I sold my car, and I cried. I cried when we talked about selling it, I cried after my husband called to tell me someone was interested, and I cried when I drove away from it for the last time. I knew I was attached to the car, but I didn’t realize just how attached until there was a very real possibility of it being gone. Several months before we sold it, I had upgraded to a minivan, so I wasn’t even driving my sweet little Corolla anymore; it was just sitting out in front of our house, but a decade of my life was spent driving around in that car, and I liked seeing it every day, even if I wasn’t driving it. However, a car isn’t the smallest of sentimental tokens, and keeping it sitting out in front of our house for years just because I liked seeing it wasn’t really the most practical idea.
It wasn’t my first car – my first car was a light blue Ford Taurus station wagon that had previously belonged to my grandmother. I drove that car for a little over a year, as it slowly fell apart on me; the rearview mirror falling off as I was driving down the road, and later, the transmission giving out as I was on my way to work one day. I made it to work, where I called my dad and told him I didn’t think I’d be able to make it home in that car. So he came and picked me up, and a few days later we went looking for a new car. The plan was originally to get a nice, safe used car for me to go off to college in, but I was set on getting a new car that I could drive for years. We compromised, and my parents decided they would pay what they would have spent on a used car towards a new one, and I could get a loan for the rest. I had four options to pick from- a Corolla, a Civic, an Accord or a Camry. My high school senior self felt very grown up as we test drove and compared, and I signed my name on the dotted line (with my dad as a co-signer). I walked away with a little red Corolla and a 5 year loan, and was thrilled with my purchase.
That 5 year loan was probably the best money management lesson I ever could have had. My $111 commitment a month was very do-able, and knowing that my dad’s name was attached as the co-signer made it seem very, very important. My parents could have easily paid the extra money for the car, and had me pay them back, but having an actual loan was much more effective in establishing the importance of those monthly payments. Not only was I careful to never miss one, as I inched closer to graduating, I started to understand how nice it would be to start my adult life without any debt, and was able to make a few extra payments, paying off the loan several months before graduating. When that loan was paid off and I met my dad at the DMV so he could sign the title over to me, it felt like a really big step towards being a “real adult”.
That little Corolla took me through the end of high school, back and forth to the summer camp where I spent years working, through all of college, my first full time job (and several more). It’s the car I was driving when I got married, and the car I drove for the first year and a half of my sons life. The car I learned how to install a carseat in, the car I drove back and forth to the hospital for weeks when my dad had a stroke and spent two months hospitalized. It’s the car I drove when I got a 4am phone call to come back to my parents house because it was close to the end, and my dad wanted me. It’s the car we drove to the airport in when we left for our honeymoon. It’s the car that I grew up in, that I spent what I imagine to be the most formative decade of my life in – from a high school senior to a married mom of a toddler.
So selling that car didn’t feel like a simple business transaction. It felt like selling a decade of memories. Even though I’ve been driving a minivan for almost 6 months, when I see a red Corolla in the parking lot, I always take a step towards it before I realize that isn’t my car. The guy who bought mine has a teenager who is about to turn 16. I hope that 16 year old grows to love that car, and I hope that sweet little Corolla has another decade in it to help another teenager become an adult.