What do you do when you’ve had something since you were sixteen and it’s breaking?
What do you do when you realize a little too much of yourself is tied to a thing?
What do you do when you realize that maybe there is more weight to a thing and its memories than there is freedom?
I drove for months with a window that wouldn’t go up in my car. It wasn’t bad in the summer – often the top was down anyway, so who cares?
But then it started to rain.
We had a week of straight rain. Of me running out of grad class with a towel and garbage bag to frantically cover the gaping hole (it only sort of worked). The rain came in, no matter how hard I tried to cover it. I was pretty resourceful, though, I think.
Then it got chilly, and the morning commutes got less and less comfortable.
For weeks my students laughed at me.
“Magistra, why do you have a towel on your car?”
My neighbor jokingly yelled at me to “get that fixed already!” I told him it was too expensive, that I couldn’t sink another thousand dollars in a ten-year-old car that was falling apart.
“I’m just looking out for you,” he said, smiling.
“If you were really looking out for me, you’d buy me a new window!” (To which he shook his head because we’ve had many years of back-and-forth.)
I was determined to get one more summer out of that cream colored bug. I was determined, actually, never to buy a new car. I was determined to hold on to my sixteen-year-old self that cried when she got home and saw this thing that she never dreamed of having. This material thing that had brought so much joy to her life and her friends’ lives, too.
But the truth is, I am a very different person than I was at sixteen.
I got a letter from a college friend yesterday — a kindred spirit — and she told me how there are so many versions of herself she’s not sure which one to be. And I thought, Yes, that’s exactly right.
When I was sixteen, I was angry. I was afraid. I was sure that I’d never get into college and I was sure that I didn’t deserve whatever love I received.
But I also loved to laugh. I loved going to the diner for pie after performing in our high school shows. I loved walking to the library with my best friend and reading books, teeheeing in the stacks when we came across Portnoy’s Complaint. I was a better baker and cook than I am now, with the time and desire to perfect.
I wrote more in high school than I do now.
I got in a bad car accident and, after being spared, realized that God must, indeed, have work for me to do.
What a frightening thought.
I took trips to Maine in the summer — two teenage girls (I can’t believe we were allowed to do this!) cruised up the highway with the wind in our hair, spent the weekend on the ocean eating seafood and kayaking, shopping in Freeport, feeling the freedom of adulthood that lay just over the way.
All this to say: adulthood is here.
I handed over the keys of this bizarrely dear friend.
I walked away with a new car that has already begun to stand for everything that is new and hopeful.
And I said goodbye to the parts of me that need to go — in the shape of a cream colored convertible bug.
Goodbye, Buglette. It’s been real.
[And Auntie, don’t worry. I kept the orange flower you gave me.]
[P.S. My 8th graders, on seeing my new car: “It’s not quite as Magistra as your other car…”]