brake ("That's an expensive nap," says his judgey pediatrician. And I say sing it sister. Worth every penny and more.). Me discovering the drive thru during car naps and learning how to coast through slowly without braking.
Liam as a preschooler asking questions from the backseat like his very life depended on it, like he's on a game show with a giant ticking clock, wondering how God pees and if robbers wipe their butts and if people in jail get thrown in the trash when they die.
Liam as a school-ager asking to listen to 93X and filling the backseat with garbage and insisting that he's big enough to go without a booster seat.
This is our car, Liam and me. He grew up in this car - newborn, baby, toddler, preschooler, school-ager. And he has his own memories, too. "Remember when I threw back here?" he asks wistfully, almost fondly. Yes, I say. Good times.
From his sadness, it appears that Liam has the Herbie disease, too. He cries when we break the news to him and for the next two days he sobs, "I don't think I can do it! I can't do it!"
We hold hands on our way to the car dealership, in our Biscuit Hauler for the last time, me gripping the steering wheel with my left hand and stretching my right hand into the backseat to comfort him. Not terribly safe but very necessary.
When we arrive, the car salesman is all happy and energetic and gets in Liam's face. "Hey Buddy! I bet you're excited for your NEW CAR!!"
"No." says Sad Liam. "I've had this car my whole life....." he trails off and looks away.
And when it's time to get in our new car and leave the Biscuit Hauler behind, Liam rests his cheek on her window and cries.
Mikee gently turns Liam's body to put him in the car, but he turns back toward the Biscuit Hauler, reaching out like someone is stealing his puppy. They do this 3 times until he finally gets buckled in. "It's too hard!" he wails all the way home.
The scene is dramatic enough to give us pause.........
It occurs to us that we recently took him out of his old house and plopped him down in a new unfamiliar one - and on the heels of that, we are taking him out of this other, alternate form of housing and plopping him down in this new unfamiliar one. The Biscuit Hauler was the familiar cocoon that moved him from place to place virtually every day of his short life. And now we're taking that away, too? Maybe we could've timed this better.
But what are we supposed to do? Keep the car because Liam is sad? Keep it until until parts start falling off on the highway and wear the car like a barrel? Because Liam is sad?
Liam is a sensitive kid.........but protecting him from sadness does him no favors. It only dooms him to a life of fragility. It robs him of the opportunity to develop skills we all need to deal with the realities of life. Like the tragedy of buying a new car.
So I lick my wounds and hold his hand and tell myself that I'm doing him a favor...........as we speed away in our shiny new car.