Almost two weeks ago, I was in a car wreck. A person who was trying to turn left across a busy, 4-lane road darted out of a metro exit and T-boned my husband’s car. It all happened so quickly — this flash of red darting across my field of vision, the sudden feeling of fear and panic as I immediately realized my husband wouldn’t be able to avoid the other car, the sound of the impact and crunching, breaking metal, and that feeling of being completely out of control and not knowing where we would end up. The impact was so hard that it pushed our car all the way across the road and into oncoming traffic. My husband did his best, but there was literally no way he could control our car as it careened across the road in its crazy slide. We went up onto the curb on the opposite side of the road, then bounced off and back into the street. Our car was totaled. In fact, the insurance company just called yesterday with the payout amount, and we went to the tow yard last week to get the last of our possessions out of the car.
We were lucky in so many ways. By some miracle, there was a break in traffic when we went across the road and slammed into the sidewalk on the other side. If there had been any traffic there, those cars would not have been able to avoid us, and we would have been hit again — possibly multiple times. The place where the accident happened is residential, with town homes lining the sidewalk in neat rows. They stand behind an equally neat line of trees. Somehow, we didn’t hit any of the trees. And there was no one on the sidewalk at the time our car jumped up onto there. There is no shoulder on this stretch of road, but we were able to get our car into a driveway just a short distance from where our crazy slide came to a stop. As my husband was getting out of the car, I looked up to see people running down the sidewalk toward us, drawn by the sound of the crash. It looked like a couple of families, who possibly lived nearby, and they had small children with them. I remember sending up a prayer of thanks that none of those kids were out on the sidewalk in harm’s way when the crash happened.
I hurt my back, knee, and hip in the accident. All the impact was on my side of the car. My door was crushed in and completely stuck, so that I could not get out of the car at first. It looks like I’m going to be doing physical therapy for at least 4 weeks in order to get back to normal. (Or what passes for “normal” for me, anyhow — ha, ha.) Still, I feel I was lucky. My daughter wasn’t in the car. My husband was not injured very badly — just some slight stiffness in his back. And even I was able to crawl across the driver’s side seat and exit the car under my own steam. All things considered, a little pain isn’t too much to bear, when all of the “what ifs” keep running through my mind, with almost every one of them being a much worse scenario.
Really, the worst part of all of it, I think, is that we will lose our car. Everyone has told me, “It’s just a car. It’s just a thing.” And, yeah. I know this is true. I am all right. My husband is all right. I know these are the important things. And yet, I find myself feeling sad and very nostalgic over knowing that our car is destined for the scrap yard. Honestly, the thought of this car ending up as a little, squashed square of metal makes me want to cry. It’s just a thing. And yet, things can hold memories. Things can, if they are loved enough, take on a life of their own.
I remember when my husband bought this car. It was his first “really nice” car. His first new car, and his first huge purchase. We were living apart at that time because of our work, and I remember him coming to my apartment, all excited and grinning because he had just picked up his new car. He couldn’t wait to take me for a ride and show me all the features it had. It smelled like leather and “new”. And it was beautiful. Maybe the most beautiful car I had ever been in at that time. He was so proud, and I was so happy and excited for him.
I remember when we drove this car from Texas to Virginia, after my husband made the very difficult decision to take a new job in a different state. We were scared and unsure and didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if we were doing the right thing or not. But this car carried us forward. It gave us music on the stereo and a place to laugh and share our hopes and fears as the miles hummed away under its tires. It took us toward our new life and a whole, new set of adventures.
I remember when we drove this car home from the hospital, with our newborn daughter riding in her carseat in the back seat. Oh, how tiny she seemed, with her wrinkled face and little fists waving through the air. Neither my husband or I knew exactly what to expect. We had never done this “parent thing” before, and I remember looking up, to see him watching me through the rear view mirror. And he smiled at me, as if to say that we were in this together. A whole new set of adventures and, like always, our faithful car carrying us forward. Ever forward.
I remember when my beloved, old dog was dying. And we took him to the vet for the last time in this car. He had ridden in it so many times over the years, with his head out the window and his ears flapping in the breeze. But, that last trip, he curled up in the back seat, with his head on my lap.
There are almost too many memories to count, and certainly more than I can — or should — try to list here. So many road trips. So many meals grabbed “on the go”: chicken nuggets and french fries shared back and forth across the seats. So many hours of laughter and songs and growing up. The first day of Preschool. The first day of Kindergarten. The first day of Middle School. Dreams shared, plans made, squabbles settled. And, in the end, this car saved my life. I am fairly positive of that fact.
Good-bye, old friend. Thanks for the memories.