My dear sweet beloved car, lovingly known in my family as Stella, has been permanently taken off the of the road. I have no idea how we ever came up with the name Stella or why we named the car in the first place. I just know that when she broke down last week and made her final clicking sound, I must have sounded like Rocky from the famous scene in the movie as I stood there and yelled, “Stella”. While every stretch mark I have tells a story of my pregnancy with my children, every ding and dent in Stella tells a story of her life carrying those six children around. I knew that she was a tad worn out and had a few flaws, but I never expected her to just quit on me. I mean come on, we were a team. The mom and her suburban.
I remember the day ten years ago when I spotted this tan suburban on the used car lot. It was in good condition and was priced right, so I drove it home not knowing how attached I would become to it. I never imagined that through the years we would travel over 175,000 miles on our journey. Stella lasted almost as long as my marriage and was my companion during my daily 78 mile car ride to drop off and pick-up the kids.
I swear that together we could have been a country music song. That car has brought some of my babies’ home from the hospital. This is the car I drove in to the courthouse on the day of my divorce and she carried many loads for me when I packed all of us up to move. When are beloved 150 pound lab died from old age, he was too big for me to bury, so I had to put him in the back of Stella to take to the vet. I will never forget driving down Thomasville Road with six kids dressed in their little baseball uniforms and the dog’s legs hanging out of the rear window because there were too many car seats for there to be room to fit this huge dog.
Stella had stains all over the floors, seats and ceiling (not sure how those got there). Each one told a story of a well-loved car. I remember the first time one of the kids threw up in the car and I hopped out of it to try and catch the vomit and keep it from getting all over the nice new leather seats. I ended up leaving the car in drive and it rolled into the garage. I remember the many snacks and meals that were eaten in that car as we raced from place to place and I embraced the permanent smell of sour milk, sweaty athletic clothes and some smells that I am not sure what they are from.
It was just the two of us on the road everyday facing life head on. For three years I have overlooked the fact that there was no air-conditioning in the car. To be quite honest, the sweating I did every summer is what I counted on for weight loss. When the dryer broke and all the kids’ baseball shirts were still wet, Stella was there to help. I hung the shirts out of the car windows as we drove down the street and by the time we got to the games, they were dry. I had a huge epiphany in that car one night when I had ran out of gas and was sitting on the side of the road. A life-changing moment when I realized I wanted to do more with my life and started writing my first column. It all took place with Stella.
But now she is gone. I felt the sputtering as I took the kids to school the other morning. I knew Stella was leaking oil so I was pouring oil into her every other day to keep her happy. The kids used to kid me and say that Stella was like an old woman who had lost control of her bladder because of how the oil poured out in the driveway. I tried to teach them a life lesson and explain to them that I love Stella in spite of her getting old and would not send her to the junk yard. My hope was they would take note and remember that when my bladder starts leaking and I only put out hot air that they won’t send me to the junk yard. The problem was that Stella was losing oil at a quicker pace than I could pour it in (I don’t think the BP oil spill provided enough oil to keep Stella going), because suddenly she sputtered, locked up and was gone. Moments before it happened Aidan was reviewing for a religion quiz which was on the Sacrament of Healing. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have her read the prayer aloud over Stella in hopes that she would start back up, but not even fourteen praying hands on this car could get it going again.
In all seriousness, when you haven’t had a car payment in ten years, the thought of one is a bit sickening. My dad thought I was crazy when I told him I would miss Stella. But if you have a car that you have had for a while, a mom-mobile that has lugged your babies all around, you understand. The upside to saying goodbye to Stella is that the temporary car I have until I find a replacement is a twelve passenger van that beeps whenever I put it into reverse. I was waiting in the car pick-up line for one of my teenagers and I had to back up. The beeping sound got her attention (and about 100 other kids) and she has never made me wait since then. Hmmm…maybe there are some perks to a new car.