In September 2005, my husband and I drove my packed Hyundai Elantra from St. Louis to Raleigh for my new job as a reporter at The News & Observer. During the trip, we passed military trucks headed to New Orleans to rescue Katrina victims.
My Midwestern husband knows about tornadoes but not hurricanes. I grew up in Virginia Beach and endured minor ones.
So he asked me about evacuations. That’s when I had to tell him: If there was a dangerous hurricane in our new home, he would have to leave, and I would have to head in to work. That’s life married to a reporter.
That prompted him to research safer cars than the one that fit my reporter’s budget.
We headed to the Subaru dealership, where all-wheel-drive is standard, and bought a 2006, forest-green, Outback wagon. We got it slightly used, and it was what I call the “rental car level” — cloth seats and no sunroof.
Nine years and 97,000 miles later, I am saying goodbye to that Outback. And I have to admit, I am little verklempt.
A lot has happened with this car in a decade. I became a mom. I was laid off from my reporting job — a career I had for nearly 15 years. And I started an organizing business.
I also feel badly I never named the Outback. I could have called her the Green Monster or Daisy or Maude would have been nice.
After all, the Outback safely drove me to the newsroom in snow and rain, and it perfectly handled dark, winding, rural North Carolina roads, where the best stories live.
A car like that deserves a name.
And then there’s all the memories. I brought home both babies from the hospital in that car.
For the first baby, I sat in the back, freaking out about other drivers coming too close as we drove in the rain.
Nineteen months later, the Outback drove home the second baby. I sat shotgun, totally relaxed because, well, second kid.
The Outback took our daughter on her first vacation to Wintergreen.
The Outback took her to the first day of pre-school.
Then, it took him to his first day of pre-school.
The Outback got us to middle-of-the-night ER visits and three zero-dark-thirty trips for tube surgeries.
We took the Outback to meet our rescue dog for the first time…
…and to buy our chickens, which were so small that we carried them home in a paper sack.
For the last three years, the Outback helped me start a thriving organizing business. I’ve loaded up hundreds of pounds of donations to take to charities all over the Triangle. Clients were always amazed how much stuff fit in my Outback. It looked small, but it was really mighty. Like me.
When I handed the keys to the car dealer, I thought about sniffing the back seats to see if they retained that delicious baby smell.
But those cloth seats are now covered in food stains left by hungry, growing elementary students, who never fall asleep in the car anymore and bark commands from the backseat.
They are so big they have to squish together if we drive home a friend. When there isn’t a friend, they are close enough to
hit touch each other.
So it’s time to say goodbye. I unscrewed the University of Virginia front license plate. I cleaned out the interior (which took about five minutes because I am an organizer with nothing in my car. Just sayin’.)
And though I am nostalgic, I know in the end it’s just a car. People tend to mix up the memories with the object and keep the object. I’ll keep the memories.
I thanked the Outback for its decade of service and for protecting my babies and me.
And I sent Maude on her way.