I was feeling nostalgic this weekend, and my mind wandered back to young love, in the form of a person and a bright blue bug. I published this to the blog almost exactly 6 years ago. I still miss her.
This is a love story.
February 2002. I was the new assistant head of school, working 16-hour days. I was slowly resurrecting my social life after a couple of emotionally exhausting years. And after several months of perseverant courtship, I had finally, warily agreed to date a co-worker: Mr. M. Interfaith. Inter-office. Doomed. I was much too practical to give it a real chance.
On March 4, 2002, during the height of rush hour traffic, my trusty Saturn hit a patch of ice in the left hand lane of a major freeway. My car spun twice, crossed three lanes – somehow dancing between cars – and became wedged under the shoulder guard. I walked away, but the car was loaded in chunks onto a flatbed as the snow picked up speed. M met up at the towing office, bearing blankets and hot chocolate. I accepted both in a stupor.
The next day, as I wearily contemplated buying a used economy sedan, M asked, “Is that what you really want? What do you want?” It was the first time he asked me such a question, but it quickly became a refrain in our relationship. What did I want? The question provoked my first tears since the accident.
“Well, there is one car, but it’s only a two-door and it’s . . . cute. You aren’t supposed to buy cars because they are cute.”
That evening, I somehow found myself at a Volkswagon dealership, test driving a Bug. Two days later, as I drove into the school’s parking lot, a whole line of Kindergartners began to point and punch. It became the “Miss Farmer” car. At holidays, students gave me bug earrings, a bug ornament, even a crocheted hot pad. Driving my beetle released something silly and young in my hyper-responsible personality. I felt . . . cute. M gave me a yellow daisy for the bud vase. Two years later he gave me a ring.
For over four years, I commuted 63 miles a day in this car. I don’t like my commute. I dread it, actually, and the gasoline used to fuel it. One accident on the pike and my drive can stretch to 90 minutes. Each year is my “last year” and each year I can’t bear to say goodbye to these students quite yet. Over time, my car has been privy to all my secrets, listening to me brainstorm aloud, confide over the cell phone, pray in earnest, belt show tunes, and cry during NPR’s weekly segment on a soldier who isn’t coming home. I believe buildings take on the energy of their occupants. This car – enduring 80,000 miles of Deborah energy – became my hobbit home: round, comfortable, familiar as skin.
This past Friday, I reverently cleaned every corner. She really didn’t need much more than a vacuum. Moe at “Quik Cash for Cars” wouldn’t be paying attention to neglected crumbs in the trunk. We Pay Top Dollar! No Haggling! Sell Your Car – Fast and Fair! Yeah, right. But at nearly a hundred thousand miles, no reputable dealership would take her; and since we weren’t trading in for a new car, Moe’s flashing neon sign became our only expeditious option. It’s time for something more practical – four doors. We’re planning to start a family. My father-in-law was going to trade in his old Honda, but he was generous enough to offer it to us instead. It’s in good shape, with fewer miles. All very practical.
I sold her to Moe – she was sparkling on that last drive. After handing over the keys, I ran back into his office, “Wait! I forgot to get out my daisy!” That evening, my husband couldn’t do anything right. Even his breathing brought forth darts until finally he said, “You miss your car, don’t you?” And then he was good enough to hold me as I sobbed recklessly – without laughing or eye-rolling at such a silly silly sadness in this serious world. I didn’t mind giving up my maiden name – just wasn’t an issue. But my bug. My husband assures me that I don’t need her anymore – that I can still be sassy and suave in a black Accord. He’s right, I guess, partly because I still have him around to ask me, “What do you really want?” And he listens almost as patiently as she did.
Thanks for reposing that. Your description of your husband really touched me. I’ve been married twice and my husband now is one of “those” – I truly felt like I blossomed once I was in a relationship with him. The difference is amazing and I’m so much better for it.
So glad your love story had a part II!
I love your writing, Deborah. I’m glad you got to keep your husband. Sorry you had to give up the car! 🙂
Sorry. That came out a little more flippant and stupid than I intended. I must have been in Facebook mode. 🙂
Ha. I read your comment just now and went to press the “like” button and realized there isn’t one. I’m always in Facebook mode!
The first car I bought was a black Honda. It was eminently practical. A low enough car payment I could afford it through grad school. Fuel efficient. Four doors because when I bought it in my 20s I still believed I would one day have children, and I meant to keep that car for a decade. I kept it eight years, before inheriting an equally practical company car. Now I’m giving up my company car to take a promotion and I had to get my own car. This time it’s bright blue and sporty and handles beautifully around corners (going maybe just a little faster than some people are comfortable with) with the music playing a wee bit loudly out of open windows on a warm summer night. She’s still very practical, but she’s also a bit sassy. I named her Bonnie Blue.
It’s silly to love a car so much, but I think like you, Deborah, this is as much about feeling comfortable with myself as much as anything. Being comfortable with myself is a work in progress, but it helps to have a partner who supports me unequivocally in being me. And who doesn’t mind grabbing for the handle when I fly through a corner singing along to the Black Keys.
What a wonderful name, among other wonderful things in your comment!
I learned how to drive when I was working as a nanny in Boston. For First time drivers Boston is a scary city to navigate. The family I was working for got me a baby blue Ford.(at the moment, I forget the make of the car). Well since, I was Boston, (Kennedy country) and because my “baby” was finicky, I named her Eunice. Eunice seemed like a finicky name and the name fit
The first time I took Eunice out, Eunice decided it would be fun to break down in front of a fire house. No kidding. The firemen were coming back from a fire and yelling a me to get out of their drive way, and I was like, “Seriously, guys, I would really love to get the hell out of your driveway, but, it keeps shutting down on me.” I finally got it going again, and it broke down two more times before I got home. I was a nervous wreck. Turned out they didn’t have the choke adjusted which is what cause Eunice to shut down.
Great story! And as a former Bostonian, I feel your pain.
Love love love love this. Thanks so much for sharing it again for those of us that missed it the last time around.
This is one of my favorite posts of your’s, Deborah…I’m so glad you reposted!
I’ve never gotten a car that wasn’t completely practical (and ugly because they’re always used and the best deal), but this post makes me think that someday I should…
I feel like I should comment on the monumental feat of a happy, successful, supportive romantic relationship with your husband. But, as a 2-time VW Bug owner, I am too distracted by your story. My first bug, a shiny yellow thing named Daisy who was my “Yay! You’re divorced! Finally!” present to myself died while protecting me, poor little thing. I cried when I went to visit her at the auto shop and saw her all splayed apart. I cried again when she was totaled. My next bug, a vampy red lady named Roxy, was a turbo-powered smile and got me through a couple of rough years of physical therapy from the accident.
Now? I drive a boring, paid for, old, smelly black Mazda I haven’t even bothered to name. Practical from bumper to bumper and has never once made me smile. My next car? She’ll be impractical, zippy, cute, and colorful. I can’t wait!
Thank you for posting this!
I’m with you. I told said husband that I (who could really care less about presents or birthdays) want a burnt orange Bug for my 50th birthday and to start planning now thankyouverymuch.
Great post, Deborah! This was before I found Exponent, so I’m glad you reposted it.
What a great story.