Monday, October 04, 2010


It was a dreary, chilly Thursday with steady rain. I snapped the picture from the porch to avoid getting wet. And maybe also to distance myself from the ridiculous urge to be overly sentimental.

Then it was time to go.

I drove to my friend Rich's house and he followed me to the salvage yard. I went carefully across the muddy parking lot, leaping small puddles among the ranks of tagless cars, some with heavy damage or makeshift trash-bag windows. Inside, I breathed the motor oil-and-tire scent and peered into the ranks of metal shelving that marched into the darkened garage, the rows of disembodied stereos and gleaming stacks of rims, their vital statistics scrawled on the side with bright yellow grease pencil in the impenetrable kanji of mechanics.

"The next one you need is for a 2001 Dodge Caravan," He explained patiently into a two-way radio to the employee who was out in the rain cultivating their livelihood. "You'll see it, its just like the 2002 except that it has a little curved place where the other one is flat." He was describing headlight assemblies from memory, since he had this conversation while writing me a check and pointing out the places where I was to sign. I worked the key off my ring and placed it on the counter on top of the title, then borrowed a screwdriver. I ran back outside into the doownpour and my friend deftly removed the screws and handed me my license plate. Ducking back inside, I placed the borrowed tool back on the counter. "Thanks!" I called. "Thank you!" came faintly from somewhere in the gloom over the steady patter of rain on the roof.

Its just a car, I thought to myself as we backed out of the lot. The husband never stopped complaining about its 4-cylinder lack of power, especially after we moved to a place that wasn't bone flat. Just a car that I drove out of the Saturn dealership into a crisp fall day surrounded by cheering employees. Just a car that earned a polaroid snapshot on a special bulletin board at that same dealership with the mileage written on the white border when we crossed the 100,000 mile mark. Just a car that held my bicycle in the flipdown back seat so I could train every day for a bike ride across New Jersey after not riding a bike for seven years. Just a car that took us to Maine in 2004 for an unforgettable vacation. Just a car that, loaded to the roof in 2005, brought me here when our lives completely changed. It took me down roads that were not always easy to traverse, mute witness to as many sorrows as joys. May its salvageable parts carry lots of other folks with 15 year old cars into new adventures.