Many miles means many memories, and so it was with great sadness (and some regret) that I bid farewell to my faithful ’96 Honda Civic not too long ago. I had planned to drive it until it died—until the metal of it became dust and blew away on a breeze, dissipating like a cloud. Unfortunately, a careless truck driver denied me that opportunity. His negligence left my beloved Civic totaled.
It’s amazing how we can become emotionally attached to something that is itself incapable of emotions. And yet it is simply its steady presence in my life—standing witness to each day and milestone for so long—that created (at least on my end) an emotional bond.
Fifteen years ago, my mother helped me buy my ’96 Honda Civic by cosigning for the loan and giving me at least half of the down payment. It was the last major purchase she helped me make before she died. So, in some intangible way, I connect that car with her—even though she never sat in it or even saw it. She was gone before I even got it inspected. Still, having given it her blessing and some financial support, she was a part of the purchase process nonetheless. She also added to it by buying me an “angel on board” frame for my rear license plate.
After we buried my mother, I drove my Civic between my home just outside of Boston and my family’s home in Brooklyn every weekend. My previous car (a 1988 Chevy Beretta) wouldn’t have been able to handle those trips, so one of the last things my mother did before she died was help me to be there with my family as we grieved her passing.
That Civic was a companion for countless errands. It has made many an airport run to bid farewell to or welcome loved ones. I drove it to visit my siblings at boarding school, which usually meant making a stop at Chili’s to pick up some baby back ribs for them. It’s been to the grocery store thousands of times and knows its way to two Ikea locations. It also spared me having to endure the lethargy of the MTA on a Sunday morning by taking me to my church in Queens when I lived in Brooklyn.
The Civic was present for many a milestone. I used it to drive my father and sister to my brother’s high school graduation. And it carried my brother home from college. This Civic was there on my wedding day and saw me off on my honeymoon. And when my sister got her first apartment by herself, it played a small part in the move.
I had my ’96 Honda Civic for fifteen years. It was twenty when I let it go. You don’t get to be that age without getting a bit knocked around. Like me it’s been scarred, scraped, and crapped on. Some of its parts aren’t as young and functional as they once were. The cruise control never worked. The lining on the sun visor began to sag and then peel back. The lever to open the hood broke off so that you needed a pair of pliers. Then, one brisk day in December, my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I were out buying Christmas trees. We had one lying across our laps in the back seat with the windows opened to accommodate the tree’s length. Unfortunately, especially given the low temperature, that’s when one of the back windows stopped working and wouldn’t close. My attempt to the save the time it would have taken to tie two trees going to two different locations to the roof cost us hours searching for a mechanic still open at 9pm who could get our window back up. And, most recently, the side mirror stopped responding to the control button and had to be adjusted manually.
But just like a faithful friend, I did not hold my car’s flaws against it. My ’96 Honda Civic wasn’t perfect, but it was consistent. It was a good old car. It was my automotive companion for fifteen years, having entered my life at a point when things were very difficult. It was reliable and sure, even when my world was shattered and my family was uncertain. And for that, I will always be grateful, which is why I couldn’t let every piece of it go and ripped the Honda decal off the trunk and saved it.