I opened the door to greet my neighbor with a few children wrapped around my legs.
“I just wanted to tell you your car has smoke coming out of it,” she said.
I smiled at her, trying to remain standing as one of my daycare kids used me as a human ladder, all the while balancing 2-year-old Connor on my seven-month pregnant belly.
“Yeah,” I smiled. “It does that.” We stood quietly, watching smoke dribble out of the hood of my 2000 Cirrus, which was about nine years old at the time.
“I don’t think it’s supposed to do that,” she said, tilting her head to one side.
I felt the same way, but the professionals told me not to worry about it.
When the smoke started, we took it in, and they said it was just excess from our recent oil change. Once it burned, it would be fine.
About a half-hour later, I tiptoed out the nap room and cringed at the dog announcing another knock at the door.
A college-aged boy stood on my porch with a skateboard tucked under his arm.
“Can I help you?”
“Ma’am, I think your car is on fire.” I smiled. “Oh no. It just smokes sometimes,” I said.
He calmly stood back and pointed at the now black smoke rolling out of the car’s hood.
“I’m pretty sure it’s on fire.”
I ran out the door with the dog behind me, watching my hood turn from silvery green to charcoal grey.
Skater boy probably wished he would have kept rolling down the street because I freaked out in my driveway. “What do we do?”
He shrugged with wide eyes. “Is it gonna explode?”
I think I might have grabbed him around the collar at that point and pulled his face into my mine. “TELL ME! ARE WE GOING TO DIE?”
I don’t exactly thrive in the case of an emergency.
I’m one of those people that if I were drowning, I would take down the person who was trying to save me.
Since my little Nokia phone was dead, I raced into the house to call 911 (and I think that was when Skater boy made his escape).
Shawn pulled up from work about the time the fire truck showed up, and a little group formed around my car, which was now barely smoking.
Moments later, Shawn and I stood alone, with the hood up looking at burnt car parts and waving off the stench of melted plastic.
At that point, since we were driving on liability insurance, we returned to the shop where they changed the oil, and they refurbished my engine.
Time for a trade-in
I loved that car: it smelled like my Granny.
It was the car I drove her around in after she couldn’t drive anymore.
We went to doctor appointments, shopping, and dinner several times per week.
I drove it for eight years, but after it caught on fire, the air conditioning stopped working.
Weeks later, in the July heat at nearly nine months of pregnancy, we noticed a Jeep Compass sitting in front of a dealership.
A few hours and some car loan papers later, we drove home with the air conditioner blowing on high. In the nine years to follow, my Jeep brought home a new baby, drove us to the Florida coast, and sported about 6,000 McDonald’s wrappers and gas station drinks in its floorboards.
Now we are looking at other vehicles, and while I can’t wait to finally get one of those back-up cams, I am going to kind of miss that Jeep.
It has traveled milestones with us.
It delivered Connor and Logan for their first days of school. We’ve stuffed baseball and football gear into it, and one short stint with soccer.
It took my Dad back and forth to cancer treatments.
Funny how life just rolls right along. The seasons keep changing.
Kids grow up.
Parents and grandparents die.
And sometimes cars catch on fire in your driveway.
Next thing you know, you’re overthinking and weirdly emotional about an outdated Jeep with Pepsi and bug juice stains splattered all over the ceiling.
Getting old is weird.