She's home.

I got my car back this morning. I doubt that many people would rejoice over the return of a six-year-old underpowered purple Sundance…but it's my car, and I've actually rather missed having her around. I always thought people were joking when they said that their cars developed character as they aged; now that I own an aging car, I understand.

My parents gave me this car during the latter half of my senior year in high school. The unspoken agreement was that if I paid for my college costs, they would pay for this car. There are a lot of memories in that car. I remember fitting an entire dorm room's worth of belongings in that car four times a year; varied things piled so high that I could barely see out of the back window and the trunk barely closed. (In fact, most of the scrapes and scratches on the interior ceiling of the car are from when I was putting my stereo in the car, or taking it out…)

It's been a tool for exploration and self-discovery. My first adventure down to Alabama was in this car; the passenger seat piled with maps of Memphis, Mississippi, and Alabama; a few snacks to get me through the drive and a miniature milk crate filled with mix tapes.

When I crossed the Mississippi River that day, crossing alone for the first time, I drove with my knees holding the steering wheel steady while I yelled with joy and banged my hands on the roof of the car. I was a sophomore in college, and that was my first taste of what it was like to have the freedom of an adult—to go anywhere I wanted to go, without having to explain where or why.

More thoughts:

  • I made countless trips between Alabama and Arkansas and back, nearly frying the speakers beyond repair in the process.
  • I made three a.m. ice cream runs to Wal-Mart with friends.
  • On the day I finished my last exam as a college student, I packed my bags and stowed them in this car. I started the car and just sat there for a few minutes, marveling at the fact that never again would I live in a dormitory.
  • I drove to my wedding in this car. I pulled up to the church and sat there for a moment or two, asking myself if I was really ready to go through with what I was doing. (Obviously, I decided the answer was "yes.")
  • I moved to Alabama in this car. This was right after the wedding; I'd already sent my belongings out here, but there was something final about crossing the Mississippi River with intentions of leaving.

They say that machines have no souls, except for the ghosts of our experiences that we superimpose on them. It's only our anthropomorphic urges that cause us to project feelings, experiences, and temperaments onto a collection of moving mechanical parts.

Either way, I'm glad she's home. She may have mushy brakes, too much play in the steering, and lots of wear, but sometime over the past six years she's become something like an old friend.