Monday, January 14, 2013

Four Cars and a Chainsaw

I have sold four cars in my life.  Each time I sold the car it was because my life had changed and I needed something different.

My first car was terrible.  Only one of the four doors opened from the outside (and it wasn’t the driver’s door).  It burned through a quart of oil every 80 miles so I always had an entire case of Penzoil in the trunk.  Within six months of owning it the alternator went out and the battery died and along with the battery my resolve to keep the car on life support died with it.  Besides, I was enrolling in college and I would be working three jobs and I needed a more reliable car to get me around – preferably one that friends wouldn’t have to slide through open windows in order to get into. 

My second car was a stick shift.  I bought it even though I didn’t know how to drive a stick because it was so much cooler than my last car.  After a couple herky-jerky hours of practice in a parking lot I thought I was ready to go.  Turns out, you don’t really know if you can drive a stick shift until you get stopped at a red light on a steep hill.  Also, as it turns out, that’s a terrible time to learn that you can’t drive a stick shift.  I kept that car all through college and after I mastered the clutch I fell in love with that car.  I took it on road trips, smoked cigars in it, discovered great music in it, had talks about Life and Love in it.  As far as cars go, it was definitely my first true love.  But then I got married and we had decided to move to my wife’s hometown in California and a car without air conditioning just wasn’t going to cut it.  So I traded that car in and almost made enough money on it to cover the cost of the new snow tires I wouldn’t need any more and the stereo I had loved so much. 

Big enough for two people.  Not quite big enough for two people, a dog, and a baby.

My third car was a pretty normal young adult car.  It was a nearly perfect compromise for that time in our life.  It was sporty looking but reliable, got respectable gas mileage but had a few unnecessary frills and it had A/C and a manual transmission (I did say I learned to love driving a stick shift).  That car served us well for several years and the air conditioning definitely helped me get used to the California heat.  But we sold that car when we found out that we were expecting a child.  You just can’t get a baby in and out of a car seat when you’re driving a low-to-the-ground 2-door.  So we bought an SUV for my wife and I got the truck I had always wanted.

Years later I’m now the one driving the SUV and my wife has a new-to-us car.  We sold the truck last weekend.  True to the pattern, life has changed again.  We have decided it is time to pack up 10-years’ worth of junk and move to a new neighborhood in a better school district because our daughter will (impossibly it seems) start school next fall.  And, frankly we never thought we’d stay in our current house as long as we have.  Now you might be wondering why on Earth I would sell a truck before moving.  I know I am.  I already miss having that thing.  The plain truth is that we didn’t need three vehicles but we did need some extra cash for down payments and real estate fees and all those other expenses that come with moving.  So I let go of the truck I drove for nearly a decade.

A small truck is a great thing for a gardener.

We are feeling cautiously optimistic.  We don’t know if our house will sell or when it might.  We don’t know if we’ll find the perfect house for the rest of our lives.  But we feel like we’re in a good position.  We don’t absolutely have to move.  We can take our time and make the right decisions for our family.  But tempering that optimism is a bit of melancholy.  This was, after all, our first house.  This is where our dog achieved his ultimate goal of becoming an inside dog.  This is where Santa has found our daughter every Christmas of her life.  This is the house we managed to furnish to our mutual liking in spite of my wife’s “denim furniture” phase.  This is the house where we figuratively and literally sank our roots.  I have cut down a bunch of burdensome trees and planted new ones that I was excited to see grow.  I have planted boxwood hedges that haven’t had a chance to fill in yet.  Just a few weeks ago I planted a hundred white tulips that might not bloom before we leave.  So, yeah, I’m a little sad to say goodbye before I’ve seen the culmination of all that effort.

One of several trees that fell under my reign here.

But if there’s one thing that selling cars and cutting down trees has taught me about life it’s that letting go of something old is the only way you can grab onto something new.


  1. I wish you a 10 out of 10 on the Great Schools website in a very good school district, and a home with shade where you need it, sun where you want it, a little hill and swale for interest, and with varied microclimates. I completely get where you are with this...having just a couple years ago moved so our daughter could begin kindergarten in a much better school district, I found it very helpful to move all of her things separately from the rest of our stuff, and have it all in the house first; her room was all set up and decorated before anything else went into the house. Also, we did an extensive walk through both inside and out completely treating everything with Monster Spray, and since we don't have a regular chimney or fireplace, I showed her how the Santa Hatch (skylight) works. These things seemed to ease the transition. I have my good thoughts for you.

    1. Thank you kindly, Calvin. I'm hoping for all those things as well - especially for the shade where I need it and sun where I want it.

      It's a really good idea to move the kid's stuff in first. I hadn't thought of that before but it makes so much sense that I will definitely try to make that happen when the time comes.

  2. Coming from a woman who has lived on the same farm for 55 years, I can only wonder about all the emotions you are experiencing now from eager anticipation to melancholia and back again.

    And the vehicles; as a family we are very attached to our assorted cars, too. My husband's car, circa 1989, is still rolling. Parts fall off occasionally, but the lighter the car gets, the better the gas mileage.

    I bet you do miss your truck. You'd think we would have a truck here, but nope, just a trailer and hitches on all four cars. We'd be lost without the trailer, it's indispensable and has hauled countless tons of stone home from quarries and other rock-hunting sprees.

    I do hope you get to see your tulips bloom even if you have to drive by and take a look if your house is sold by then.

    "Letting go of something old is the only way you can grab onto something new." Wonderful quote, I must remember this. I wish you the best of luck on this new adventure.

  3. Chad, Good luck with your move. You didn't even mention that a new house will mean new gardening opportunities! Your description of your first car reminded me of my grad school car; in the last years, I drove around with a box of spare parts in the trunk and only drove on roads that were also bus routes :-| -Jean

  4. The things that happen in our lives do have an effect on the decisions that we make, and in your case, it’s just sad that all of those are keeping you from finally settling on a car. Well, look on the bright side: at the very least, after 4 cars, you and your wife have never found yourselves without a car. The truck would certainly be missed, but if you really needed the cash, then you did the right thing.