Good-bye, Old Friend
                    by Corinne H. Smith
     As a famous man once said, “Breakin’ up is hard to do.” 
And yet we all have to face changes in our lives from time to time.  Today I said good-bye to my most recent constant companion, my green 1999 Plymouth Breeze.



     Together we shared more than 214,600 miles, with only a smattering of problems along the way.  Oh, many times we had to turn around once or twice to get where we intended to go, but we were never really lost.  We visited all sorts of wonderful places, from the Nature Conservancy’s Tensleep Ranch in north central Wyoming, to Folly Beach just south of Charleston, South Carolina.  We climbed mountains, and we trolled a number of beaches.  We saw good friends in many states.  We went to the 2001 Thanksgiving Day game at the Pontiac Silverdome, and we went to Orchard Park to see the Buffalo Bills a few times.  We made multiple runs from the Midwest to the East Coast, and then made a permanent move from Illinois to Massachusetts in January 2003.  As for rock concerts:  well, who’s counting?  We had many adventures, among them a few anxious moments:  like driving through a white-out in a prairie blizzard, or being stuck in a snowbank in a deserted cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island, late on a winter afternoon.  But we never panicked, and we emerged triumphant together.


     And though we traveled through dozens of states, the Breeze still flaunts its roots.  It still carries the metal marker on its trunk that shows it hails from Benoy Motors in Woodstock, Illinois.  (The odometer read “14” when I was handed the keys.)  Below that marker are the remnants of my old bumper sticker that once read in full: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”  I remember the day a man pulled up next to us at a traffic light, swirled his finger so that I would roll down the window, then gleefully shouted “Eleanor Roosevelt!” before the signal changed.  I also remember stopping in Nebraska to see Scott’s Bluff, and returning to the parking lot only to see a German tourist taking a photograph of my bumper sticker.  I hope they got a kick out of it, back in the old country.

     Without complaint, the Breeze accompanied me on my many personal research excursions, whether it was tracing the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, or cataloging the histories of the Carnegie libraries of New England and the Northeast.  Neither did it complain when it had to carry bags of recyclables in the trunk for months, before we could make a run to the recycling dumpsters in the Poconos.  Perhaps one day I’ll again live in a town that believes in and participates in the recycling process.  Until then, I have cause for several road trips each year.

     I hope the Breeze has forgiven me for accidentally letting an automatic garage door close on the top of its trunk, early on in our relationship.  I erased the resulting scrape with official green Chrysler paint.  It’s been years since I’ve even noticed the mark that remains from my stupidity.   And you can’t even see where an idiot made a ridge in the passenger door last summer, after opening his truck door as we were pulling into the empty parking space beside him.  His insurance paid for his mistake, and our mechanic fixed the dent beautifully.  Only a few people saw the Breeze in that imperfect condition.

     I certainly asked a lot of the Breeze, and it has met my demands.  Who can blame it now for being so tired?  It’s time to give this devoted companion the rest it needs.   Another famous man put it perfectly when he said:

     We've been through some things together
     With trunks of memories still to come.
     We found things to do in stormy weather.
     Long may you run.

     Long may you run, long may you run,
     Although these changes have come.
     With your chrome heart shining in the sun,
     Long may you run.

     The Breeze now joins other car memories of my past:  a white 1992 Dodge Shadow, a red 1986 Dodge Caravan, a silver 1982 Mercury LN7, a black 1975 Mustang hatchback.   And of course, the family car I learned to drive in – miraculously, looking back on it now – a black 1963 Ford Galaxy XL.  Each one was special in its own way.

     Today I met my new-to-me friend, a red 2006 Dodge Stratus.  It has already been places and done things, enough to have crossed the country two and a half times.  I’ll bet it didn’t do that.  But its background will remain a mystery to me.  As for the future – well, it’s got some big tread marks to fill.  I have many more research trips to make and at least one long road trip already planned: to Minneapolis for a Thoreau conference this October.  Will the Stratus be up to the challenge?  I guess there’s only one way to find out.  I’ve got a new copy of that bumper sticker ready.  Let’s go!




February 20, 2007

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