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Trading Cars

The summer before my junior year in college I decided I needed a car before I returned to school in the fall. I had several reasons for coming to such a decision. The main reason being that I was taking a daily class at Cornell and I didn’t want to take the bus from Ithaca to Cornell everyday because it would add an hour to my travel time. So I did what any responsible, motivated and driven college student with a summer job would do: I tried to convince my parents to buy me a car. I started with my mom. She bought me my first car so I felt I had a good shot with her. I would still be driving that first car if it had not been totaled in an accident that both the police officer and insurance company agreed was not my fault. And yet, apparently there was a “one and done” rule with my mom because she was not budging when I came to her this time with my best pitch for a second car.

So that left my dad. A reasonable man and my only remaining chance. I knew I had to succeed with him. The man had a law degree so I knew my arguments had to be solid. I needed to have my facts together. I needed make sure he understood how much this car would benefit him too. I reminded him that once I had my car, he wouldn’t have to make the 6 hours drive to drop me off or pick me up from school anymore. I promised him that after two years, when I graduated, he could have the car back and would then he would have a larger car to be able to transport things around when he needed one. I may have also played the daddy’s girl card and exaggerated the conditions of a perfectly respectable public transit system in the town of Ithaca but I was desperate for a car.

My powers of persuasion must have paid off because that summer the two of us went used car shopping. I had done my research. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Honda CR-V. It was large enough to hold my stuff while travelling to and from college each semester but not too much of a gas guzzler. It would handle well in the snow which is a must for a Virginia girl driving in upstate New York in the winter. I remember how excited I was when my dad bought the car. It was only three years old and it was wonderful. It had a pull out card table in the trunk if I ever randomly needed a table. Believe it or not, this was a huge selling point for me about the car. In the two years that I drove the car, I think I only used the table twice but it was great to know that it was there if I needed it.

I loved that car. I logged plenty of hours driving to and from school at the beginning and end of each semester. Driving down Interstate 81, I listened to a lot of great music and thought through a bunch of life choices in that car. It was the perfect car. For the two years that I drove that car, we were perfectly paired.

Eleven years later, my dad still owns that car. True to our agreement, when I graduated my dad took the car back and has used it as his back up car ever since. It’s a bit more banged up than it was when I drove it. It doesn’t run as smoothly, being that it’s a 14-year-old car. We borrow the car from time to when our van is in the shop because we can’t fit three car seats in the back of our compact car.

Our van has been in the shop since Monday. Which means we’ve had the CR-V for the entire week. As perfect as the CR-V was for me as a 20-year-old, it could not be more ill-suited for me in my current life situation. Our three car seats BARELY fit in the back seat and when all three kids are in the car they are sitting elbow to elbow. This works great for kids who have no desire to touch each other or pick at each other. Unfortunately that phrase does not describe my children. Also, this is the first time we’ve borrowed the car since the twins have been able to open car doors. So that was fun on the first ride in the CR-V when they both decided to open the door while we were sitting at an intersection and then didn’t know how to close the door. I have since enabled the child-locks so we’ve nipped that problem in the bud. Also, our water heater broke this week so we showered at the gym one day after school. I didn’t realize how much more space our van had until I had three backpacks and a gym bag crammed in the front seat.

While it’s been incredible helpful this week as a temporary car for us, there is no way I’d ever want it to be our permanent car. It just would not work for our family. I miss the automatic doors on our minivan. I miss the captain chairs that separate siblings that like to pick at each other. I miss the kids being able to buckle themselves in alone instead of needing my help because the car seats are packed in so tightly.

It’s tempting to let the new problems of the CR-V taint the memories of the past. It’s tempting to deem the CR-V the worst car ever. It’s tempting to hate it. When I drive the car now, I can hardly believe it’s the same car that I used to love so much. We’ve both changed. My life demands different things now than it once did. Even if I didn’t change, cars don’t stay new forever. They start to rattle and shake and don’t run as smooth.

There are a lot of things in life that work this way: hobbies, jobs, cities we live in. As we go through the different seasons of life, our needs and wants change. Things that fit one season might not fit in another season of our life. This doesn’t discredit the times from the past. Those memories will always be there. It just means that it’s time to move on. It’s time to find something that fits you better. As a college student, I never thought I’d choose a minivan over my CR-V but today I wouldn’t trade my minivan for anything.


Mark Etingchap

Another superb display of writing talent, chapette!

Susan Ward

Thank you Mark!