Goodbye, Serenity

My mother called me the other day out of the blue. “I’ve decided to help you buy a new car for your birthday.”


After picking up my jaw off the floor, I thanked her profusely and contacted my Darling. Getting a new car has been something that we’d talked about for some time and been saving up for. While I was very attached to our old Xterra, which Mark had christened Serenity after a spaceship in his favorite sci-fi series, she was coming to the end of a very long life and with over 220,000 miles on her, we had serious misgivings about her reliability on such a long excursion as traveling around Mexico. Our other car, a smart car appropriately named Gidget, definitely wouldn’t hold two travelers, a large german shepherd and all of our stuff. So the plan was to trade in little blue Gidget for the new car and pass along Serenity to someone who would appreciate an old girl that might need some tinkering. Fortunately, Mark’s brother showed keen interest in Serenity and possessed the technical know-how to care for her.

The decision was made to go buy the new car as soon as possible (lest something happen that might change my mother’s mind – like a world catastrophe). So that afternoon we went to the local dealership and picked out a brand new Highlander (Mom insisted we buy a new car). It was green and had more bells and whistles than we had ever seen. My Darling lovingly christened her “The Raza” after the space ship in the television series “Dark Matter” and baptized her with a Klingon sticker on the rear window. Her name came about because of her highly computerized, spaceship-like qualities and because, like her namesake, she possessed an untold number of mysterious gadgets, secret compartments and computer-controlled functions that we are even now still discovering. He installed a seat cover in the back for Crowley, replaced the license plate frames with something a little more “fun” and started shuttling me to and from work every day.

Now that we had our new home on wheels, it was time to part with an old friend. Serenity was my trusted sidekick for almost twenty years. I bought her new at the height of my career-focused meteoric climb in the internet field and she accompanied me on many crazy adventures – too many to recount. I took careful care of her and made sure she only got premium gas for her whole life and that her oil was changed and maintenance schedule adhered to. After I started working close to home my Darling took over being her main driver and she enjoyed an easy life that put just a few hundred miles on her per year instead of ten of thousands. Even so, by the time we got the Raza, old Serenity was almost twenty years old and, as much as I was attached to her, there was no way she’d reliably make the trip down to Mexico.

It was time to put the old girl out to pasture. Literally.

Mark’s brother Will lives on 40 acres of forest outside of the Dalles. He and his wife, Janette, have lived off the grid for more than 30 years and would definitely appreciate a tough little SUV like Serenity. He enjoys tinkering with cars and is well-equipped to fix the little things that kept popping up (which we couldn’t fix ourselves). We contacted them and made arrangements to deliver her out to them, first shelling out $600 for a manifold repair because we didn’t feel right sending her off to beloved family with such a problem. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have bothered – Will loves challenges and he would have probably done a better job.

drawing of Serenity

The trip out to Will and Janette’s place was a bittersweet one for me. I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed once or twice as I mentally reminisced on the adventures I had with the old girl. I know most people think it’s silly to get emotionally attached to a car. I would tend to agree but for the simple fact that for whatever reason, that particular car had become more than a mode of transportation for me. She was a friend. I swear she got me home safely on several occasions when I fell asleep at the wheel and she had the strangest tendency to break down in ways that saved me a lot of time and money (like the time her timing belt broke on the freeway and miraculously not only didn’t cause us to die in a fiery crash but somehow didn’t destroy her engine either). Three years ago, when her engine finally seized and she should have been scrapped, I begged my Darling to replace the engine rather than junk her (much to his amazement). While she never quite ran the same afterwards, I wasn’t about to give her up until she literally came apart at the seams.

Now I finally had to say goodbye and it was a lot harder to hand over the keys than I thought it would be. At the same time I was confident she was going to a good home where she would be appreciated. Will was wonderfully patient as I explained all of her little quirks (and I’m sure he was rolling his eyes at a point). We delivered to him the title, an old, slightly yellowed (but admittedly never-used) manual on fixing Nissan Xterras as well as all of the required paperwork and twenty years of repair receipts – and I tried really hard not to cry. But in the end the joy on Janette’s face at the new addition to their family made up for any sadness on my part. Serenity was going to a good home.

A few weeks later we had another chance to go out to their place. And there was Serenity, looking like a new car! Gone was the moss that had accumulated in her seams and she sparkled as if newly detailed. Gone too was the faded grey bumper and tweaked fender (from when I taught my son Keegan how to drive) – those were replaced with a brand new fender and front end. The holes in her upholstery had been repaired, the dim foggy headlights were clear and the sagging fabric in her interior had been mended or replaced. She looked ten years younger! To be honest, I was a little envious, but at the same time I realized that sometimes you have to let go of something you love because it needs better care than you can provide.

Serenity now has a wonderful home and may last another 20 years, which is much better than if we had tried to keep her. Will and Janette have a great little car and we are all extremely happy with the outcome.

I will say, however, that I still get a little wistful when I see an Xterra drive by…

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