Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Without Wheels

I am car lover.  I'm not crazy about it, mind you; I can't tell you the horsepower or engine size of every muscle car, nor can I tell you the year and model of an automobile just by looking at it (unless it's a Mustang circa the mid-1960's).  But I do love cars.  My parents loved to tell the story about me at age four.  We had just driven across the country from New Jersey to California, our new home, and we had used our lovely red Pontiac with white interior to pull a U-Haul trailer.  Apparently doing so killed the transmission, so not long after arriving in Modesto, we had to trade in the Pontiac.  I still remember riding to the dealership, facedown on that beautiful white vinyl, sobbing. . .I didn't want to give up my Pontiac, the only car I could recall in my young life. And I hated the ugly blue Buick that replaced it--hated it for the next ten years.  Actually, I still hate it, come to think of it, wherever it may be!

Since then, my love affair with cars has only intensified. I have strong opinions about the vehicles I want to own or drive.  I know which ones I don't like.  I don't really like stick shift, since I had early bad experiences with driving standard.  I like cars that go fast, and I like cars that make my life easier.

Since 1992, I've had my own car.  Up until then, we lived in Hawaii on an Air Force base and my husband and I shared a pink Plymouth Vista.  But when we moved to the mainland and he took a job in medical sales, he was given a company car, and for the first time, I had a car always at my disposal.  It made sense; we had two young daughters, and we used the car to go to the grocery store, to the doctors or to the library.  I began to take that freedom for granted. 

We had that Plymouth until 1999, when we sold it and bought a Toyota Corolla.  Loved that car!  It had zip, and I could drive my three little girls and myself all around town.  And then our son came along, and we realized we needed something that could fit a car seat. . .again. . .

That's when our mini-van phase began.  We had a few before we finally could buy what I wanted: a Honda Odyssey.  It had a navigation system and side doors that opened automatically.  It got amazing gas mileage. It was my (mom-phase) dream car.  It took us on many a family vacation, drove us back and forth to Florida when Clint was living down here and we were still in NJ.  In the late spring of 2008, it drove us across the country to California, and we hit 100,000 miles on the drive between Modesto and Fremont, CA.

About two weeks ago, I sent Haley to the grocery store late on a Saturday afternoon.  She and David were picking up a few things I needed for dinner.  Unfortunately, another driver coming in the opposite direction decided to use her lane as a turn lane, and Haley narrowly avoided hitting him head-on.  In the effort of avoiding this accident, she hit another car.  Thank God, she and David were both fine, but not the van.  At 188,000 miles, with both air bags deployed, it was pretty clear that it was totaled.

I'll admit that it was with a very heavy heart that I emptied the van of all our personal items.  It reminded me of a death, and in a way, we were losing a certain part of our family, a link to times and people past.  It was very sad to know the pretty blue Odyssey wasn't going to tote our family anymore.

We've made the decision not to buy another car at this point.  We'd like to see if we can make it with four drivers and two cars; so far, we're doing okay.  It's taking a lot of planning and compromise to get two college students to school and work daily.  But it is really odd for me to at home without wheels again. 

We had a rental car until Monday, and as I emptied it of the few things I'd transferred earlier, I realized how strange it would be.  Most moms know what I mean.  We kind of live in our cars.  I have my phone charger, my a/c adapter, my iPod connector, my Sun Pass, assorted CDs, magazines, first aid kit. . .everything that made life possible.  And now I don't need them anymore; they're sitting in a sad little pile at the end of my bed.

I don't mind being more of a homebody.  Truthfully, I like the excuse.  At least, right now I like it; I fully expect the novelty to wear off eventually.  The hardest part is the lack of spontaneity.  We can't wake up on a Tuesday and decide to run down to the Magic Kingdom, nor can we dash off to the beach on a Friday. 

It's just another season of life, and one I'm willing to embrace. . for now.  Check in with me in about a month and we'll see how I'm doing.