Little Red Jeep.

This one was a tough one.

It was dream come true, and I was phenomenally blessed. I am extremely fortunate to have a family in a position to gift me a vehicle, a station in the current economy many are not lucky enough to have. My family’s “toy” purchase was my ultimate gain.

My dad had always really wanted a Jeep. He pictured it with a big dog in the back, my mom in the front, top down, with an open road ahead. Only, when they bought it, my dad was stationed in Delaware, my mom was working in Washington state, both already had vehicles, we hadn’t had a dog in years, and they were planning on getting an apartment when dad’s assignment was over.  The dream wasn’t meant to be, but they tried anyway.

So, they purchased a Jeep. A 2002 Jeep Wrangler, TJ soft-top. It was loud, cramped, really hard to get into the back of, and perfect. My parents bought it from a mom who’d purchased it for her newly-16 son, who said “no way, those things are always in the accident pictures in my driver’s ed class!” Mom & dad got a helluva deal.

IMG_7083Ain’t it great?

Then, the needed changes started coming in. New tires. Mechanical work. New stereo. Plus, a massive, expensive tow trip across the Chesapeake Bay because the tail lights were out and a trooper refused to let my father drive it back home/on base, even though he had to return for military work. Then, a few months later, it was new plates and registration in Washington state, a phenomenally expensive procedure because of taxes. Plus the obvious-break-ins, stolen stereo, attempted theft of the vehicle, theft of property, and so on. Basically, the vehicle was a headache to own as a regular driver. But I digress.

My father quickly discovered that his 6’1″ frame didn’t sit comfortably in the small cabin, and made the mistake of letting me take it for a spin. I was sold. It fit me like a glove, and it was mine. He may have owned and used it, but it was mine. Visions of being “that girl in the Jeep” were inevitable, and I made it so.

It started with driving it from Washington, DC, to Washington state, when I moved home after working for Congress. I stuffed that thing to the canvased ceiling, bowing out the plastic windows with hangers, clothes, and my Keurig (if only I had purchased an outlet adapter-coffee on the road!). Coupled with the fact that I left DC about a week before Christmas meant every stop I made brought good-natured Santa/sleigh jokes, which only added to my love of it.

Summers were amazing. As soon as the weather app showed sun for the foreseeable future, the top went down. The first drive each season, with the sky just a head-tilt away, brought a sense of freedom I’d never felt before. It was a feeling I longed for as soon as the clouds and cold returned in the fall, but one I cherished in full as long as I could. Road trips, beach visits, even mall runs, all felt different with the top down. Various ball caps kept my hair in place, and sunscreen required application for a drive longer than 5 minutes. My boyfriend complained about getting stuck in traffic-the sun was mercilous, and without the breeze of 65 mph to cool us, we got pretty warm, but I still loved it.

IMG_4608IMG_6736

Bought it with a lot less miles, but hit a big one with it!

Teens I worked with, always eager to climb all over it

I took my last summer road trip in the Jeep this past summer. The previous winter had some crazy weather, and trying to be a professional with a soft-top Jeep in the icky Washington wind/rain/gray/haze/ew was getting ridiculous. The edges of the top had developed a couple bends, so the rain/wet had a convenient downspout right through the middle of the driver’s side doorway, leaving no dignified way of entering the vehicle without getting water down the front/through the hair/somehow in the tiny space between the back of my neck and my shirt collars. Watching my boyfriend’s 8-yr-old daughter climbing in and out of the impossible-t0-easily-access backseat was embarrassing; I felt like an irresponsible adult desperately trying to cling to youth with the sporty, impractical ride.

And so, the road trip. Tacoma, WA to Helena, MT to Boise, ID to Challis, ID, back to Boise, ID, back to Tacoma, WA. Ten days of vacation, off to see family in Montana and a best friend in Idaho. It was to be great, and it indeed was. I enjoyed the drive immensely, even the time the lid flew off my cooler, when I forgot the gas cap until I hit the on-ramp and heard it fall, and going in to the massive storm thinking I’d be ok, only to get drenched and have to scramble getting the top on. I felt free flying across open plains and mountain passes, music blaring and one foot out the window, the sun tanning my shoulders. I knew it was ending, so I sent the Jeep out in style. After arriving home, I settled in with the resigned acceptance that I’d be looking for a new vehicle somehow.

The first week of November, I saw a vehicle I’d been dreaming about for over a decade for sale along my drive to work. It was within the price range of a trade-in, and was in fantastic condition. Given the great shape of the Jeep, and the fact that it’s a highly desired model (mods for days!), I was able to sell it quickly. I knew the new owner would treat it well and love it as I had, but it was painful to watch him drive my Jeep away.

Part of why this item’s reduction was so hard is because the Jeep was gifted to me so that my parents, married 34 years and together for 36, could eliminate assets in their name to minimize conflict during divorce proceedings. As an only child whose definition of commitment was “my parents,” I was devastated at the development. And as thankful as I was for the “free car,” it felt…wrong. I felt complicit in their marriage’s end. By simplifying the split and allowing them an easier path to separation.

As an adult, I know. I know all about relationships ending and why and how and all the hard lessons and all the platitudes and all of it. I know. But none of that matters when it’s my parents, my life, my world, my understanding. It was all done, and I had to create a new family definition.

To create that definition, I had to let the dream go.

Less things: 4 (but kinda not, since I replaced it with another vehicle, but still; I needed to write this one)

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