Today is the day that I officially give up my car. Her name is Sadie, and she is a 2001 champagne-colored Hyundai Elantra with a manual transmission. She is so broken and old now that it is unkind to apply any more band-aids to her tumors. She was meant to safely carry me, and because she can no longer do that I must respectfully retire my sweet friend. I am beyond bereft.
You could argue that it’s unhealthy to be attached to things, but I always knew she carried my late grandfather’s spirit, and loved her even more for that.
Nathaniel Rosman, my father’s father, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who was prone to spontaneously bursting into song and doing a little soft-shoe on the street, bought her for me five days before September 11, 2001, which was a few months before he died after ninety years on the planet. On the day we bought her, someone snapped a picture of Grandpa and me, and I kept it in her every day I had her on the road. She was the first car I ever had, and I felt him in her—he loved cars so much and was so proud to be able to buy one for his first grandchild. Certainly she survived more than you’d ever expect, just like he did, and she protected me from so much more, just like he wished to. She also made so many of my dreams come true, including an independence that I didn’t know you could achieve when you chose to live as a single woman and didn’t have much money.
I drove that car around the entire United States once, mostly by myself.
I drove her to Montreal.
I drove her to Maine.
I drove her to Vermont.
I drove her to the South.
I drove her to Los Angeles.
I drove her up the California Coast.
I drove her back and forth to Massachusetts countless times.
I drove her into the mountains.
I drove her into the woods.
I drove her through the desert.
I drove her to the sea.
I drove her to the first vacation rental I could afford on my own.
I drove her through this country’s most dangerous roads and highways.
I drove her through every nook and cranny of New York City.
I loved this car so much that I named her after a great aunt, a gorgeous Polish woman who never bothered to marry. I loved this car so much that I talked to her directly all the time. I will do so again here:
You made it possible for me to visit the ocean whenever I wanted.
You made it possible for me to leave the city at a moment’s notice.
You made it possible for me to drag treasures back to my home like the domesticated alley cat I’ll always be.
You made it possible for me to fetch all my supplies myself.
You made it possible for me to leave unhealthy situations.
You made it possible for me to take care of myself even when my health was compromised.
You helped take care of my cats.
You waited patiently for me outside my house, through every season.
You liberated me from the hegemony of public transit.
You lasted longer than all my romantic relationships.
You held my things for me, my lipsticks and extra seltzer and tampons and beach towels and running shoes and unflagging aspirations.
You came to me when I was young and beautiful and dangerous, and you stuck by me as I shed my illusions and my fangs.
You kept me safe even when I made unsafe choices.
You made me feel free.
I never thanked my grandfather adequately—he died before I learned to express gratitude—but I can thank you, Sadie. I always knew my grandfather’s love was in you, and I thank you and him for taking such good care of me. For helping me realize my dreams of a happy adulthood just when I thought my life was over.
Thank you so much for protecting and delivering me and permakitten Grace and my first feline family, Max and Ruby, and all the people whom I have loved, and all the hopes I ever nurtured. I love you, Sadie, and I have basked in your love.
You have carried my heart. You always will.