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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

Could barely watch as our old car crept onto the ramp of the vehicle that would tow it away. No, it wasn’t my father’s Oldsmobile—but it was my father’s Mercury, as well as my mother’s Mercury, before it became ours.

My father planned to go on many adventures when he bought a new Mercury Sable in spring of 2001. But soon after its maiden voyage—a joyful college reunion where he and my mother and their returning classmates of fifty years earlier were honored—he received a diagnosis of cancer’s return. Instead of driving off into sunsets to see his grandchildren, children, and friends, as well as sites previously unknown, he became a passenger in that car, chauffeured often to treatments and procedures back and forth through the canyons forged by the Big Thompson River. Nature’s beauty remained a constant companion on those final journeys he never chose to take.

This would not have been the car my mother chose for herself. But when he died before a year had passed since its purchase, the car was too much depreciated for her to sell it without a loss. So instead she drove off in it on her own solo adventures, as well as those with family members and friends, to locations near and far.

When my mother stopped driving almost six years later, that car came to us for our own adventures, both with and without her. We called the car the Grandma-mobile—which wasn’t really fair since she never would have chosen such a large car with such a long front end. This car most definitely did not fit the picture of what our two 16-year-old drivers preferred, but its ability to seat six worked well when we drove our kids and their friends during the period when their graduated licenses did not yet allow them to drive alone with their age-peers.

You know how the story went. Yes, I ended up with my father’s Mercury, which didn’t fit the picture of what a certain 46-year-old mother wanted to drive either. But we were grateful to receive a good car with low mileage, which was a much-needed answer to our burgeoning transportation needs.

That car played a big role in our own family stories and travels and transitions. It drove off to college loaded down with too much stuff, but returned home with two parents ready for a time of greater rest. The Mercury later transported our family to the sacred grounds where we laid my mother to rest. I picked up my daughter from her first year at college in it so she and I could take a classic western road trip to pick up my new puppy—not that my father would have ever allowed a dog in his car, let alone a puppy leaving his mother for the first time!

When this mom finally got a car more in tune to her dreams (a MINI S), my son Jackson was grateful to inherit the Grandma-mobile. True, he was no fan of parallel parking it but he most definitely appreciated the get-up-and-go as well as the ability to work and play without having to juggle cars with us. Unfortunately, the car (and its driver) got-up-and-went a bit too fast on an icy day last November, leaving the driver unscathed but every panel on the driver’s side damaged—enough so that the insurance company totaled the car due to its age—an age that reminds me just how long my father (and then my mother) have been gone.

Seems fitting that my father’s car left us on the last day of Mercury in retrograde. You may not believe in the power of the stars over our lives but this concept is just the right metaphor for saying goodbye to his Mercury. Astronomically, Mercury in retrograde is the time when the planet Mercury appears to reverse its orbit due to its position in the sky—which looks a whole lot like going backward. According to the StarChild site (linked to NASA), it is not doing so, but “. . . just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun.” Astrologers, on the other hand, see Mercury in retrograde not only as a time of complications in areas such as transportation and communication (as Mercury is the god of both areas), but also as a time for returning to past connections.

So, Dad, thanks again for the Mercury—though we never, ever managed to keep up with your standards and plans for its cleanliness, we did our best to live up to your dreams of taking adventures in your chariot of choice.

Farewell, oh fleet-footed one—turns out you were just what we needed after all.

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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

I try really hard to love my life for the people and the experiences in it and the beliefs I hold. Life for me is not about status or what I own or where I live or anything like that—expect for when it is.

I’ve always feared consumerism in others and I try to snuff it out in myself, but deep down I realize that I am at least still materialistic. Not a material girl in the Madonna way, but just that I know sometimes I get really attached to certain material things. For me consumerism is about wanting stuff for the sake of having it or getting something new or impressing someone else or trying to create an image—all that I try to avoid. No, I’m not quite to the level I’d like to be in the “store up your treasures in heaven” attitude, but I try.

So it’s hard for me to admit that I love my car—and that it is the kind of car that also appeals to hipsters and people who do care what others think. Last month I felt like some sort of fraud while hanging around while getting the car serviced (after 10 months—oil changes only once every 10,000 miles—awesome!)—even the waiting area felt too trendy for someone like me. Who’d have thunk I’d be driving a MINI Cooper S? Not me.

You see it’s my husband’s fault we have this car—and Sherman’s no hipster either. He’s just been coveting them for years. Last year, it became painfully obvious we needed another car around here due to everyone’s differing schedules. Finally, I told him to go drive one. How was he going to know if he really liked them if he didn’t check them out?

So when he found a “pre-owned” (what people like me call “used”) one with reasonable miles, he took it for a spin. He liked it, he really liked it, even though he was out driving it on a dark and stormy night. Throughout the week while we vacillated—I just didn’t want to spend any money, period—the salesperson kept calling—and the price dropped.

When Sherman took me and our son Jackson to see the vehicle in the daylight, I didn’t think anything would come of it, no matter how cute the darn thing was. Both my guys took the car screaming over the hills outside the (BMW) dealership. Our fill-in salesperson—the finance guy who used to work at the MINI location and who knew all about them—was not too excited to squeeze himself into that back seat for that type of journey, but he actually knew more about the car than the BMW salesperson did.

I think he was happier with my cautious driving style than with the let-‘er-rip style practiced by my guys, but he wasn’t so thrilled with my cautious buying style. Don’t think he’d met many with my level of reticence for spending at that place—I mean there were cars there selling for $132,000. My inclination was to run out of that oh-so-precious space and go find some bucket of bolts that probably would have nickled and dimed us to our last penny. But thanks to my habit of not spending too often, I had built a credit number that was the highest Mr. Finance had seen—at the BMW place, no less. (That my husband’s score was slightly lower is due to the fact he’s the one who has the reliable salary and whose credit we typically use, but he’s no slacker either—let’s face it, we are just cheap—usually.)

And with those credit records we could obtain financing that made a lot more sense than paying for a bunch of repairs on a less reliable vehicle.

Can I help it that my reliable and safe vehicle (yes, Sherman checked the reports and ratings even before that first drive) is just so fun to drive? Note: I don’t even like to drive, but I do now. Errands? No problem. City traffic? Still a problem, but so much better with all that zip as well as the as-easy-as-it-gets parking of such a small car. Decent insurance rates, reasonable gas mileage, and ergonomically suitable for my touchy lower back—and with racing stripes on it! So what if the heater takes its time—I’ve finally got heated seats!

OK, enough with the exclamation points. But you get the point—I like the material possession that is my car. Turns out I’m a bit of a material girl, after all.

Nonetheless, I doubt I’m going to respond to all those email ads I get telling me “ the new MINIs are in, new MINIs are in” within anything close to the next decade. Our closest “new” vehicle is the car I drove and now my son drives—the 2000 grandma-mobile my mom gave us in 2008. Sherman just replaced his 1994 with a 1998—after we realized buying a “newer” vehicle would be cheaper than repairing his. And our daughter still drives the only car we ever bought new—back in 1998.

Yup, that’s me smiling like the Cheshire Cat behind the wheel of my little striped car. I’ve got the car I didn’t know I wanted—and I’m keeping it.

P.S. Happy almost anniversary (November 2) to us and our little car–it’s been a great year! Here’s to many more happy miles together!

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert