Tag Archives: saying goodbye first car

The Things My Car Has Seen No. 2

Five years ago I wrote a blog post called “The Things My Car Has Seen.” It was a farewell letter to my first love – a black BMW with a tan leather interior and a sunroof perfect for hot summer nights and cool spring afternoons.

I thought the car was so cool that I plopped down in the driveway one smoky summer afternoon and prompted my sister to snap a few shots for the blog back in 2010. The back passenger side wheel became my backrest, my arms crossed over my knees and that familiar blue and white crest visible to the left of my arms.

Fast forward 7 years. In May, I sold its predecessor, my mom’s much less cool silver BMW sportswagon. She bought it in the fall of 2003, and at 13 turning 14, I made it clear that she was really cramping my style.

“It’s a sports wagon, Kaleigh.”
“Yes, but it’s a wagon.”

We were emphasizing different things. This would go on straight through my teen years. She saw it one way, and I another.

Though I grumbled until the day I sold it off, it seemed only appropriate to think back again, to all the things this car had gotten me through—for better or worse—and be thankful.

In mid-December 2003, that car transported me to a funeral. And as the years went by, another one. And another one.

That car witnessed my last first kiss.

My first first kiss was standing next to the black BMW, in the bitter cold atop a snow pile, in the dark of night. To an Italian boy with blue eyes who ran cross country and track and played guitar and landscaped his way through the summers, with a sister named Amanda.

My last first kiss was standing next to the silver BMW, in the sweltering heat of an asphalt parking lot, in the bright sunlight. To an Italian boy with blue eyes who ran cross country and track and played guitar and never learned to help his father who landscapes for a living, and also had a sister named Amanda. The symmetry and simultaneous contrast of those moments is not lost on me.

That car witnessed plenty of irritated phone calls, driving home frustrated about issues at work, or learning how to be an adult. It witnessed a blowout on the side of I-95 in the windy drizzle of a late April evening. It witnessed a couple of tow truck rescues, smoke on the side of the highway, a doggie sleeping in the front seat on the way home from doggie daycare.

We made it to hiking trails and weddings in that car. We made it to interviews and family birthday parties and the BWI airport long-term parking garage.

But mostly, we made it work. In between my father-in-law’s crouching over the engine, flashlight in hand, peering down into the folds and guts of the machine, we made it where we needed to go. It may not have been beautiful, it may not have been cool, but it worked. For a time, it worked.

As with anything, there comes a time when the most reliable of things sneaks up on you and flips itself around, and when that happens, it’s best to skirt yourself out from under the teetering mess and move quickly while you still can. It was time to say goodbye. And no one was happier than me.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge its good run—14 years of blood, sweat, and tears.


The Things My Car Has Seen

I’m not sure how to end this.

I want to take the empty plastic key and set it down on the kitchen counter and turn around, get in the car, and drive the hundred miles to my apartment. I want to turn the engine off one last time, close the sunroof, pop the CDs out of the disc changer in the trunk. I want to know why we hold onto something so inhuman like it has a heartbeat.

Nobody can tell me.

Nobody can understand why handing in your first car, turning it over when you’ve sat inside for the last 15 years, can feel like the end of a chapter.

It’s just a car. It’s not like you’ve been driving it that long. It’s not like it was ever really yours, legally, until June when you finally signed some papers and took ownership.

Maybe not. Maybe it’s just because it was the first time.

It was the first time BMW became a household name. The first time my sister and I learned to stop eating in the backseat. The first time I looked out the backseat window and caught a glimpse, in the haze of a late-summer night, of a hot air balloon floating through the fields, the treeline crackling our view of it.

It was the first time, the second, third and fourth time, I kissed death’s forehead and prayed it wasn’t all over.

I have been mildly terrified, since the year I became a teenager, of driving in the winter weather. Of losing control of my grip on the road. Of spinning wildly into the other side of the road—or worse, flipping end-over-end.

Someone, a boy, once told me that if the airbag ever went off, I would die on impact. That’s how close I had to sit to the steering wheel.

Two years ago, a week shy of Thanksgiving, I felt the give, the woosh of losing my grip on something, as I spun backwards and came to a stop in the median of a major highway.

The car holds 50,000 miles of mine. It has seen my first kiss, my last kiss, the missed curfew and the diner parking lot.

For six or so years, I have immediately rattled off the mileage like a caveat, like even though I was driving around the Ultimate Driving Machine, it was really old. Really driven. Really holding the memories of 225,000 miles between the grooves of its tires.

Really holding my midnight anxieties, the silent drives in a southern town, the Taylor Swift songs on sunny April afternoons.

And I’m not quite sure how to tell it, “Ok, thanks. I’ll take it from here.”

I’ll take it from here. I’ll take it from this place it has only just gotten to know. I’ll leave it somewhere it has always calibrated its tires to, the place it missed deeply and irrevocably on weeks when it was sitting in a parking deck, hundreds of miles away, wanting to idle in that driveway.

It’s what you do when it’s time to say Goodbye. You turn over the keys, bring it back to its home, and leave it there.