I cried when I got a new car. The snow-white paint was a brilliant shade, as if white had been reinvented. The dashboard glowed with new gadgets, a backup camera, a plethora of tiny buttons and icons, an interface exploding with digital technology. I slipped into the driver’s seat, and felt the flesh of the sleek black interior hugging my body. The scent of new was sweet and dense, lingering like just-sprayed perfume. I thought how the car had never met a sack of worn gym clothes, a greasy bag of takeout food or a bouncing dog in backseat bliss.
I drove the new car home, nervous and alert as if I were 16 again, discovering the smooth spin of a steering wheel and the way the pedal responded to my foot.
Then, I climbed into bed and cried. But not for joy. Not because that dazzling white machine was now mine, awaiting years of travel, short trips to the store, long rides to the airport and daily commutes to work. I cried because, insane as it seemed, I missed my old car. The soft, stained fabric, a collage of memories. There were streaks of fudge from sundaes consumed in the backseat, where plastic spoons had dripped from careless little hands. All those little flaws, bruises that my boys and I had inflicted over a decade of travel.
That old car and I had snaked through slippery snow on icy Wisconsin roads. When I decided to start a new life chapter, we’d trekked 1,300 miles south with the barest of essentials crammed in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. We’d been through some stuff — that old car, my boys and me. The miles. The memories. How could I not cry?
Perhaps I’m a sentimental fool, but I had grown fond of the familiar, and while my new car was pristine, it would take some getting used to.
There’s a comfort in the familiar, in our coffee-stained bathrobes and Lazy Boy chairs. Sometimes I resist change, new cars, ideas and adventures, even if they lead to improvement.
Every day, I lose myself in the familiar dance of my yoga routine, my limbs moving on autopilot, sinking into the soft rubber of my well-used mat. But where’s the challenge? This familiarity, it feels good, but I wonder: How can I grow on familiar ground?
And sometimes life jolts us out of monotony, with car wrecks, illness, divorce or the death of a loved one. Then we realize our familiar was just a fairy tale.
I’ve had my new car for several months now. And it just occurred to me that driving has once again become easy, as my hands have embraced the smooth wheel.
I wonder why I resisted this change. Did I believe that clinging to that old car would keep the future at bay, my boys from becoming men? Did I think that keeping the stains from spilled ice cream was akin to preserving that place in time, our place together?
Allow me to remind myself that whatever I cling to, I lose, and that suffering comes with attachment. Because the very nature of life is movement — from hungry first breaths to slow, weary exhales.
Familiarity can be dangerous.