I drive a ten year old SUV that has seen better days, but just keeps on going. Lately, I joke that no one steals it because it looks so bad, a real bonus because I don’t have a garage where I live. We all park on the street.
The vehicle has one crooked, partially broken headlight that fills with water when it rains. The emblem on the front grill is missing, and the paint is chipped off the nose of the hood. The front bumper looks like it took a good chain whipping. It was an accident due to He Who Must Not Be Named, but it never got fixed. Part of the side rear bumper guard sags away from the body of the car and periodically I kick it back in place—damage caused again by He Who when he backed into the babysitter’s car years ago. Recently, driving through city streets, I hit a paint puddle from someone’s lost gallons of latex. I had hoped the paint was dry. It wasn’t. At least the paint was the same color as the body of my vehicle and only the bumper guards, tires, runners, and flashing bear the splatters. Did I mention the missing hub cap? And the finish stained with age, salt, and dirt that cannot be power-washed off?
The radio display has been broken for years, and the windshield wiper fluid container is cracked and won’t contain fluid anymore. The rear wiper only works when it feels like it. The carpet, which I vacuum routinely, is wearing to the mat and the console between the front seats is showing breaks and peels on the vinyl. There is a mysterious stain (lemonade?) on the interior ceiling, and if a kid nudges the rear radio controls at all, the system will change stations or switch to CD. My tank has kinks, but it sputters, hums, groans forward, and we arrive intact. I maintain it as best I can, but I feel a big repair coming, especially after this last trip. Sitting in the SUV yesterday, I cranked the engine and listened to its idle and felt for vibrations that should not be there.
“Baby, you can look ugly, but please don’t run ugly,” I pleaded. Right now I cannot afford to replace this vehicle. Even if I could though, I would be procrastinating. I have had it for so long and through so much, that I will be terribly sad to see it go.
The SUV survived the infancy and youth of one child, and now the birth and toddlerhood of another. We have driven across the country in it--as north as Wisconsin, as south as Louisiana, from Tennessee to South Carolina, through the Midwest, and the entire South. Together we have survived floods, snowstorms, multiple moves, a painful divorce, and incredibly abusive loads of goods from Home Depot. When I could not afford an outing, I could afford a ride through the country in air conditioned comfort with music controlled by pressing buttons on the steering wheel. I drove it to lull babies to sleep, to calm my nerves, to serve as a private dining hall, and often to sit prayerfully between errands or adventures. These days, my SUV regularly chauffeurs my children back and forth across two or three states. I watch the miles increase, I listen to the truck sputter, hum, then groan forward, again and again, and I cross my fingers for luck. It is still on occasion my temple or refuge, but now that I live in a true pedestrian city, I take advantage of walking. My old truck probably appreciates the rest.
At the bookstore today, I parked next to a sparkling black Yukon with great tire tread. My battered SUV heaved an audible sigh and did its best to stand squarely next to it. I looked back, frowned at the sight of my own tires and thought maybe it is time to put this old tank to rest. But I keep saying what I said last year and the year before.
“Ten thousand more miles, baby. Please. Just ten thousand more.”