Bringing the contours to rest

I never thought I could find such philosophy – so much thoughtful exchange – in the world of vehicles. But it’s there. Don’t worry, I’ve found it. All in the span of a month, I’ve found the answers to life, folded into a glove compartment, next to a handful of ketchup packets and a couple of plastic sporks.

Our last month, vehicle-wise, has been a series of trials, from not-at-fault accidents to the sudden passing of an old stand-by. And lessons have been there to learn, each and every time. We no longer need sappy, over produced garbage like Chicken Soup for the Soul. We just need the personal experience that comes from gaining and losing a group of cars and trucks.

We’ve learned that it’s best to be thankful of what didn’t happen – as was the case when a 14-year-old girl smashed into the side of our Jetta with no helmet and little common sense. We’ve learned that even if it wasn’t our fault, we should be happy things didn’t turn out any worse, that no one was hurt in the slightest. Of course, that doesn’t mean letting it all go. $1800 is a lot of damage. Yet, at the same time, it does mean letting it all go – right into the hands of the people who are better equipped to handle the problem. The insurance agency.

We’ve learned that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We wanted to hold onto our Ford Contour until the Jetta’s payments were up. We couldn’t. In fact, we missed it by a little less than two years. Now, we’re wishing we had taken better care of the car, that we hadn’t driven it unnecessarily. That we had noticed the temperature light far before $1700-3000 worth of damage rendered it useless, too expensive to fix.

We’ve learned that balance is as natural as breathing. For the past two weeks, we’ve been bouncing between a series of vehicles. We made the decision to purchase from an out of town, small dealership. We took the Jetta in to get body work done. And from these two seemingly unrelated tasks, we learned the true meaning of balance. As one car died, we found another beautiful prospect. As one car was in to get fixed, we borrowed a loaner. As we purchased the “beautiful prospect,” our loaner (in)conveniently burned out on us. Everything led to another, and here we are – just hours after purchasing our new vehicle – still with just one car.

Maybe the most important lesson we learned was one of loss. It’s weird to think of the memories that are wrapped up inside of a vehicle, a machine built out of glass and metal and grease. But they’re there. We found them as we cleaned out the Contour tonight, discovering Christmas cards from years ago, a fistful of coins, and a tape given to us when we were still in college.

Our Ford Contour brought us together. I had no vehicle, so as we grew together, the car brought us closer. We traveled to discover music, art, and a college lifestyle that included the free reign to see friends in other towns, to see how they lived and smell the fresh air after a morning of drinking and sleeping on a couch. It delivered us home to Sioux Falls – many times, actually – and it dropped us off for good when we moved back just three and a half years ago.

The Contour took me to St. Cloud after I had made the decision to transfer and be closer to Kerrie. The Contour, in some small way, traveled with us (in spirit, even) to London, to Paris, to Seattle, as it waited in the parking lot, or in our driveway, for us to return. The Contour took us to the movies, to the store, filled our lives with necessities and wants, cost us a few bucks every now and then, but eventually connected us with the outside world that we couldn’t quite grasp from a balcony overlooking a church parking lot in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.

That Ford Contour, while taking a dump much earlier than it should, gave us a lot of great times. It was a tool. It was a need. But above all this, I dare say, it was a friend.

So if anything, we have left one friend behind and met another in the distance. Our Ford Contour can be fixed – it can be resold for a very low price. It may be someone’s first car. Quite possibly, someone without the financial means to buy a more expensive car can do a little connecting of his or her own. If anything, it will be stripped down and used as it’s needed. Kind of like it always had been. As needed.

Everything is in balance. Things happen for a reason. Is it a coincidence that this Ford Contour – a machine built in 1996, a car that transferred through three owners and was driven nearly 94 thousand miles – was meant to finally leave our lives when it did? At a time when a nearly perfect Subaru Outback – a car that Kerrie’s always dreamt of having – becomes available at a steal of a price?

We’ve replaced one car with another. The physical bonds are now gone. But the memories, as they say in the movies, will always remain.

This was lovingly handwritten on July 5th, 2006