When my mother said goodbye to our old Volvo sedan in 2003 after twenty years and near 150,000 miles, I remember her standing on the driveway sobbing at the site of the tow truck. At the time, I remember thinking that was a little bit odd. Had a person died, or even had it been a pet, I would have understood her sadness. But why would someone shed tears over an inanimate object?
Over a month ago, our seven-year-old Toyota Yaris with about 70,000 miles was in an accident. Finally, after a seemingly endless battle fighting with the insurance company whose driver was at fault, as well as an attempt to repair, the car was ruled a total loss. Before the wreck was sold, I was told by the collision company that I was welcome to come to the lot and collect our things.
The Yaris was the first major purchase that Amy and I made together, and to date, it is the only thing we’ve ever owned debt-free. I was flush with student debt a few months before the end of rabbinical school, but with a new job, we agreed that we needed something that would get us from “Point A from Point B.” We bought the car from the Toyota of Manhattan because, at the time, it was the easiest dealership to reach by subway. We used the car to move to New Jersey, and despite it being a small subcompact, the car was always like Mary Poppins’s handbag. There must have been a thousand times when we shoved the Yaris full of things that should have never fit; but somehow, entire refrigerators and large pieces of furniture always seemed to “just make it.” The Yaris was there for our family road trips. We drove it to weddings. The night my mother died, I picked up my brother at the train station and it carried us together on the long drive to Philadelphia.
Cleaning out the Yaris felt a little like I was cleaning out the closet of a close family friend who had unexpectedly passed away before we were ready. Along my trip down memory lane, I uncovered old restaurant receipts, my CD collection, change for tolls on the Garden State Parkway, and the hospital pass I had used to visit congregants in New Jersey.
I got in my rental car, drove away, and shed a tear. All of these years later, I finally understand why my mother cried at the site of the tow truck.