In my early twenties, after years of driving a number classic teenage beaters into the ground...I purchased my first "grown up" car...You know, one that actually required a loan, and the first that I was entirely financially responsible for, aside from the assistance of my grandmother as a co-applicant. My dad had found the 2002 Nissan Maxima in a business parking lot with a for sale by owner sign on it. He felt it was a safe and reliable car and everything about it looked great to me; shiny grey paint, leather interior, a CD player - I was sold.
We contacted the buyer and the rest was almost history, until things started to get fishy. We learned that I wouldn't be getting the title on the day of the sale because the owner needed to use my money to pay off his own loan. A couple of other red flags were raised, but my determination to own a car blurred my vision and I forced my way forward. On the day of the sale my father urged me not to follow through...but my stubborn stupidity ignored the warning. I received the title some fifteen days after purchasing then vehicle. The car never passed inspection. Just out of college, making $13.00 an hour, I was in over my head. The price tag on the repairs exceeded what I would make in four months. I drove that car, with a faded red rejection sticker on it for years. I smiled at every police officer I passed and prayed that they would look at me, and not my lower right windshield. Looking back at my younger self, there were many ways that I could have resolved the situation over time...but I was scared and stubborn, I felt frustrated and stupid, taken advantage of, and so, the only reasonable answer was for me to ignore the problem and keep my fingers crossed.
When I met my husband, he wasn't yet a police officer. Still, I am pretty sure he noticed my inspection sticker almost immediately. I remember feeling so embarrassed. He seemed to have EVERYTHING together, and I could barely keep my cellphone payments current. Time went by, as it does. I don't really remember what my plan for that car was...I like to think that I had one, but I cannot be sure. So much time had gone by since I bought the car, I refused to slow the rest of my life down to take care of this daunting problem. John and I rented our first apartment together, we bought a couch and a bed and the money I made just went as quickly as it came.
In August of 2011 we got engaged. I don't know if I will ever feel that lucky again. He still had his shit together WAY more than I did, and I think I was constantly waiting for him to figure that out. But in February of 2012, John took his savings to help me out of my vehicular nightmare and into a brand new, black four door Jeep Wrangler. It was this gesture, act of love, that humbled me right down to nothing. I knew that he loved me, I am quite lovable. I knew that he wanted to be with me forever, I am not quite sure there is another woman more perfect to handle him and his ways. But in this moment, I realized that he wanted to take care of me forever, and I had never so secure in my life.
I LOVED that Jeep. Every time I took the tops off, or forgot to put them on, or received a friendly Jeep wave, I was reminded that I am loved and protected and that I didn't have to be perfect to deserve it.
Yesterday was the last day I'll drive that Jeep. I said goodbye to it this morning as I left for work. It's just a car. It's just a thing. But it is so much more to me. As I get further and further away from the person who I was back then, I never want to forget what it felt to be loved and cared for, and given the space to grow and change in my own time.