When I bought my VW Beetle in 2006, I named it “Samuel.” In my family, we name everything.
When I was a kid, my little brother caught a ladybug and wanted to keep him for a pet. He put “him” in a jar with leaves and holes punched in the lid, and affectionately named the ladybug Samuel. After a couple of days, my mom feared my brother would not do well when the little bug succumbed to life trapped in a small jar, being shaken and overly loved by a four year old, rough little boy. So, she convinced him that the best thing to do was to release him, but promised him that he would be able to catch him again someday. As the older sister, I totally played along. For years after that, every time a ladybug was caught, we’d say, “Look, Gabe, its Samuel!” We’d catch it, play with him a while, then let him go. So, he never really had to say goodbye.
I had wanted a Beetle for so long, and when I finally got one, with it’s likeness to a ladybug, it felt only right to give him a name in homage to my brother’s little pet.
In the summer of 2009, we had three major and expensive repairs, which made Sawan and I start thinking about a new car. We were planning to start a family anyway and would need a bigger car, one that would fit child's car seats, and had looked at Honda CRVs. That was what I wanted. But, when he died, and car seats were no longer going to be a possibility for me, I put the idea aside, and decided to drive the Beetle until the wheels fell off. Sawan had helped me buy the Beetle, and I didn’t want to buy a car without him. Not until it was absolutely necessary.
Last week, it became absolutely necessary. When I took Samuel in to the shop they told me the sound that I had been hearing in the engine was terminal. I needed a new car.
Everything, every decision is complicated when you’re a widow. I still wanted a CRV. But, did I want a CRV because I still wanted to buy the car for the life that I would have had with Sawan? Was I wanting to buy a car for a life I would never have? Or was it just the convenience of a bigger car and four wheel drive?
As I got into the new CRV at the dealership to do my test drive, we turned on the radio to hear the speakers, and the song was Fleetwood Mac’s “You Make Lovin’ Fun.” One of “our songs.” It felt as though Sawan was telling me he was there, he was supporting me, supporting my decision. He loved me. I relaxed a little.
Saying goodbye to the Beetle was saying goodbye to a piece of my life that I would never have back. It was another end of an era. It was the end of an era that I loved. It was saying goodbye to the memories that I had in that car. Memories of road trips, of driving around with our little puppy on my lap. Memories of our ordinary life, so full of love, Sawan driving the car, stopped at a red light, his hand on my knee, me reaching across to put my hand on the back of his head, the softness of his fine hair on the palm of my hand.
This process was also a hello, though. Hello to a new life. A new me. I have never owned a new car before. I got to get exactly what I wanted (white, heated seats, and a sunroof). Brand new. I have four-wheel drive, I sit high up, and it’s automatic. It has every safety feature I could have thought of. For someone who has high anxiety when they drive, this is a great little car. I feel so relaxed, no fear. I have never loved a car the way I love this one. I don’t want to get out of it. I just want to drive.
And, like the ladybug and my four year old brother, I never really have to say goodbye, when I see little black Beetles on the road, I can say, “Look, it’s Samuel!”