Saturday, February 26, 2011

The end of a legacy

Many of you have enjoyed a ride in "Bonnie" the 1995 green Bonneville.  How I love my Bonnie.  In 1996, Bonnie came home with my parents- a brand new car.  She was beautiful.  Her forest green color was all the rage, and coupled with my dad's pinstripe job, well, she was a beauty. 

In her younger years, Bonnie would smile at you when you approached her.  Or at least it seemed that way.  You would smile when you approached her and her smooth, glossy side panels would reflect your smile right back.  Her motto in life was "Luxary with Attitude" and she lived it that way everyday. 

In 1999 I inheritated Bonnie from my parents.  She was a little upset to lose her place in the garage, her smile faded a bit, but she never complained.  Day in and day out she would pull in and out of the gravel pit to bring me to school.  The little rocks sticking between her tire treads.  Every once in awhile we'd go play on the highway.  She LOVED to show me what she was made of, purring as the accelerator hit the floor. 

Years went by.  Her air conditioning gave out, but her windows worked well.  Together we learned how to put on a spare.  She always stayed in good shape.  I took care of her and she took care of me.  She was never a gas guzzler- we made it from Houghton to Grand Rapids on only 1 tank of gas getting 28 mpg, well above what was expected from her.

Finally, after all her hard work, she got a garage again.  This garage wasn't heated like the last, but at least it was covered from the elements.  The swamp beneath her tires never bothered her, not even on cold winter nights.  Bonnie was just happy to be loved and appreciated.  I was always so proud of her reliability- others would comment about her.  "She will run forever, she has a great motor in her."  Everyone knows that the motor is the heart of a car, and hers was made of gold.

More time went on and she developed a few more quirks.  The passenger side door stubbornly refused to unlock unless done manually from the inside.  Rust over a wheel.  All things that happened to her, nothing that she did wrong.  Her beauty began to fade on the outside, but on the inside it grew.

She carried me through horrendous weather, to and from Holland while I was carrying baby boy.  Cars off the road everywhere, but not Bonnie.  No, Bonnie would never allow anything to happen to me or my precious cargo.  Holding the road tight, she carried on.

Baby arrived and Bonnie took the change gracefully into mommy mobile.  As baby boy grew he began to recognize Bonnie as Mommy's car.  He would happily point Bonnie out in a crowd of cars saying "Dat's mommy's car."  Sure, she wasn't the youngest car on the block and she had her quirks, but don't we all?  She remained reliable and practical, never asking for much more than an oil change here and some gas there.

Time went on and Bonnie continued to age.  Rust started on her roof, but it didn't matter...just a sign of how long she had served her family proudly.  Kind of like laugh lines, they are earned.

Then the gas in the garage incident occurred.  She just couldn't hold her bladder, the poor girl, I knew she felt disgraced.  For how little she cost us through the years, it was a small price to pay to have her fixed.  It was then that we got the news.  "She's really rusted under there.  We managed to fix her this time without anything else breaking, but there are no guarantees how long anything will last or what will happen with future repairs.  You really need a new car."

It was so hard to hear.  But she is my Bonnie.  Are you sure?  Can't we just keep fixing her?  She will be ok, she is always ok.  Then the realization.  She is 16 years old.  If the mechanic who stands to make a lot of money in repairs says the end is near, we cannot ignore it.

I brought her home alone that night.  We cried together, or rather I cried to her.  Her years of devoted service.  So reliable, never complaining.  The silent friend who is always there for you...never asking for anything in return.  Oh how I love my Bonnie.

Things changed after that night.  I was afraid to depend on Bonnie.  We no longer washed her under carriage for fear it would loosen the rust holding her together.  The snow plow piles at the end of the driveway that used to look like so much fun to plow through just looked like a possible resting ground for her.  Shoveling the swamp from the garage became a regular occurance...trying to keep it from doing poor Bonnie any more damage.  I constantly smelled the marshland beneath her in the garage praying it wasn't more gas.  Slushy roads were no longer a challenge but a reason to slow down until we were passed by minivans with mom's and newborns in them.  Her nickname became "the green bomb" because I was afraid she would blow at any moment.

Discussions began.  Discussions I hoped to never have.  What to do with poor Bonnie.  How long does she have left?  My heart aches just thinking of it.  We cannot do anything for her.  I hate that feeling.  What is next?  How did the years go by so quickly?  Why must things change?

One evening I felt it, it was time.  The next morning the toddler and I picked up Nonnie-bo-nonnie to test drive another.  The goal was to hate this new car.  Cute as that Kia Soul is, I must hate her.  She is different than Bonnie.  She is young, she has no devotion to us.

Loading the car seat into the Soul was remarkably easy, but still I held back.  The seats are so comfortable, she has a lot of room inspite of the fact that she is 1/2 the size of Bonnie.  Her sticker boasts amazing gas mileage.  But no, Bonnie has a full tank of gas and I don't drive far.  There is no need for a change.

Wow, she manuevers so easily.  And she is spunky despite her smaller engine.  I might like this new Soul.  The worry about rusting out parts leaves my mind.  I can drive her anywhere and it's ok.  Those railroad tracks aren't a problem.  The bumpy road is fine.  Toddler is calling it a race car.  Ha!  This Soul is good, she has a good soul.  But she is certainly too expensive.  Good thing I still have Bonnie.

"How did you like it?" asks the dealer.  "Not bad, some road noise."  I know how to play this game.  We enter his office.  I don't like to play games.  I want to know bottom price now.  I want to know top price for Bonnie now.

"We looked at your Bonneville here is what they will offer you if you trade."  I glance at the paper and notice there is an extra digit in it than I expected.  WOW!  Apparently they can see she has a heart of gold.  They appreciate her even in her old age and rust.  The dealer explains that his son is in the market for a car and he is hoping that if the deal works out, that he can buy this car for his son.  A likely story I think.  He knows the level of my attachement to her.  Certianly the price will be high on the Soul.

"Here is what I can offer the Soul to you for."  My eyes bulge a little, really?  That is close to what I had only dreamed of paying, I never thought we'd see that number. Maybe he has talked to AT&T recently and heard that I complain about even a 10 cent increase.  Or perhaps he glanced at my bank account and young son and felt pity on us.  Or maybe he noticed my $3 Target turtle neck for what it was even with my attempt to 'class it up' a bit. 

I am honest with him, as I was brought up to be.  "That is close to a number I think we would be comfortable with.  To be honest, I expected to have to argue with you to get close to that price.  I hate dickering.  I appreciate you being up front and not making me fight." 

"Will you buy this car?"  And that is where a wife ends her reign or independance.  I explain that my husband and I make monetary decisions together and that I was test driving hoping to hate this new Soul, but I am in need of a new car.  I promise that I want my husband to test drive it and the rest is up to him.

"Will you put down a deposit to hold it for the day until your husband can come drive it?"

This is a bold move on my part.  "Yes."  The move is voided a little in the fact that the check I write is for more that is in my account at the moment.

"Should I have it ready for you to take home tonight?  I will fill up the tank and wash it for you."

Gas is $3.45 a gallon now, that's worth like $150 in itself.  I know what he's asking though, how serious am I.  I am asking myself the same question.  "What if we don't take it?"  He says that's fine, but he will fill it up just in case.  He knows.  He has been doing this long enough to know that this Soul is perfect for my family and me.  It's a practical choice, and it is obvious I am a practical kind of person.

I e-mail hubby when I get home with the news.  Yes I love the Soul.  In fact, I love the Soul enough to let the Bonneville go.  They have a 2010 they want to move, no it's not Alien green like I hoped, but the light silver is more practical for resale and it won't show the dirt.  The price is amazing.  Please go and test drive it.  I will respect your decision.  You have never lead our family astray and I trust your judgement 100%.  I coyly add either way we have to go there to get the deposit back.

We take the Bonnie to hubby's test drive, stopping at the bank on the way there to pick up some cash to flash.  Good thing we get paid this week.

I introduce hubby to friendly dealer whom I trust.  The Soul is parked up front nice and clean, she is smiling at me.  No, it's just my reflection.  It reminds me of Bonnie when she was young and it makes me feel familar with this Soul, like an old friend.

Hubby likes the Soul, which is no surprise to me.  Everything is great for us.  It's like the stars lined up and sent her to us as a gift.    He says we should offer $1000 less.  I am half paying attention.  Whatever you want to do honey.  I trust you.  I know I am going home with this Soul tonight, which means that Bonnie will be left behind.

Hubby puts on his poker face.  Dealer smiles, he knows that hubby is doing his job and he appreciates it.  He knows that we are buying this Soul, but he won't take advantage of that knowledge.  Dealer shows hubby the figures and hubby kind of stops puzzled.  It is only $87 more than the price he said on the test drive with me.  My e-mail to him wasn't clear.  I can see his mind rethinking his offer.  He throws out a number and we split the difference.  The men shake on it and I have a new car.

Hubby moves everything from Bonnie to Souleste as I learn all the gadgets and gizmos.  He knows that even in my excited state that it is hard for me to say goodbye.  I can call you from my steering wheel!  How cool!  I play with a few things and then turn to Bonnie.  I take one last good look at her and a tear rolls down my cheek.  Love you Bonnie.  Thank-you Bonnie.  You have been a blessing to our family Bonnie, and you have left a legacy.

Dealer looks at me and says "I was serious about buying that car.  I am going to talk to the manager tomorrow.  That car has a great engine.  My son would love it."  I know she will be well cared for.  He has access to parts and services for prices we could otherwise never afford.  But it's still hard to say goodbye. 

I walk up to Souleste, my own little mid-life crisis, hopefully toddler's first car, our family's first brand new car, and the beginning of a new chapter.  She smiles at me, she saw Bonnie and has decided she is up for the challenge.

Why name her Souleste?  The stars all had to align to bring us together...and she's got soul.  And now we do too.

1 comment:

  1. Oooohhh, I'm crying over your story of Bonnie and Souleste. We bought a new car last year, but kept my 1994 Civic (which I bought new) as our second car since I couldn't bear to part with her. She now sits in our drive-way and has only been driven a handful of times in the past year. I know it was hard to say good-bye to Bonnie, but it must be nice to know someone else is loving her and taking her out on the town.