4.10.2012

Here's to you, old friend


Dear Bug-a-boo,
There's one evening I remember quite well. I was eleven years old and snuggled on the hunter green leather couch between my parents. A commercial came on TV announcing the brand new Volkswagen beetle. I distinctly remember turning to my parents and declaring that is my dream car! I will drive that car someday! I knew it! From that day on, I dreamed of being a teenager and driving all my friends around in a cute green bug. 
Several months later, my parents needed a new car. Somehow, we wound up test driving a red beetle. The glimmer of the possibility of having a Volkswagen handed down to me someday was too much. I was giddy with hope. My dad spent hours negotiating with the salesman. We went out to lunch to think it over. Between fistfuls of chips and salsa I prayed and pleaded with my parents to buy you.
My dad finally made a deal with the salesman. I was on cloud 9; it felt like my dreams were coming true. Even though you were technically my mom's car, I knew you would be mine someday, though my parents denied it. But I knew it.
We drove you straight to my aunt and uncle’s house. I marveled at the way the buttons on the dash lit up bright red and blue as it got dark outside. We parked you next to my uncle's red vintage bug from the 70s that he was restoring. We took picture after picture, my cousin and I peeking our heads through the sunroof.
For the first several weeks we had you, I would run barefoot into the cold garage as soon as I woke up. I climbed into the driver’s seat and adjusted the tan leather seats until my feet could reach the pedals. I imagined what it would be like to drive you around town. To drive you to the beach with the sunroof open.
For our remaining few months in Reno, mom drove me to school every morning. We blasted the Backstreet Boys and had dance parties down the highway. We took you on class field trips to Carson City. Dad and I rocked out to Tears for Fears and Steely Dan while my fellow 6th graders in the back seat gave me weird looks. I was lanky, I had braces and frizzy brown hair, but I felt like a movie star whenever I sat in the front seat.
We moved you to Ohio that summer. Instead of climbing the Sierra Nevadas, you drove me through lush cornfields and past dilapidated red barns. I quickly became known as the girl with the red bug. Everyone associated me with you, and it stayed that way for the next ten years.
When I turned 15, dad taught me how to drive you in the high school parking lot. I was so excited. I was finally able to drive my dream car. I drove you during my driver's test and got my license on my 16th birthday. My first time driving you alone was 2 miles down the road to the high school for a Grease rehearsal. One of the first things I did was go to Joann's and buy red, orange, and yellow gerbera daises to put in the flower vase. They were there for seven years. No other flower looked as good as those daisies did.
High School was a difficult time. I was quiet and shy and a bit awkward, but I felt like I could rule the school whenever I pulled into the parking lot with you. I drove you all over town with the windows and sunroof open, blasting Relient K, Frank Sinatra, and Ben Folds Five. You faithfully took me to all my piano/dance/voice lessons and recitals, show choir competitions, jazz band performances, and more. I crashed you into an old lady's car that pulled out in front of me. I cried that I couldn't drive you while you were being repaired. I accidently ran over every single critter and rodent in Marion County. I even broke a fog light running over a raccoon. A boy I dated was embarrassed to ride in the car with me because it was "too girly." I dumped him. You drove me to my high school graduation. My lifelong friend Richard flew from California to see me graduate, and we sat there in the front seats and caught up on life before my graduation party.
3 months later, I packed you full of blue rubbermaid containers and clothes and shoes for my first semester of college. Dad sat in the front seat while we drove through the rolling hills of southern Ohio and listened to Queen's greatest hits. One of my first friends in college told me you fit my personality perfectly. That you were "cute and bubbly" just like me. It was something I never forgot. I was so homesick I drove you 3 hours home nearly every weekend.
4 months later, after realizing I was at the wrong school, I packed you up again and drove home with my best friend, McDonald's eggnog milkshake in hand. We went to North Carolina that spring. Just like my eleven year old dreams, I was finally able to drive you to the beach, windows down and sunroof open. You gave me a fit with all your flat tires. I had AAA on speed dial at one point. I crashed you into a fire hydrant after class one morning when I swerved to miss a car (and didn't). I was devastated over it. I couldn't drive you over a month while you were repaired. Everyone tried to give you a name, but nothing stuck. You went through Bob the tomato, Norman, and I dubbed you Rhonda after your weird spell of overheating like a middle aged woman having hot flashes.
When the suffocating humidity and professors got the best of me, you beckoned me outside from my apartment. You would take me to Atlantic beach, Jack Johnson and Jamie Cullum blaring, Bojangle's iced tea in the cup holder, and Shakespeare homework in the back seat. You always fit in so well at the beach. You looked like you belonged there, and it didn't hurt that the inevitable mounds of sand matched your interior.
I hauled car seats and dolls and little Tinkerbelle backpacks in and out of the backseat every Tuesday morning as I took my 2 favorite little girls to school. Those sweet girls I babysat thought you were the coolest car they had ever seen for those 3 beautiful years. I decked you out with bumper stickers from my favorite surf shop in California, ECU, OSU, and Scotland. People could tell a lot about me just by looking at you.
The only other girls that drove bugs in Greenville were the highly prissy, girly, southern sorority girls. The girls that wore designer everything, who owned everything in neon shades of pink and green, and came to class hungover. I was not one of those girls. Not even close.
I knew James was a keeper when he didn't mind driving you. He thought you were the coolest car and fun to drive. We didn't have enough money for a limo or a fancy car at our wedding, so we drove you as our getaway car, and it was perfect. We drove away from the country club, "Love Bug" written across the passenger side window and balloons tied to the side mirrors. I drove you back home to Ohio that summer. It was surprisingly good to drive you through the cornfields again.
I tearfully gave you away on Saturday. It was not something I wanted to do, but something I needed to do. We had a good, long run. You've been to California, Nevada, Ohio, North Carolina, and so much more in between. A lot of people don't understand why I got so upset. To them, you're a pretty pile of metal painted red and rubber tires. But to me, you're metal and rubber tires that I grew up in. You saw me through my hardest years. There's probably still some mascara caked into the black steering wheel from the hours I spent crying, my forehead leaning against it. I'll never forget the way you smelled like a fresh pack of crayons. You're a piece of childhood that was very difficult to let go of. You've seen so much, and you have so many stories you could tell. Thursday night I drove you around town one last time. I thought of how friends from elementary school sat in the back seat once. It's hard to fathom now. All the different people that have been in that car. All my weird music kicks your six CD changer experienced. You were a part of our family. And now, I hope you’re making that 16 year old girl as happy as you made me. Thanks for the years.

9 comments:

  1. This was sweet. I am jealous that you've had the same car for so many adventures and memories! My dad was constantly selling my car and I always cried when I had to say goodbye. I bought my first car myself recently and I'm not sure I can let her (Stella) go for quite a while...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I sold my red accord over the weekend and it was the weirdest, saddest feeling! I had her for eight years, and I didn't think it would be as difficult as it was to let her go :-( This was beautifully written!

    ReplyDelete
  3. so sweet! you did a great job writing it! What'd you get in place of her?

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are so sweet! We have a baby blue 1974 Bug - we drove away from our wedding in it. We love it. We have vowed to never sell it. Ever. I can't imagine the emtiness you may be feeling. I know it's "just" a car. But not to you. What are you driving now?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I honestly teared up, and had to remind myself I was reading about a car. Gosh, you're an amazing writer.

    And just hearing you list the bands you listened to in high school (and that you dumped that guy)? Yeah, we should be friends. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I LOVED my red Beetle. I named her Abby. I miss that car.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was such a sweet post, Michelle! Oh, the memories!

    And, small detail -- I love Jamie Cullum. Like, a lot.

    And just this evening, I've seen your header change... twice! Construction time, eh?!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this post. I have a red VW convertible now. :) I totally love it. When hubster and I were dating he bought a used red VW bug. (I think it was like a 1972). We drove it until we couldn't afford the repairs. My Mom drove a blue VW bug when I was in high school. My sister used to go out and drive it in the back yard. VWs are so great. Love that you wrote such a sweet story.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It’s really quite difficult to say goodbye to something that had been with you for a long time. And to think that your red beetle had almost grown up with you. Anyway, everything eventually comes to an end. What's more important is that you were able to outlive it, and tried to drive a new car that will serve you as well, if not better, than your old beetle. All the best!

    Diana Hayes @ Baldwin Subaru

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me! If your email is linked to your account, I'll respond to you via email. If not, I'll respond to you right here.