By Pam Henderson

“We said goodbye to a dear old friend. And we packed our bags and left. It’s the only way.”

Those decades-old lyrics from the iconic performer Phil Collins played through my head as my family and I said goodbye to a dear old friend recently. No worries – it wasn’t a goodbye to a person. Still, I hesitate to say that it wasn’t a loved one, because it was loved. All 210,000 miles of it were well-loved. It was a goodbye to our 1997 Toyota Camry.

Before you laugh and think we’re completely nuts – because a car doesn’t have emotions and its only true purpose is to get us from Point A to Point B – you may be able to reflect back on emotions that have surfaced when you have had to say goodbye to an object. Maybe you felt emotions swell up when you said goodbye to bachelorhood before your wedding, or when you traded in the sporty car for a minivan, or when your child advanced from a tricycle to training wheels. All of these moments are “rites of passage” that carry us from one chapter of our lives to the next.

Saying goodbye to a car is nothing like the heart wrenching goodbye to a family member or pet. Still, our dealer told us that he has many stories to tell. People get really attached to their cars.

Fans of the sitcom, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” will remember the story of the 1972 Plymouth Valiant. Ray just couldn’t bear to let go of “Lucky” as it was known. To Debra, it was a lemon; but to Ray, it had priceless memories from his “lucky” high school days.

It’s been 20 years since my husband and I have had to say goodbye to a family car. So, we don’t have a lot of experience in this field. And, this was a first for our daughters. The excitement of a new vehicle was tempered by the loss of our old one. We couldn’t help but think it was lonely, sitting in the car lot at night rather than in the warmth of our garage.

Our Camry was not just any car. It was the car that brought out newborn daughters home from the hospital. It was the car that took us across the border to Canada. It was the car that took us to Niagara Falls and Cedar Point and welcomed us home from Germany. It held car seats and booster seats. It had beach sand and winter salt ground into its floor mats. Its trunk was a storage unit for secret Christmas presents. On more than one occasion, it kept us safe from distracted drivers and treacherous weather conditions.

Our daughter learned how to drive in that car.

The Camry was missing a radio knob and head rest – the battle wounds of a life well-lived with two precocious sisters.

So, as this transaction was taking place, Rick and I were especially hit with the sentiments of closing one chapter of parenting our children. It’s been a long time since we opened the car door in the heat of summer only to be overcome by the smell of rancid milk left in a wayward sippy cup. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would go on to miss the sticky residue from the girls’ Dum Dums that we’d get at the bank’s drive up window on Saturday mornings. No matter how many Dum Dums were in the candy jar at home, none tasted as good as the ones at the bank.

Despite our best efforts to find any treasures as we spruced it up for its final journey, our Camry probably left us while holding onto a few mini crayons from a restaurant, lucky pennies and stickers from the pediatrician’s office. Through the years, these items have been the staples that littered the car.

It’s a little overwhelming to think that the Camry’s replacement may be chauffeuring our grandchildren someday. Or, driving our daughter to set up home in a new town.

The strange thing is, 19 years ago it was overwhelming to think that our Camry would one day be driving our brand new baby daughter to Prom, or to her high school graduation. Or, to the car lot to pick up her new vehicle to drive to college.