Meet Sylvia, our 2002 Honda Accord.
You’re probably thinking, what’s so special about a 15+ year-old vehicle? And I wouldn’t beg to differ. I mean look at her. The paint’s wearing off her chassis, she’s speckled (or freckled) all over, she’s dented here and there, she needs a face and body lift and she isn’t what she used to be.
Take Sylvia for a drive around the town? She’ll brake at traffic lights, STOP signs and obey every command. Except when it’s time to move again. She’ll groan, whine and wheeze and beg you to leave her alone. “Hey, Sylvia, want to go on the highway?” You’ll be cruising along on the right-most lane at maybe 50 or 60mph, my friend. And that’s it… you’ll forever cruise at that speed and no more. Try revving the accelerator and Sylvia will cough and wheeze and plead.
Our family’s been talking about exchanging her for another vehicle and letting her go – not just once or twice but over the last few years. And we have 2 or 3 time. Each time my heart sank as I watched her drive away for what I thought was the last time only to see her return!! *Fate* You can guess who was truly excited she was back home!! She returned because someone was able to just about fix her or because her bumper was temporarily fixed and she was functioning and in decent working order (at least that’s what I believe). Once again she conveniently parked herself on our driveway where she belonged.
At home. With us. With me.
And now the topic’s come up again because the family insists Sylvia isn’t up to par anymore. I look at her and my heart sinks again.
When we arrived in the U.S. in New Jersey, back in September 2001, Sylvia was our first vehicle. I remember getting my U.S. driver’s license a few weeks after she found us (yes, I believe we found each other) and the next day I had to drive both kids (then 1 and 5) to the pediatrician. At first, I freaked out but I made it to and back. Another time I drove to the post office, took the wrong turn and found myself (and a well fed and snoozing 1.5-year old in the back) on a highway we’d just ventured out the week before. I’d never driven on a highway in America and when I saw the familiar sign of the furniture store we’d visited, I realized we were on Route 1. I remember desperately trying to keep calm, talking to Sylvia and looking for a jug-handle turn (because New Jersey doesn’t offer immediate left turns) while figuring out how to get home. I kept going back and forth on the highway for an hour and as if by instinct, Sylvia guided me back home – this folks was before the time of GPSs and iphones.
No Siri to guide you. Only Sylvia.
See the back seat? My now 22 and 18-year old boys would hop in their child car seats, strap themselves in and Sylvia took them anywhere and everywhere from soccer practice, to roller-skating classes to internships at high school. I’m not saying she drove them on auto pilot or something… my husband or I were always in the front seat. But without fail she took us where we needed to go.
Which reminds me of a time in 2003… my younger son was only 3 years old when I braked at a red light. The traffic light turned green, I hit the accelerator and we began to crawl when a vehicle came hurtling out from the right (to take a left) and would have hit us for sure. I tapped the brakes, and Sylvia came to a complete halt as if she knew. She’s saved us many many times since.
Then there was a time when I stopped to fill gas and accidentally left the key in the vehicle on the way to kiddy’s playschool. My 3-year old was waiting for me to get back in when the driver’s door wouldn’t open. I panicked, hopped from door to door hoping one magically would. Nothing. All the doors had automatically locked. Armed with a cell phone I called 9-1-1 and within minutes a fire truck arrived. Using a long wire which they slid down the front passenger door, the very handsome firemen unlocked Sylvia to a wave of applause from a mini crowd that had gathered by now. With much gratitude and grateful to the (handsome) firemen’s heroic deeds I was on my way. The incident left a mark on Sylvia. The front passenger door rattled ever since the incident and continues to this today.
I could go on and on… after all it’s been a 17-year journey with Sylvia and she’s accompanied me on another 17-year journey. I’ve written first drafts of several manuscripts in the driver seat, revised numerous versions of the books in the series and outlined chapters behind the steering wheel – while parked, of course!
To anyone else Sylvia may look like an old piece of metal with a functional steering wheel, four tires, mirrors, dented sides, like any old car. To me she’s been a cherished friend, a confidante, someone whose helped me raise my kids and my books. She has her own story… she’s saved us from numerous what-could-have-been catastrophes. She’s held on in hail, heavy downpours and snow. She’s been on the ready to go… even when she physically couldn’t go.
And now it’s time to let her go.
And I don’t know how to let her go.
Because how do you say goodbye to someone whose been with you from the time you arrived as an immigrant in a new country? Who held on and never let you go?