Yesterday I donated my car to KPCC, my favorite radio station. This is quite an easy thing to do and I highly recommend it if you A) have a car to get rid of and B) care about supporting news that isn’t sensationalistic propaganda (i.e. most mainstream news). The car was still drivable but needed so many expensive repairs that keeping it no longer made sense. And because it needed so many repairs I worried about the karmic repercussions of selling it to an individual buyer. Thus, I found myself yesterday morning clearing the car of all my belongings, shoving them all into those large blue Ikea bags. At which point I started crying. Ugly sobbing all over the place. Tears of absolute loss and sorrow.
At first I didn’t really understand what I was so upset about. The car was clearly no longer practical for me and was sucking my already starving bank account even drier. But this is the irrationality of our relationship with objects. My 1999 Cross Country Volvo Station Wagon was no longer just my car. It was a trusted old friend. One that sometimes let me down but was always there for me.
I’ve been driving the Volvo since I was 16. My parents bought the car my senior year of high school and to me it was the epitome of Northern California glamour. With its supple leather interior, dazzling moonroof, and keyless entry, it was the most luxurious car my family had ever owned. Because my disgusting high school was a 1.5 hour drive from my house, I often ended up taking that car to school (my own car was a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon that couldn’t be trusted in the snow). The drive to school was treacherous, down the curvy Highway 140, a scenic highway nestled in the Merced Canyon. Whenever I drove that car I felt protected and safe, as Volvos are known for their sturdy structure and endless safety features.
In the years I lived back East for college and New York the Volvo was my California car, the car I drove every time I came home. In this period it represented home, familiarity. For native Californians living in New York there is nothing more comforting than returning to California and driving on our beautiful country roads, going to the grocery market and parking right in front without having to worry about schlepping your groceries ten humid blocks to get home. The Volvo represented this kind of Californian mobility, liberation from the cramped New York lifestyle.
My parents passed down the Volvo to me in 2010, after a year of tragic occurrences, the year my nephew died, the year my best friend lost her father. 2010 was the saddest year of my life. It was also the year I was cast to be on an HGTV show called Secrets From A Stylist. A job that changed my life completely while introducing me to one of my closest friends. My parents gave me the car because I needed it for work. Because I had just come back from New York and had no car. And because I was just recovering from an incredibly frustrating year of career downturns and personal loss.
I received the Volvo when I really needed it, and my parents act of giving at that time is representative to me of all they worked to give me my whole life, the amazing childhood they provided me. The excursions we took together, the freedom to talk about what we wanted to talk about, the encouragement to follow our interests. The car was just another example of the care I received throughout my childhood. And for this reason the car was no longer just a car. The car was love.
When objects stop being objects and start being the physical manifestation of relationships and history, getting rid of them can be incredibly painful. This is probably one of the reasons so many people struggle with hoarding, fear of losing the past, history. So today I am mourning the loss of an old friend and family member. I miss the Volvo.
Moving on to brighter territory, I did something I never thought I’d do. I bought a Prius. True, they are totally ugly. And true, they don’t have the cargo space that a Volvo has. But they get amazing gas mileage. As someone who drives a ton for work, I’m saving a lot on gas money while doing something small to show I care about the impending doom of global warming. Plus, my Prius is my favorite color, navy blue:
I don’t think I’ll ever have the personal attachment for the Prius that I had for the Volvo. The Prius wasn’t there for me in high school and it never welcomed me back from New York. But the Volvo will always represent my teens and twenties. And now that I’m 30, it’s time to move on to the next chapter.