Say goodnight, Gracie
Lot A was for the newer cars. Lot B was for trucks, vans, ATVs, SUVs, and anything that didn't quite qualify as a "car." Lot C was for older cars.
We were the sixtieth car in Lot C at tonight's auction down in Cullman. While waiting for the first fifty-nine cars to be processed, Jeff and I had plenty of time to talk over how much we wanted our reserve price to be. We knew we wouldn't get a lot of money for the car—it was, after all, an eight-year-old Sundance—but we wanted to see if we could do better than the trade-in offer we'd received.
On the drive down to the auction, I found myself laughing as I thought about all of the places this little car has taken me since 1994. Nine states: Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois.
I drove to my high school graduation in this car. I moved myself in and out of dorm rooms in this car. I drove to Alabama to meet a boy I barely knew, and continued driving back and forth for two years until we could get out of school and finally live in the same state.
I drove this car to my own wedding, and then we drove it to Alabama when I finally came out here to stay. Nearly four years later I went tearing back home in the middle of the night to be with my family when we thought Dad had only a few hours left to live.
Last week, we cleaned it up and put an ad in the paper, offering it to the highest bidder. Tonight we took it to an auction, where a man bought it for his teenage daughter. She's probably about the same age I was when I received this car. She'll use it to move away from home, to navigate interstates and take trips that she'll only tell her parents about years after the fact.
Maybe she'll give it a nickname, like I did.
We'll be getting my new car either tomorrow or Monday, but I won't know which day until sometime tomorrow morning. The origins of this car couldn't be more different. Eight years ago, I had no idea that I was getting the Sundance; indeed, didn't have any choice about it at all. This new car was completely selected by me—everything, down to the color of the paint and the trim level of the interior, is of my choosing.
We placed the order for the car shortly before Dad's cancer began worsening rapidly. He sat in his recliner and paged through the Jetta brochures I'd brought for him, asking me more questions about the car than, I think, I had even asked about the car.
About an hour later, he was satisfied. He approved. Mom and I talked later that evening, and I said to her that if Dad was still able to ride in cars when we got the car, that I wanted to figure out a way to put him in the front seat and take him driving—even for just a minute or two.
A week or two later, I found myself revising my wishes downward, hoping that Dad would be able to stay at home long enough so that I could park the car in the backyard, so that he could see it through the picture window.
Instead, here I am a month after the fact. I'll use the car to go out to Arkansas to see my father's headstone. I'll take my mother for a drive, and maybe show Eleanor and Colter that I finally managed to get a car with more than two doors. But oh, how I wanted my father to see this car—to see that I'd finally grown up enough to make decisions like this on my own. So that maybe, finally, he could be proud of the adult that I'm starting to turn into.
As for the tagline for this post? Every night on their radio (and later, television) show, George Burns would turn to his wife, Gracie Allen, and say: "Say goodnight, Gracie."
Her response: "Goodnight, Gracie."
Goodnight, little car.