Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grandma's car

We need to buy Grandma’s car, my husband said to me a few weeks ago.
Yes! I said. You are so right. We do need to buy Grandma’s car!
I think I might have caught my husband a little off guard with my response. I usually just nod politely for many of his “bright ideas.” But this time he was actually onto something.
Let me back up a minute.
As we Huffmans brace ourselves (and our bank accounts) to send Oldest Daughter off to college, funds for cars — whether previously owned by Grandma or not — are tight. Or pretty much nonexistent.
But then Grandma retired from her job. And when Grandma retired, Grandma decided to retire her 10-year-old car as well. When Grandma and Grandpa first announced their plans to buy some kind of SUV combo thing that they would drive on epic cross-country jaunts with all the other newly retired people out there, I didn’t think much about it.
I should have, because our neighborhood carpool to high school had just expired. The other carpool passenger just got her license and was now driving herself to school. That left our two high school girls in need of a ride. It was either that or hitchhike on Highway 29 each morning.
You know that stereotype about the little old lady who only drives her car on Sundays to church? Well, my mom is little, and she may be a senior citizen, but she did drive her car fairly often. And just like any self-respecting grandma, she also took really good car of that car.
It got regular oil changes and all the recommended maintenance. It had a nice dry parking spot inside a garage. It wasn’t full of broken pencils, empty water bottles, old umbrellas and the other junk that comes with driving around three children. This was one pampered car. Still, it did have more than 100,000 miles on it. Apparently, one of those big maintenances was looming, and Grandma already had the appointment made at the dealership.
Who puts $2,500 into a 10-year-old car with that kind of mileage when they are theoretically about to trade in said car? A grandma who suspects that her oldest granddaughter might end up driving the car, that’s who.
Grandma might have had an ulterior motive. About four years ago, my father-in-law bought a 1966 “classic” car as a fixer-upper project. He announced that once the “restoration” was complete, our daughter would drive it. Now, when Oldest Daughter was barely in ninth grade and years away from getting her license, that sounded like a swell idea. What high school student wouldn’t like a cute vintage car to drive to school?
Everything was hunky-dory with that little fantasy until our girl actually got her license and started driving. I now knew that the words “teenager,” “cute” and “car” are not meant to go together.
Suddenly the idea of her carousing around town in a 46-year-old car didn’t sound so great. To a mom, 46 in car years is like 146 in human years. That is old. Who’s to say that car wouldn’t just fall apart in a heap at the next red light? As we drivers know, there is never a convenient time for an engine to die. Bolts could just pop out or hubcaps sail down Jefferson Street. I had visions of all kinds of car catastrophe with her at the wheel.
A newer car, say something from the 21st century, sounded much better. Something with shoulder and lap seatbelts. Something with power steering and brakes. Something with multiple airbags. I think Grandma was thinking the same “something.”
I got on the phone to Grandma to explain our big plan. I don’t think she was surprised to hear from me.
Let me pause here to say: God bless all the grandmas and grandpas out there. Your children are now in their 30s and 40s, but you still continue to support them, like by giving them Bank of Grandma interest rates and very friendly monthly payment terms. Grandkids across the country would be out of luck if it wasn’t for the grandmas and grandpas out there who are buying new cars and passing down the old ones.
A few days and a handshake later, we had a deal. Grandma, Grandpa and their neighbors were happy to have the old car vacate its current parking spot in the neighborhood. And our neighbors probably wondered how yet another car would fit into ours.
A few weeks later, Oldest Daughter had to stay late at school, and our ninth-grader talked Grandma into picking her up at school in her new car.
But her sister could have driven her home when she was done, I said to Grandma. She’s got the car, after all.
No, no, she said. It’s OK. I just wanted to see how my old car was doing.
Awwww, I thought. She misses her old car.
Don’t worry, I should have told her. You can come visit your old car whenever you want. You know where to find it.

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