Goodbye, Old Friend

Tomorrow I say goodbye to a steadfast friend who has been with me for almost eight years to the day-my car.

I know this will seem silly to some.  Heck, even I’m surprised at how emotional I’ve become at the prospect of losing my 1998 cherry red Ford Mustang. 

There’s nothing particularly special about it in terms of mechanics.  It’s an automatic, stock vehicle.  No frills, no enhancements.  But that car was my first major purchase as an adult.  I bought it soon after I graduated from college and made monthly payments on it for the following five years.  In the early days of my teaching career, I struggled to make ends meet, but I never missed a payment.  And when I sent in that last check and knew the car was mine completely, I can’t tell you the feeling of satisfaction I experienced. 

I bought my Mustang weeks before I moved out to North Carolina for my first teaching job.  I never thought about it much before today, but I liken it to a young man riding out into the unknown on his horse way back in the old West.  Just the two of them against whatever the future threw their direction.

In North Carolina that car was with me as I made new friends, and it was with me when I said goodbye to them and moved back to Illinois.  It went through several joys down South with me and even some heartache as well.  I can remember some lonely drives late at night along the interstate listening to Pete Yorn and the hum of its engine with the glow of its dash. 

After living with the Tar Heels for two years, I started my new job at Bloomington High School, and it was right there by my side ready to take on all comers.  We got off to a rough start, but we managed.  I smile to think back to when a coworker set me up with one of her friends and the Mustang was one of her main selling points.  I later went to pick that girl up on our first date, and the Mustang was right there with me.  A few years later it drove that same girl and me to the Church to get married.

Ironically, a few weeks ago the Mustang and I drove out of Bloomington High School’s parking lot for what could be at least a year’s absence.

I chuckle remembering when we couldn’t fit our soon-to-be-born daughter’s stroller into my wife’s car, the Mustang opened wide and in it went. 

So why am I giving up my stalwart friend?  As you’ve probably deduced, we have a little girl on the way.  And as wonderful as my car has been in the past, I’m not going to pretend it’s a car for a new father.  There’s a good chance I’m going to be a stay at home daddy for the coming year, and the Mustang does my wife’s once-broken tailbone no favors.  Therefore we’ll need a ride more car seat friendly.

Don’t get me wrong-while I’m more upset than I could have imagined about giving up my car, it’s totally worth it.  My daughter is the most important thing to me, and will be for the rest of my life, and when all is said and done, the Mustang is only a car.

When I tell myself that the Mustang has been with me through thick and thin, has never broken down, and even has a piece of me in it, I think of my daughter, who will also be with me through thick and thin, and who literally has my heart and soul in her blood.  When I think of her, the emotion of giving up my car turns to joy at the arrival of my baby girl.

The Mustang has been with me for my entire adult life.  Every major event from my adult life involves that car in some facet or another.  But my little girl will be with me for the rest of my days, and she, Kristen, and I will make countless new, happy memories together.

So, as silly as all this is, think of me tomorrow as I watch my car leave my driveway for the last time, but smile for me at the thought of daddy’s little girl pulling into that very same driveway in just a few short weeks.

… Goodbye, old friend.