This week I sold a piece of my heart. Specifically, the piece that is yellow and shaped liked a 2-door hatchback. It wasn’t my idea. In fact, I’d been engaged in active and passionate defense against the coup on my coupe for a good six months. But my husband’s strategic and persistent assault on my sweet ride began to wear on my resolve, and I finally gave in.
To understand how it got to this point, we have to go back to the beginning. Limoncello came into my life just after college. Between “cash for clunkers” and an already low-priced base model, I became the proud owner of a brand new Hyundai Accent. Her name was swiftly determined – a natural fit given her frosted yellow hue. Sure, she was missing what some might consider “basic features”, but who needs cruise control or vanity mirrors when you’ve got panache?
Her sunny tint always stood out in a sea of drab cars – an important characteristic when you frequently forget where you’ve parked. And her hatchback made moving even large items a breeze. This was especially critical as she saw me through 9 moves in the past 7 years. She braved un-garaged winters and countless feet of snow in New Hampshire and Boston, spent five years on the streets of DC, and bore witness to the mind-boggling amount of road kill that country living in North Carolina brings.
While selling my beloved car was a painful goodbye, it wasn’t the first time I had to accept her mortality.
A few years ago, Limoncello was among the items stolen when a house I shared with three other women was robbed. I can only imagine the glee the burglar felt when he spied the spare key sitting atop my bedroom dresser. Given the layout of the house, my room was likely the last one raided. After scoring four laptops and a pricy road bike (also mine – lest I should have any remaining transportation options), the keys must have been the icing on the cake. I wish I’d seen the look on his face when he activated the key fob, though, to discover that the car he’d be taking off in was the smallest, goofiest ride on the block.
Nevertheless, Limoncello went on a joy ride. When the police recovered her 48 hours later, she was only a little worse for wear – cigarette ashes and some dried blood smears were but temporary reminders of her kidnapping. Did I fail to mention that the robber cut himself on the window he broke to enter the house? He then proceeded to bleed on everything we owned, and Limoncello was not excluded from the primal marking of territory.
In the span of the 48 hours she was gone, I managed to accept that I might not ever see my little lemon again. It was a terrible couple of days for many reasons, but for the first time I had to see my car for what it was… a replaceable object that transported me from one location to another. Despite treating her as if she was another human character in my life, she was just a car. It was just a car.
Limoncello hadn’t actively protected me from that terrible snowstorm on New Year’s Eve in 2009 when it felt like I wasn’t really alone because I was with her. That was just a car being a hollow, mostly-impenetrable object. She wasn’t actually holding me close during the many miserable, crying phone calls I made from the car during a traumatic break-up. That was literally just the narrow seat digging into my frame. And she didn’t actually have the ability to make parking spots open up on the street if I asked nicely. That was probably just lucky timing.
I really had accepted all of this to be true… but then I got the call. She’d been found! It was a miracle! I quickly brushed away all my doubts and let go of the idea that she would ever be replaced. Limoncello had returned from the dead, fully anthropomorphized.
We would have another 4 blissful years together, Limoncello and I, my partner in adventure and errands. But our life-long union was not meant to be. Ever the pragmatist, my husband began to do some research when we moved to North Carolina. No longer living in the city, we drive more often now and for much longer distances. His concern was primarily for my safety, he said, and had nothing to do with his disdain for driving around in an emasculating toy car. To his credit, vanity mirrors aren’t the only features that 2009 Hyundai Accents are lacking… so are decent safety ratings.
When the opportunity arose to purchase a relative’s fancy sedan for a steal, we took it. I admitted it was time. Limoncello had been good to me, but Jesse would feel better if I was driving something safe and sturdy, and I would feel better if he stopped bugging me about buying a new car. So, off to CarMax we went for our final ride together.
When it was time for the appraisal, I chatted nervously with the car expert. I needed him to know this wasn’t just any ol’ car. I tried to act cool, but I was saying goodbye to one of the only remaining elements of my life that had been a constant over the past 7 years. She had seen me through a lot. Her bright sunny color symbolized the optimism I felt when I began my adult life. Now, it symbolized my desire to remain positive even though life has dealt some curve balls and my open optimism has been traded for something more like cautious hopefulness. Her small and agile frame had fit my independent personality and singular driving needs for many years. Now, her size had become an impediment to the needs of two tall humans, a dog, and their many accouterments.
So maybe this post isn’t really an ode to my car, but about recognizing that moments like selling a car force us to confront our own reality. That we’re not as young as we once were. That we’ve changed. That we’re human and insecure in our own unique ways and we look to objects for affirmation.
When I got the $4,000 check from CarMax, it did soften the blow. I guess you could put a price tag on Limoncello after all. Or maybe I’d finally accepted that I was selling a car, I wasn’t losing all the memories and change that car represented, no matter how fond or profound they were.