Home' Journeys : Feb Mar 2016 Contents The Corolla is 18, which in car years makes it ready to cash in its superannuation.
It makes strange noises when we get it out of its garage bed; no longer displays any interest
in doing 100km/h; bears stains whose provenance is long-forgotten. But the decision
to put it out of its misery has brought little joy, and prompted a sudden wellspring of
memories of all the adventures we’ve had together.
‘I know,’ I reply, touching the bonnet, remembering how we’d driven it from Queensland
to Hobart and back three times over the years. Each time it sat placidly in the Spirit of
Ta s m a n i a’ s hold with the other cars, bobbing hundreds of feet above the sea floor. It took
us to every corner of the Apple Isle, never breaking down, never offering a murmur of
complaint, keeping us warm against the wintry Antarctic winds.
‘Or it’s like how women my age get traded by their husbands for a 21 year-old,’ she says,
touching the crooked aerial.
The X-Trail is a perky diesel, responsive to the touch, welcomes shifting through gears,
and her paintjob is unmarred by time. She has air-conditioned drink holders. She is every
middle-aged car’s worst nightmare.
‘I know,’ I say, touching the Corolla’s hail-dimpled f lanks, remembering how on our
wedding day our friends wrote ‘Just Married ’ in shaving cream on the back window.
They’d attached various noisy accoutrements that trailed out behind us as we drove off
to our honey moon and a life together; when we stopped for petrol the attendant ran out
wondering what all the noise was. Later, we’d touched the white foamy letters, struggling
to believe it was real. Married.
Ben, Di and Cooper
Allmon farewell an
‘It feels like we’re pulling the plug on a sick loved-one,’ my wife
says, referring to our ageing Corolla. Shortly we’ll be leaving it in
the hands of Todd, a used-car salesman who is giving us a much
younger, more spacious and less crotchety vehicle in return, a 2008
Nissan X-Trail. It wasn’t even born when Di bought the dogged
little Toyota that’s been our primary transport for the last decade.
‘It’s silly. I’m excited to be getting a new car,
but at the same time I’m so sad,’ Di says, and
there are tears in her eyes. ‘You know?’
‘I know,’ I reply, leaning in to take one
last look around. It looks strange with
Cooper’s child seat gone. Empty, like
Di had been after he was born. I’d got so
used to her pregnant belly, the way it felt.
Once Cooper was born, loosed upon an
unsuspecting world, she’d suddenly seemed
strangely small – but pretty soon I forgot
her pregnant form, could only remember it
It’s scary how fast we forget.
The panicked drive when Di went
screaming into labour – and as always, our
Corolla got us there in time, safely, without
fuss. I look at where Cooper’s seat has
been since we brought him home that first
morning three years ago, happy and tired
and scared as hell. We still have the photo
of him, asleep in his first car, a tiny creature
with so many miles left on his clock.
‘Say goodbye to Mummy’s car,’ I hear Di say,
and Cooper pats it solicitously and says ‘Bye
bye Mummy’s car.’ I glance over the top of
the white roof at my wife, as I have done a
thousand times before, and we share a look.
It’s the look that contains more than
language can bear – acknowledging the
finite nature of our lives, the way in
which all things get left by the side of life’s
road, sooner or later. And they’re things
nobody else would give a passing glance – a
worn-out teddy, a threadbare jacket, a piece
of tarnished jewellery, a warped record, a
dress beyond mending.
An old white Corolla.
‘We’d better go in,’ Di says.
‘ I know.’
Todd has festooned the X-Trail with
balloons. They bob and float jauntily,
colourful harbingers of change. Cooper is
delighted – when you’re three, change is
routine, and new is good. I’m 37. To me,
the balloons are jarring – polka-dot pants
at a funeral. The Nissan is just a shell, an
emotionless husk. We’re not trading in our
car, I think, we’re trading in our memories.
But as we say hello and goodbye, it occurs
to me that what made the Corolla special
is standing next to me. My wife. My son.
They are the same things that will make
the Nissan special.
Well, that and the air-conditioned
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 Journeys 27
LIFE ON THE MOVE
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