Mama’s (finally) got a new ride

Melissa Stagnaro

Well, I did it. After all that hemming, hawing and agonizing about replacing my faithful-but-aging Ford Explorer, I traded the old girl in for a newer model last week.

It was hard to say good-bye, just as Boys II Men had warned me it would. But I knew it had to be done.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, and I did just that with my  June 3rd column, “Decisions, decisions.” But it still took me more than a week to gear myself up to the challenge at hand: finding a new car.

Well, actually, if it was up to me, I’d probably have waited even longer. But last Monday, my father showed up at my office at lunchtime. The expectation was clear.

We took a few moments to map out our car shopping strategy, deciding to head North first and then work our way back toward Norwich. Our hope was to hit 2 or 3 car dealers during my allotted 60 minutes.

As it happened, we only made it to one: North Norwich Motors. It was there, that I fell in love.

I’d professed to want another SUV, or at the very least, something AWD. But my heart wasn’t really in it, and even with their diverse inventory, nothing caught my eye.

My dad was pressuring me to test drive something – anything – but I was noncommittal. I wandered the lot somewhat listlessly until, in the midst of trying to convince dear old dad that a tomato red Impala with a black interior was certainly NOT the car for me, something did catch my eye.

It wasn’t even close to being an SUV. No, it was a 2008 Dodge Avenger. In inferno red crystal pearl. (Did I mention I’d always sworn I’d never own a red car?)

There was just something about it. Maybe it was the styling, like a 3/4 sized Charger. (I personally like to think of her as the muscle car’s baby sister.) Or that lustrous paint job. It was sassy, sexy and made me want to purr.

Freddie couldn’t get me the keys fast enough.

And once I was behind the wheel, I knew it was the car for me.

A quick test drive later, I was headed back to work with an appointment to pick up my new ride at noon the following day.

I left almost in a state of shock. It had happened so much faster than I’d anticipated, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that in less than 24 hours I’d be driving away in that glorious piece of car.

My faithful Explorer and I took one last trip together that night. Not along Chenango County’s scenic highways and byways, but down memory lane. Because that’s what if felt like as I as I emptied her of all the mementos of our past travels together.

Memories flooded back as I discovered maps from our pre-GPS cross-country roadtrips, the lucky change my friend Liz had tossed on the floorboards when I’d first purchased her all those years ago, CD’s I’d long given up on, tools I didn’t even know I owned.

Under – and in – the seats were a veritable of time capsule of detritus documenting the last decade: Smints wrappers, a cache of faded gas receipts from service stations in several states, a novelty Las Vegas lighter picked up on a long-ago trip, a stray cassette tape or two, the St. Christopher’s medal my mom had pressed into my hand when I bought my first car, a tire pressure gauge I’d admittedly never used. A zillion pens, and at least half a dozen lip balms. Two pieces of desiccated fruit. Apples, as near as I could tell.

I couldn’t list it all if I tried. Or maybe I could, because each item I removed – whether it went into the trash, or away for safe keeping – brought back vivid moments in time. Moments I’d long since thought I’d forgotten, but were evidently there, just waiting for something to call them forth.

On Tuesday, shortly before noon, I climbed behind the wheel of my old friend one last time. And cried all the way to North Norwich.

My heart was heavy as I handed over the keys, knowing as I did that she’d seen her last of the open road.

I took one last look at her before pulling out of the parking lot, this time at the wheel of my sparkling red Avenger. I think she took one last look at me, too. And I can’t help feeling that she approved of her replacement.

Because, I always knew, that under that conservative white paint job, she had the heart of a shiny red racer.

With that thought in my mind, I said good-bye to my old friend.

And hello, to my new ride.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.