I went to the movies last week and saw Baby Driver, a movie so full of amazing action, romance, sweetness, fast cars, evil, and the most fantastic sound track, it has me thinking about cars and music, and how sometimes the combination can be life-changing.
I also now understand why people get so attached to their cars.
My car is not flashy. It’s a 2006 dark gray/blue Honda Pilot. I didn’t like that color, my ex picked it, but since I’d made all the payments on the car, I got it in the divorce and it’s grown on me. It’s only broken down on me a couple of times in over 150,000 miles, which is a pretty decent record. My Pilot drove me out of California with a couple of El Sauz burritos, two horchatas, Brandon, my step-son-co-pilot, and two dogs in the back — after a divorce that shredded romance for me and left my soul gasping for air.
I took turns with Brandon driving across the country, almost 2500 miles. I wish I’d taken photos of our journey — but I have none. It was a great trip for me, and the most time alone I’d ever spent with Brandon. He’d originally agreed, thinking the kids would be along too. When he found out it was just me, he could have backed out, but he didn’t. I’m still so grateful he went.
We walked the dogs, talked a lot, practiced Italian, went to Prairie Dog Town — a place that claimed to have the world’s largest Prairie Dog, got a ticket in Kansas (I was driving) and arrived at my brother’s home in Ohio after four days.
Brandon got a flight back to New York — he had to be back for work — and I finally landed on my dad’s doorstep. I knocked on the door of the house where I grew up, and when my father opened the door, I broke down in tears. We hugged for a long time, just standing in the doorway and finally made our way, up the three steps into the kitchen.
I felt like a pathetic loser. How lucky I was to have a dad who loved us enough to take me, my two kids and even the two pooping dogs in. I stayed there for two years, unable to buy a house because of stricter loan requirements. I worked on re-inventing myself, helping my dad while he helped us, and trying to stay sane.
Having my family there was wonderful, but getting divorced, losing my job two weeks later, then having to sell the home we painstakingly remodeled for 13 years, and losing with my entire way of life and lots of friends, was a challenge. In the wide scope of things, and compared to serious life and death situations some people endure, I know it was definitely a first world problem. But being career-less and moving my family into my childhood home, with my 95 year-old father with worsening dementia, was not what I imagined I’d be doing at 55.
So, at night, after I tucked him into bed, sometimes I’d run an errand, just for a ride alone in my Pilot. I’d drive down the roads I used to drive on when I was a teenager looking for fun, only now I was driving to escape.
I’d put one of the CD’s in the car that my daughter painstakingly made for me, roll down all the windows, even in the dead of winter, and sing at the top of my lungs. A couple of favorites were “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine, Diego Garcia’s, “You Were Never There,” Bon Iver’s, “Holocene,” and a song by Cults called “Bad Things,” that had this line in it: “I’m gonna run, run away, run, run, away…” you get the idea.
I’m quite certain, I looked like a lunatic, but it kept me sane. Screaming those lyrics was pretty cathartic, but I couldn’t run away. I had my dad to think of, kids and dogs and a career to resurrect. I had to stay and figure out what the hell I was going to do.
But those moments, when it was just me, my car, my sadness and frustration, loud music and country roads in front of me, made that Pilot more than just a car. It was a friend, who carried me away and let me sing at the top of my lungs when I needed it.
Two years later, I drove back across the country so my daughter could finish high school in the same town she started kindergarten, get a better education, get to know the cute boy she’d met on summer vacation, and I could figure out how to start over in California, the place I had contacts and a track record. It took a few starts, but at least I’m on a path now and have more of a plan than I ever did before. I’ve heard the saying, God laughs at plans, but you have to start somewhere.
I still have my Honda Pilot. I can’t imagine ever getting rid of the car that carried me out of California and brought me back in, a stronger, more whole person still singing at the top of her lungs.