Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

Dear Diary,

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.

Love,
Orlando

15 Comments

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15 responses to “Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

  1. KOJohnson

    Lovely little essay. Thank you. And I’m sure that you’ll be surprised how attached you’ll get to little Bluebie, in time. Agèd Aunt has one of those, and I’m already feeling an almost irrepressible urge to hug the little thing, it’s so cute and eager to please.

  2. Diane Davis

    When you come to Miami, you can take my 2005 Silver V70 with cargo racks (and 3 rows of seats – basta!) for a spin…. Since I “only” have 106k on it, I’ll probably have it for a few more years —- just in time to give it to my son who will be 16. And so the story will continue…. :) Love your blog, BTW.

  3. Dale

    Everything you said about the car was true for me too. It was really in prime shape interior wise and I hope it goes on to be one of those old Volvos you see driving all over the place and you think to yourself that old car still has it!

  4. dana

    Great post!
    I donated my old Honda Hatchback to The Pediatric AIDS foundation and it had served me well for years, but no A/C in Los Angeles was crazy! I was all excited about the new car, with the A/C…until they came to pick up my Honda, then I started crying as they drove it away. So many memories, so much fun, the first car I bought myself, and the car I drove to the funerals of my friends in the 90s (damn you, AIDS), and filled to the brim and drove to LA.
    I’m not super-materialistic, but damn I loved that car.

  5. It is comforting to know I’m not the only one attached to their car! Grizzly (yes, I named my car, what?) is my most loyal friend, my first grown-up, I have a real job, purchase!

  6. Jeff

    Great post.
    I had a little Chevy truck I loved.
    I get it.
    Enjoy the Prius too….it will help take you far.

  7. We had a Volvo station wagon too! And now we have a Prius which I love. My son, Brandon, rolled his Volvo station wagon twice on the road to Yosemite and came away completely unharmed. I gave him that Volvo 2 weeks before the accident and all I can say is thank goodness he was driving a Volvo. Take care Orlondo. Darlece

  8. I empathize completely. It was so hard when I had to say goodbye to my Volvo.

  9. Lori

    When I bought my latest car and had to give up my old one, I begged my parents to keep it. They’d purchased it for me when I left for college, and I’d driven/loved it for 16 long years. I couldn’t bear to let it go.

  10. geralyn

    Just yesterday, it dawned on me that i need to put the old girl ’01 Volvo to rest but i just can’t make the next move…thank you for making me realize there will come a day when i know it’s time…i’m.just.not.there.yet.:( Great blog~so glad i discovered!

  11. I totally understand. I just said goodbye to my 2001 Saab 9-3 and was pretty sad about it. I bought something similar to what you did. I bought a Chevy Volt for its efficiency.

  12. Pingback: Saying Goodbye To Your Car | The Protagonist

  13. Jenny B

    You really could be a writer full time. Everything you write gets me in the gut, either cracking up or tearing up. And your sweet spirit really shines through. You just seem like you must be the nicest person, and as an aside, very talented. As a 45 year old stay at home mom with two teenage kids, I hope my children turn out like you.

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  15. dbw27

    That was really beautiful and I am glad I stumbled upon your essay. I have an 1987 Volvo which is now having wiring problems. My Volvo mechanic says it is time to just give it up. I am so devastated. Like you, oddly, that car has been cross country from California to New York City and just all over the place. I completely agree about driving the California roads. It is amazing how much are stories are similar. That car is a symbol of my youth and now I am in my thirties and having to give it up. It has been cross country a few times, up and down the west coast, up and down the east coast, and I am absolutely devastated. I keep thinking that it is my fault that it is now having wiring problems. What did I do wrong with maintenance? I am so incredibly sad. I look at these new cars and I just see them as pieces of crapp. After all they are not a solid two tons of steel. I am worried about getting into an accident in these worthless plastic cars. I always felt safe in my Volvo. Always. I acquired it after my first car, a crappy Oldsmobile, was totaled by a driver with a suspended license. I felt so safe after that frightening episode. I can’t stand it.

    Anyway, also amazingly like you, I am considering purchasing a Prius. On warranty, no more repairs. Good gas mileage. I am just so sad that I am having a hard time buying a car. I shop every day and, in my mind, nothing is as good as my old Volvo. Not these days at least.

    Tears.

    Thanks for the blog.

    DW

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