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What I Learned From My Buick

Recently, we bought a new Honda HRV for Darek and I to share.  We needed it badly as our other 2 cars are quite old, and when thinking of driving any distance, our current cars did not seem a great choice.  Darek has been driving Darien’s old car, which used to be Matt and Ally’s first car before that, it’s a 2002 Honda Civic.  My car of late has been a ’97 Buick Park Avenue, which came to me via Bruce, and it came to him via his mom, as she can no longer drive.

I remember when Archie and Madeline (Bruce’s parents) first bought that car.  Archie was beyond proud, as he should’ve been.  Every purchase that I knew of Archie making was always well thought out, with a long term goal, and this car was no different.  Buick Park Avenue’s have lovingly been called the “poor man’s Mercedes”, but I prefer to think of them as the “smart man’s Mercedes”.  20+ years later the car that Archie bought so many years before still starts every day, is a tank in the winter, and still drives as smooth as butter.  It is one of the most comfortable cars I have ever owned, and I have owned 2 Mercedes.  I will admit that many cars do not have much on a Mercedes, they are a heavy, dependable, beautiful and smooth driving car as well.  However, with a Mercedes comes a pretty amazing price tag.

My first Mercedes came to me via Arbonne and my promotion to RVP.  The white Mercedes was a fun bonus and it was pretty amazing to own such a vehicle.  As you may have gathered in some of my other posts, we grew up with limited means.  To own a car like that felt good, it felt that I had somehow accomplished something BIG, and I loved the notoriety that came with it.  Initially, I was still my humble self, but with time I saw myself change.  Suddenly keeping my hair and nails “just so” became a priority, and just as quickly, I realized that I would need new clothes to keep this new image of all things “bling”.  Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t Arbonne’s fault.  This was my own fault.  This was me getting a bit too big for my britches.

Somewhere in here, my divorce happened and I thought that I would be able to keep my lifestyle and be on my own.  I stepped away retaining my own debt and asking nothing from Bruce.  Also about this time is when it first became obvious that our son Darek was dealing with a significant challenge, and his diagnosis of schizophrenia brought many things into focus with alarming speed.  As hard as it was because I loved Arbonne (and still do, to this day I still am a district manager and I could not live without most of their products), I had to step away from my business in a huge way.  It took every bit of energy I had to help Darek.  There was no time except for the essentials which became work, and Darek.  In time, I would find that I couldn’t keep up with any part of my pre-divorce lifestyle.  Eventually, the routine hair and nail appointments ceased and soon after that, I gave up my Mercedes.  Darek and I shared my old Jeep, and together we went about rebuilding both of our lives in the best way we could.

There were some low years in there, possibly it sounds better if I say I had some “growth years” in there.

But with all things, I believe that everything happens for a reason, even though at times it doesn’t always seem obvious.

Once Darek and I moved back in with Bruce, we decided to give up the Jeep as the gas and upkeep seemed unending.  This meant that Darek and I would share Madeline’s ’97 Buick.  I wasn’t in love with any part of that idea at first.  It is amazing how one’s pride and ego can get in the way of what really was a sound financial decision.  I won’t lie, when I first started to drive the Buick, I would sort of slink down in the seat and park at the end of the parking lot.  If I had to go anywhere to meet friends, I would take Bruce’s Accord.

I should be clear, I could’ve talked with Bruce long ago about getting another car but in some way, I felt that all of this was a good lesson.  First, I learned to appreciate the fact that I had a car, and really, a nice one, albeit old.  There were days that I would be traveling into work, and I would see the homeless people on the corner and I would think to myself that I am sure they would love to have my ’97 Buick.  I also felt that I needed to learn another very important lesson and that was to always live within my means, but most important, to not forget where I came from.

Remembering back, I know there were times that I was desperately embarrassed when my dad would drop me off in any one of his old cars.  He had some doozies!  One was powder blue, and rusty with no back windows.  I am not kidding, we had plastic taped over where the window should’ve been with duct tape.  I remember that the days he was at home and would drop us off at school, especially in the winter, I would always ask to be dropped off a block away.  I always pretended that I thought it would be easier for him as there was so much traffic around the school.  Of course, dad always INSISTED on dropping me off out front (I am fairly certain it was a lesson in humbleness). 

Another was a station wagon that…….looked nice, sort of!   When mom and dad first got that station wagon, I remember them pulling up, driver side showing.  <looked something like the one below>

Me: “Whoa dad, nice car (as I said, he owned some doozies!)!”

Dad and Mom:  <start laughing> “You think so?”

Me: <skeptical about what is so funny>  “Yeah…… why are you laughing?”

Mom:  <from the passenger side of the car>  “Come look at my side and tell me if you still like the car”.

I went to the other side and we all busted out laughing!  The passenger side was a mess.  It was obvious that it had been in an accident.  The “wood” tone veneering strip was missing, and it was unevenly spray painted a hideous black color.  More hilarious than all of that, it looked like bullet holes all long the passenger side from when they pulled the dents out.

We always joked that dad’s side of the car looked good, and mom’s looked like a part from Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

That is how we grew up.  Every dollar had a purpose, and usually there was more month than money.

I lost that sensibility somewhere along my way.  I lost my “humble-ness”.

I know that my ’97 Buick is probably just as embarrassing to my niece Madi as my dad’s cars were to me.  However, I never let on that I thought that there was anything wrong with my car.  And there isn’t anything wrong with it, other than it isn’t a Mercedes.  I would drop her off and pick her up from school in it, and in my own way, I was instilling my own lesson in her.  To be humble about what we own and thankful for what we have at all times.  When we got the new Honda HRV the first thing she said was, “good, your other car was old”.  Somehow that made me sad.  However, a lesson that I learned the hard way in my 40’s, is not one I should expect my 12 year old niece to understand.  After all, this car was MADE more than a decade before she was even BORN!

This past weekend, I was going to run to pick up a couple of pizza’s at BB’s just down the street from us.  As I walked outside to go, I looked around at the plethora of cars to choose from: Honda Accord, HRV, Civic, or the ole’ girl, my ’97 Buick, and I suddenly became nostalgic.

I remembered back so many years ago when Archie and Madeline first bought that car.  Their was pride in owning something that they worked so hard to achieve for all their lives, with the reward being the financial security to make such a purchase straight out, no loan.

I remember going home to Marshall soon after they bought it, and as we climbed into their car to go to church Archie proudly showed me all of it’s ‘bells and whistles’.  I will never forget when he turned up the radio, proudly showing just how great the stereo system was, and polka music blared loudly, via their cassette player!

I remember the boys sitting in the backseat with me, and I will never forget how little they looked.  They both were in awe of such a nice vehicle, as to that point Bruce and I had never owned a brand new vehicle.  They are now men, 27 and 29.  For more than 20 years that ole ’97 Buick has started up and made whatever trip that has been required of her.  That’s pretty amazing if you think about it.

After a minute, I turned back around and went back inside, and grabbed the Buick keys.

As I got in the ole girl, I couldn’t help but think of another thought.

My dad worked so hard his whole life, and it seemed that nothing ever came easy for him.  I suppose in some way some of it was his fault, and yet in another way, he did the best he could with the circumstances of his time.  He loved cars, and he adored big heavy cars.  My dad never had much money but somehow and some way, he always made sure that his kids had a car when we were first starting out, the bigger and heavier the better, to keep us safe.  As I sat behind the steering wheel of the Buick I thought of him also.  If he were here he would love this car, and he would’ve loved to own one this nice in his day.

A humbling thought.

A more humbling thought, all these years later my dad, and Archie & Madeline, who were truly my second parents, are still giving me important life lessons.

And that brings us to my last point.  We thought about selling ‘Madeline’ (that’s what I often call our Buick) but Bruce said he didn’t feel right about it.  And truthfully, neither do I.  How do you sell something that for more than 2 decades has delivered our loved ones safely to each destination?  How do you sell the last car your parents owned?  Maybe one day we will find her a good home, but for now she sits out front, ready for her next destination.

I settled on all these thoughts as I started up ‘Madeline’ and we went down the road, sure of our direction and task.  She is comfy in all the right spots, the driver seat sags just a little, after years of indentation from it’s previous drivers.  She sashays a bit as she rounds a bend, no longer hugging the road, yet secure in her travel.  The brakes are now a bit soft, as evidenced by when I climb into newer cars and what I feel is my normal braking habit sends us all careening forward at every stop.  I also have a small prayer pin that was given to Madeline at some point, it is of an angel offering a prayer for safe driving, I leave it clamped to the visor, after all this is still her car.  We are simply her guardians.

Another thought entered my mind as I drove to get the pizza that day.  A while back, when I first acquired the Buick my sister Ally said she loved watching Darek and I roll down the street in the Buick.  I am sure after years of owning more ‘state of the art’ cars, it was somewhat humorous. I laughed a bit as I drove thinking the only thing missing after all these years from the dependable ole girl is the oompah-pah of polka music as she sashayed down the road.

 

 

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