We almost had it five years. It became part of the family on Valentine’s Day; all three kids had been out playing and sledding together in the snow that day. In Virginia, a kid has to take advantage of every snow day, even if it is only two inches.
I usually pride myself in not being attached to things, but I unexpectedly realized just how much it would tug on my heart to let it go. How could I have imagined how much would change in those five years? I wasn’t just saying good-bye to a car; I was looking in the rearview mirror at the final phase of my children’s childhood.
“Mind-numbing” best describes the flurry that was this season of life. This mama could not have anticipated the changes we would endure. Five short years ago we had two middle school boys and a daughter in elementary school. They seemed so young; I could hardly see the light at the end of the tunnel—the light that shines on the years when I would be able to do more than drive children around to activities and events all the live long day. We put over 20,000 miles per year on that mammoth, fuel-indulgent beast. Back and forth we went. Drop off, pick up, wait. Pick up, wait. Pick up, drop off, wait again. Drive, drive, drive, with little snippets of lost time in between. In those moments, I was exhausted. How many times did I fall asleep in the driver’s seat, in some parking lot, just waiting? I didn’t realize what fleeting moments they were, but now I can only wish I was ignorant of that reality.
“Do we really need the third row?” inquired my husband, always Mr. Sensible. He is never not practical. Any mom with more than two children knows we need the third row. In the days of bench seats and station wagons, previous generations did not have the luxury of separating children into zones where they would never have to whine about who is touching whom. Surpassing the U.S. kids-per-family average, we would need the third row to afford us the space to invite friends over or to help a fellow parent out with a ride. Carpooling is an unspoken code in a mom’s world. We need it, and we give it, because we know all the other mommas need it too.
Without a third row, how else would we take field trips with friends to apple orchards, laughing and chatting the whole way there and back home again because there was a seat for everyone in the cavernous cab? How else would we transport half the varsity basketball team to the away game? How would we travel carrying two families, three baseball bags, four folding chairs, and a table-sized picnic cooler to the double-header in that tiny town where they forgot to hire the umpires? How else could we road trip with our parents and a car top carrier all the way up the East Coast to expose our brood to the bustle of the Big Apple and the rare beauty of the rocky Maine coast?
Just knowing the children would never have to touch in the back seat was enough to win over the man’s heart. One test drive and we were out the door. Only then I could not foresee that the thousands of miles we would travel together would still be too few.
Five years that flew by. Five life-altering years. The boy who loved baseball is 18, a legal adult. A high school graduate, he works full time, volunteers locally, and has started a small business venture. He zooms in and out of the house with hugs in between. There are no more double-headers. No more hours on the field in the frigid temperatures early in the season. No more Saturdays under the scorching sun in anticipation of All Stars. No more hours waiting, watching, cheering, consoling. We hardly ever lay eyes on the 17-year-old man-child between school, basketball, friends, and work. Both young men purchased their own first vehicles and can now transport themselves most anywhere they need to be. My 14-year-old baby still rides with me, for now. It’s only the two of us most days. But I’m wiser now, and I know that time will come to a soft close the same way it did with her brothers. The once essential third row, and now even the second row, sit mostly vacant, but the gas tank is still greedy, guzzling.
Last week we found out the family car had to go. It’s on its way out, quickly dying. Within the same hour, I got the call.
“He’s gone.” My mother’s voice broke as she shared the news that my grandfather had passed. His journey had ended, too. And so the final family trip in our worn-out vehicle was to see my family and say good-bye to my DoDad in his final resting place. We drove down the familiar roads, rambling past the same old sights, though they were a little worse for the wear. I was thrown back in time to the magical, hazy memories of travelling with my babies, and then rudely thrust forward into the present day rust and disrepair. The hunk of metal that had carried us so reliably through our family’s hustle and bustle had faithfully carried us here. One final farewell.
I drove to the shop tonight to turn the keys over, thankful that the darkness could obscure the tears welling up. Just a hunk of metal headed to the auction block, maybe. But it was the last family car we needed, and it carried us well.
Guest post written by Hollie Gilman. Hollie lives with her husband and three teenagers in Richmond, Virginia. She spends most of her time running a business, homeschooling, driving, and sitting on bleachers (because she’s a mom). She loves to find the humor and encouragement in the common experiences so many busy parents share. After “momming” for 19 years, she is now blogging at tryingtowalkandnotfaint.wordpress.com.