We recently had to get rid of a car, a 2004 Volvo V70R, to a junk dealer. And the car was junky, and with the grime an old car gets when it was driven a family with lots of small kids. A car is never quite the same after that, with a layer of trash and indefinable things formed through the years and thousands and thousands of miles, at the peak time our family was being created and we were most together.
Last year we got rid of another car, a 2003 Chevy Suburban 1500 LT, also to a junk dealer, who picked up the car at a parking lot of a gas station off Route 95 in North Carolina, where it had finally quit.
Both were family cars. All six of us, and/or other numbers or other combinations of families and friends, on trips and places, and places of adventure, good and bad. A family car is a closed environment, with spaces tightly defined and rigidly enforced. “Get off! That’s my side of the seat.” Our presence to each other was magnified by the close proximity of the car. Habits and agreements developed over the years to help cope with the environment of noise, science, bathroom breaks, food breaks, arguments about too many breaks, the music, games. One year we went on an outdoors vacation with the Suburban, filled with camping and biking and other stuff and we went rock climbing as part of the trip, even the smallest who was 6 or 7 back then. And I remember when she got stuck on a rock, her little voice saying calmly but decisively “I am in a bit of a pickle” and the guide heard and helped her slowly down.
We had an audio habit for a while, listening to old radio shows on the car’s CD player. One we drove by the signs for Grover’s Corner, NJ at night, just as the invasion was happening on War of the Worlds.
Sometimes when the kids were very young, I would make up stories about a young alien named Blisfik, and his adventures, and one of the favorites was when Blisfik crash landed his space ship on the Planet Patagonia, which everybody had big feet, and came up with an idea for building a new spaceship. Which was quite a feat.
We even touched on logic and philosophy sometimes, carefully defining missed opportunities and gleefully explaining why the other person was wrong as we played “I Spy With my Little Eye” or “TriBond” (one player names three objects and the others try to figure out what connects all three.)
We used the cars for other things too. I used the Suburban to help clean out a elderly woman’s apartment. She had died and had no family. I brought the Suburban in case there was anything to be donated to charity.
Our story, our family story, has been changing and too fast to control. I realize that now. My dad is fond of saying says life goes by in the blink of an eye and he is right. I remember once I was at the supermarket with the three oldest, and they were all young and relatively close in age, and I was tired, so tired, and they were acting up and I was tired, staring at them, thinking “Really?” and I sensed this little old lady coming up to us, I could tell she was going to say “these are the best years of your life” or some such and I raised my head and glared at her and she turned very quickly and went away. But now I sometimes think she was right, even if it’s not good to live in memories.
We won’t need a family car anymore. Our children have gotten older and moved out. Our schedules and coming and going have changed. We go different places at different times. Sometimes for big events we all get back together again. But never in a family car.