Twelve years ago I bought a Jeep. I was in my third year of University and to say I “bought” it is laughable, my parents sold it to me for a sum of money so small I can’t even bring myself to write it down. It was a gift, this silver Jeep Liberty, a way to get around in my final school years and launch me into adulthood.
I gave little thought to the Jeep in our early years together, in a classic self-absorbed twenty-something manner. I had a car. I didn’t have car payments. The Jeep was the perfect size for a bike in the back, or camping gear for a weekend. When it was broken, I fixed it. When she was empty, I filled her. That’s it.
She and I had a few close calls. On my way to a ski weekend in 2007 I ended up in a ditch outside of Canmore and was pushed out with almost no damage to the car. I backed her into a post in 2007, and while I was incredibly ticked off at the time, it gave me a wonderful gift: my mechanic, Jay. I like to joke that I’ve been with Jay longer than I’ve been with Jon. He’s saved me more than a few bucks and has the rare gift of telling me straight up what’s wrong with my car without making me feel stupid. He will automatically triage my repairs when he calls because he got used to me asking to divide the repair list into what absolutely has to be done immediately, what would be nice but not necessary, and the good news (aka, what can hold for a while).
I’m back at the mechanic shop a little while later and Jay is laying out to me what needs to be done to the car so she keeps running. The news is bad. My transmission needs to be replaced. Without it, the car could die at anytime. He listed off a few other non-negotiable items and when I tallied the total we stood for a moment. The repairs almost doubled the current value of the car.
I could feel a huge lump forming in my throat.
I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Tell me Jay,” I waited. “If you were me, what would you do?”
I could sense a rush of words, sympathy, and a pregnant pause.
“Your car is done, Holly. I’d tow her to the graveyard. Or you could get a few hundred bucks for parts.” Sensing my impending flow of tears he continued, delivering a surprisingly wise and spiritual sentiment. “I know as humans were not supposed to get attached to things, we’re supposed to practice non-attachment to goods” I nodded, unable to speak. “But it seems like we do. Cars are easy to get attached to.”
While I knew that my fourteen-year-old Jeep was coming to the end of her life, I didn’t imagine her and I wouldn’t get through this summer and another winter together. It’s in this moment I realize that I am attached to my Jeep. I’m more than attached to this automobile, these screws and wheels and metal and pipes that make up my Jeep. I love them. I love her.
I can’t remember when I started loving her, but I know now at the end of her life I do. She’s more than metal and parts, a key and ignition. She’s a witness to my growing up, my maturing. She held my hands when I put my head into the steering wheel and cried, she smiled when I put down the backseat so two bodies could fit the long way in the back (cover your eyes and ears, Mum and Dad!), she held my screams when all the windows were rolled up and I needed an outlet, if only to hear my own voice to assure myself I wasn’t, in fact, going crazy.
I slept in the back of the car on more than one occasion. I moved cities four times with her. She’s been broken into, busted up, dragged and pulled. She waited for me in a driveway for years while I was away on International postings, often she was the largest material item I owned. She turned over every bitingly cold winter morning. She has held nine partygoers on the way to Stampede. She has been a champion, a consistent material item in my life for twelve years.
My Jeep has bore witness to my life, my growing up, my stages and phases. While it feels bizarre to admit my attachment and love for my car, I’m at peace with it. I’ll find a way to run my hands along the steering wheel for the last time, lovingly touch her warm silver hood, and say goodbye.
I’ll also be sure to tell her thank you for her good service. I know when I walk out of the mechanic shop the last time I’ll let the tears fall, but I’ll try to feel gratitude too: for her service, for her lifespan, for the gifts she has given me.
The Jeep, Rookie Camp at University of Alberta, circa 2005.