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A Letter to my Car - Anna Brautigam

Dear Car, 

 

I’ve been complaining about you lately and today it’s time to say goodbye.  I’m sorry for complaining. You’ve been a wonderful car and I love you.  

 

You were my first new car. I used my first bonus from my first “real” job for your down payment. It wasn’t my first job, but it was the first job where I was a leader and felt respect and appreciation. The 10 percent bonus the Board gave me at the end of that first year was more money than I’d ever gotten at once. A few years before that, we were newly married and broke. I drove a Saturn Ion (they don’t make them anymore!) that I improperly bought with my student loan money from grad school. It was beat up and smelled like cigarettes because I smoked in it on my way to class. I quit smoking before I got you, so you smelled like new leather which made me feel sophisticated, grown up. I wrote to the Board to say how happy I was to buy my first new car with my bonus. When you were still new, some Board members and I needed a secret meeting out of sight, so we had our meeting sitting on your leather in the parking lot of Gardner’s Market in Coconut Grove. I was proud. 

 

I chose you, a small SUV, because Harry and I were trying to have a baby.  We struggled and we were frustrated and sad. It was months of needles and tears, but we had a plan. You and I took many trips to the clinic. We lived downtown and I drove you to South Miami for 7 am appointments every day, then north to the Grove to work, 45 minutes each way.  You were first a representation of my professional success, then a symbol of our hope to become a family.  I became a mom and you became my mommy car. Many thanks.

 

We bought a house and moved from our chic, downtown apartment to the suburbs. You became a fixture in our new driveway. I was offered a promotion at work, which was withdrawn when they found out I was pregnant. I left that meeting and sat in the parking lot of the tile store, where I was supposed to look at tile for our new house. I cried on the phone with Harry, disappointed and so, so angry. Surrounded by your camel leather and automatic buttons, seat warmers and coolers, I was reminded that I was a respected professional. I had earned that respect like I earned you. I started making phone calls and lined-up my next career move. I left behind the ones who held me back. Thank you.

 

You brought Enzo home from the hospital. Leaving the hospital, we could not figure out how to do his car seat properly. Like new parents in a family friendly sitcom we wrestled with it on the circular ramp at Baptist Hospital, sweating and swearing and flustered until we figured it out. He was tiny and I was scared to drive home. I sat in your backseat with him, his little hands gripped around my finger, as we made the 10-minute drive, our transition from a couple to a family... You kept us safe and secure and at peace, starting on that short, sweet ride, right up until today. Enzo’s first word after Mama and Dada, was “car”. Thank you.

 

You and I went back to work. My new world as a working mother with a brand-new job, meant running on fumes and coffee after sleepless nights the new industry I was working in was full of men who didn’t, or couldn’t, understand what I was going through. No one in my office had children. I felt alone in my struggle to be successful in my career and a good mom. I was trying to breastfeed and it wasn’t easy. I drove to sales meetings and conferences. I used a breast pump every three hours, mostly in the car between meetings. You somehow kept me safe on the highways of Miami, breast pump equipment strapped to my chest so I could pump and get to my meetings on time. I had to pick up work calls on speaker and try to answer that first question, "what is that noise?". I would pull into the parking lots of Whole Foods, Race Trac, the Old Science Museum when I was lucky enough to park and pump. I felt bad about all the milk I spilled on your leather and console as I juggled bottles and pump parts and cooler bags. Many days I got so frustrated I would cry. You were a big part of those days. Thank you. 

 

Enzo and Dylan love you. I can’t tell you how many afternoons we spent killing time in the Florida heat, just sitting in you in the driveway. They love to play with your buttons– windows up and down, sunroof open and closed. Dylan ripped off the gasket off your sunroof, but Harry was able to fix it. They loved to push the seat warmer buttons and turn the windshield wipers up as fast as they could go. We went through a lot of wiper blades. They would fight over who got to be the driver. After all the buttons had been pushed and everyone had enough turns as the driver, I would let the boys out of their car seats and then drive around and around the circle of our cul-de-sac. They would poke their heads out the window and laugh at doing something a little naughty and the freedom of being unrestrained. Thank you for giving that to them. 

 

You became especially helpful when the pandemic came. The world shut down. I lost my job, I dedicated myself to staying home in safety with the kids while Harry worked in his new home office. I tried to fill our days with structure– “home school,” activities, exercise, a schedule– rules and order.  I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. We were all scared and things seemed to be crumbling around us. It was brutally hot. Playing in the car became a ritual in the late afternoon, giving one of us a break as we chipped away at that endless time between naps and dinner.

 

We would take turns picking music while we played in you. We would film ourselves on snapchats with funny animal filters, while singing along with Disney songs. At Christmas time, we got a CD of Olaf the snowman reading “The Night Before Christmas”. The boys loved inserting and ejecting the CD, and we listened to the story endlessly in our driveway and on drives until the day a curious Enzo found a quarter in a cup holder and jammed it into your CD slot, forever trapping Olaf inside. 

 

We would get out buckets and wash you in the driveway, even if you had just been washed. The kids would take turns with hoses and sponges and use the dustbuster to clean the dirt and sand from your carpets. Our world was very small and simple and our home became a fortress of quiet and love. I am actually grateful I lost my job and got to spend those months at home with them when they were little, when washing you and pretending to drive you was our afternoon adventure. Thank you for being with me to watch my children grow, learn, and play without the distractions of the world.

 

You have been a reminder of my strength, power and capabilities as a professional and a mother for almost 10 years.  You have been a main character in our story of conception, rejection, motherhood, loss, professional struggles and global panic. You have been a source of comfort and companionship as I tried to be a mom, a leader, a wife and a teacher.  When I bought you with that first bonus, it was meaningful to me, but I did not realize what an important role you would play in our lives. You were there for every major event, every tiny moment. You were there for it all. 

 

We will likely not have more children. Our family feels complete. The boys are in school and my days of having tiny babies are behind us. I feel the lens turning back inward, away from babies and toward me. My focus can shift more to my professional success and some personal aspirations that I put on hold as we raised babies. My boys have started after-school sports and activities and we pile in the car and shuffle to various errands and activities on weekends. Soon I will be driving them to pick up friends and dropping them off at the mall, like my mom used to do. Soon we will be shoving musical instruments and bags of soccer balls into the trunk. Soon I (Ok, ok Harry) will be teaching them how to drive.  

 

With big, growing, kids with friends and activities, we are thinking of three rows of seats, a big trunk. And for me, a car that says “boss” a little louder than it says “mommy.” We will move on to our new phase of life but you will always be part of the journey that led us here. It’s time for me to turn you lovingly over to someone new, someone who will hopefully again smash goldfish crackers into your carpets and dent your leather with a sequence of car seats. Someone who enjoys listening to Olaf’s “Night Before Christmas” on repeat. 

 

My hope is that you end up with another new mother, unsure of herself, happy but scared about the new chapter, happy to have a car she can be proud of. I know you will provide her what she needs at just the right time, as you have for me.

 

Anna Brautigam is A mother, business leader and Lego picker-upper by day, I write freelance in the early hour of the morning because it fills my cup and keeps me grounded. This is a non-fiction essay i wrote this year as I faced a big transition in my life.

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