New Car, New Life.

Summer, 10 years ago.

I worked at a day care.  I had just bought my first car, an old blue Explorer that I named Betsey.  I was enjoying the freedom she provided, being able to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted.  I think, really, that were it not for that old car, I would not be where I am today.

One July afternoon, I was sitting at my computer and I received a Facebook message.  It was my ex-boyfriend, Mark.  Now, we had dated briefly back in 2003, and he, in his 20-year-old stupidity, totally messed that up.  So, for seven years we did our own thing…he went and had four kids, I threw myself into my theater work, and we didn’t think much of the other except perhaps in passing.  Yet, to say that our business was finished would be incorrect.

He messaged me occasionally over the years, friendly-like.  He was in a relationship with the kids’ mother and I respected that.  But then came that July afternoon.  I asked after his relationship-he said they weren’t together anymore.  I didn’t think much of it in the moment.

He asked if I wanted to hang out.  I told him I had the car now, so I could come pick him up, and we drove down to the marina where we went for so many walks back in the early days.  We caught up, told each other about our lives, our families, and such…it was nice.  I drove him home, and we had a couple beers with his roommate.  I got ready to leave, and he kissed me goodnight.

We hung out regularly after that, but neither of us were keen to put a title on it.  He had just ended a big relationship.  I was busy beyond belief…I had two jobs, one at the day care and one at the theater, and no time.

Then one night he decided we were going to go on a real date.  He took me to an Indian place.  I had never had Indian food, and he was excited to share the experience with me.  We were all dressed up because after we planned to go downtown to Curtain Up.  It was a big night, theater-wise, and I had never brought a date.  He reached across the table and took my hand.  “So…I guess you’re my girlfriend now, right?”  I smiled.  I guessed so.

As we drove downtown, I expressed that I was a little nervous to tell my parents we were seeing each other again.  My mother held little love after our breakup, even though I never said a harsh word against Mark during it.  She just took on the Mama-bear role, and who could blame her?  He assured me that while he was also nervous, it would all be fine.

Then we pulled into the parking lot.  Right next to my parents, who were getting out of their car.

Thrown headfirst into our fears, Mark greeted my parents warmly and my mother was surprisingly excited to see him.  We had a lovely time walking around downtown with them and enjoying the night.  When I got home, I was exhausted, but I was happy.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you.  The next six months of our relationship were difficult.  We made mistakes.  We spent time apart. We considered the cut-and-run. 

Mark moved to Amsterdam, NY for a bit.  This was particularly hard.  During that time, my trusty blue Explorer because less trustworthy, and died on me.  So, I went and bought a white Buick named George, and that is what I was driving when I picked him up at the train station.

We’d had a talk. He needed to come home.  He missed his kids.  He couldn’t find work.  And, he missed me, too.  So, I sent him the money for a train ticket, and he came home.  “I miss Betsey,” he says, as we drive towards the next destination in our lives.  I miss Betsey, too.

It is ten years later.

So much has happened.  We have lost and gained jobs.  We have been broke.  We have been homeless.  We have changed career paths.  We have moved apartments.  We have dealt with illness and depression.  We got married.  We have lost people we loved, and reconnected with people we lost.  We have been through SIX cars.  I don’t know that I would change any of it, though.  This September will mark not only 4 years of us being married, but ten years of us being together.  A whole decade.  It seems remarkable to me, given all that we have conquered.

So much has happened in ten years, all because one day I bought a new car, and Mark messaged me, and I went to show it off.

The early days vs. now.

Car Talk

I have a terrible history with automobiles.  My first car was a Ford Explorer that I loved, and named Betsey.  She didn’t seem to love me much, and gave me problems from day one.  She liked to do things like break down in the middle of Oak St. during rush hour or develop a constant ticking noise every time I accelerated.  I had my first totally-my-fault crash in her, and ended up selling her to some fool for 400 bucks.  He was well aware of everything that was wrong with her, but was certain he could fix her.  I doubted this, but now when I see the occasional blue Explorer on the road, I wonder if it’s Betsey given another life.

After Betsey came a Buick named George.  George was a tough old guy, who had no qualms about being born in the 90s, and got me from point A to point B every time.  Once, he needed his battery jumped, and that was it.  I maintain that George would still be on the road today, had I not hydroplaned off the 400 and crashed him into a guardrail.  Like I said, I have terrible luck with automobiles.

It was fine though, because that’s about the time the kiddos became fixtures in my life, and they were out-growing the backseat of a sedan.  I got Cricket, a red minivan that had no hubcaps but otherwise ran nicely and was fairly priced.  Or so I thought.  Maybe a week into owning her, she started falling apart.  I had originally named her Scarlett, but changed it to Cricket after the character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  If you’re unfamiliar, this character becomes a progressively bigger mess as the series develops.  The van was very similar in that respect.  Still, she was running, so I was happy.  Then I had eye surgery and couldn’t drive for a couple weeks, and when I went to start her up…nothing.  I scrapped her for 300 bucks and bought the kids Christmas presents.

We went without a car for a long time, then one day my Aunt Cathy surprises us with her minivan (named Cathy, of course.)  She was getting a new car and didn’t need it anymore.  This was a miracle to us.  That miracle only lasted so long, though, as we were t-boned one Memorial Day weekend.   I took the money from the insurance and bought Natasha, a Chevy Uplander that handled great, for a while.  Over our two years together, she started acting up, and one thing begat another until suddenly the mechanic was telling us the frame is bent and the muffler is broken and the door needs a part, etc.  Which brings us to another miracle, named Marty.

Marty is an old man of a minivan, born in the year 2000.  However, according to my mechanic, he is in pretty decent shape.  He comes from my grandfather, who stopped driving recently and just happened to have an unused minivan sitting in his driveway when mine crapped out.  Poppa took excellent care of the car, and thank god that he did.  I am so grateful that I have wheels, I can’t even express it.  Without a car, I can’t work.  I can’t take the kids places.  I can’t get to the doctor.  I don’t have the freedom I need to not feel so trapped all the time by my depression.  It’s a big deal.

I am looking forward to the new adventures that we will have in Marty.  Where will he take us this summer, when the kids are hot and sweaty and we’re looking for a swimming hole?  Where will Mark and I journey?  Will we take a trip?  We probably could.  Will this be the van we take camping, like we intend to next year?  Hoe many adventures can you fit into one car?

I had adventures in all my cars.  Betsey took me to my first date with Mark.  George took me across state to meet his mother.  Cricket took us out the country in the middle of the night to show the kids the stars.  Cathy…well she wasn’t around long enough, really, but Natasha moved me into my apartment and schlepped everything to and from the wedding.  I’m excited to see where Marty leads us.  I’m sure the adventure will be a great one.

Or, it will start falling apart in a week, because that’s my luck.  Knock on wood, man.


Update, two weeks later:  Marty is dead.  I can’t say I’m all that surprised.  Looks like we will be hoofing it from here on out.