dark blue nissan pathfinder parked in florida with palm trees and blue skies

Way back before I was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, my mother and her cousin picked up the phone and called the local funeral home when a loved one, Sweat Pea Taylor, died. They wisely called the funeral home that the family always called on.

When someone from the funeral home called back the next day to express their condolences—and to find out when they could come pick up the body, the two cousins’ grandmother (my great grandmother) answered the phone.

She replied that there’d been a mistake.

Then she called out for the two—now hiding—cousins, stretching the syllables way out, “Chiiiiiillllldddddrrrren!”

Because the trouble was, Sweat Pea Taylor was a car.

But this story taught me that when a car is part of the family, it gets a name.

Forful, Bertha, Samantha, Black Scootie, and Boxy Roxy:

  • In the 70s my dad lived in a VW bug he’d named “Forful.” I have no idea where that name came from, but anyway, you’d be surprised how much room was in that car once my dad had emptied it out of all but the driver’s seat, and created what was basically a little yacht interior. Sure, height was an issue, but other than that it was damned nice in there, if a little tricky when the car was moving since there was no actual seat for a passenger. (How ’bout those 70s!)
  • When my sister and I were teenagers, our stepfather had a big mama of a Chevy van we all called Bertha. (Well, actually “Big Bertha,” but I don’t think it’s cool to talk like that anymore.)
  • My first car after college was a red Celica (remember those?) named Samantha.
  • I had a ’88 black Honda Civic hatchback with no a/c and no radio that I called Black Scootie. I used a windows-down-sunroof-open system that created just the right amount of air flow on hot days, and other than my long hair flying out the sunroof, it was a very good system. Black Scootie was a great little car. And you just can’t beat 40 mpg around town, 50 on the highway.
  • I named my blue ’92 Volvo 940 Boxy Roxy. This was a handsome car even after a little old lady trying to kill a mosquito inside her car rear-ended Boxy Roxy and bent my frame. No one was hurt, not even the mosquito. What’s more impressive was that I sold Boxy Roxy with a salvage title and 237,000 miles on her for $2,000. That right there is the value of a good car. Gotta love a Volvo.

Blaze, whose name was not supposed to be about her lack of commitment to working a/c:

I named my gorgeous red ’98 Volvo V70-T5 Blaze but never really called her that because we never totally bonded, though we did enjoy each other in our own special way. Honestly, we looked good together, and that’s not nothing.

Blaze really was a beautiful thing and certainly lovely on the highway, what with that turbo of hers. And she was a 5-speed with a stiff clutch—I taught my son to drive on that car. To this day, that kid looks down his nose at an easy clutch.

But Blaze was a wee problematic in the practicalities department—rattly and rough around town, spotty a/c under the best of circumstances, off-and-on cruise control, and so forth. So after a good long while of dedicated service to each other, we were ready to go our separate ways.

teenaged boy wearing black tux and red tie standing in front of red volvo v70
My son about to pick up his date to the prom. Thankfully, the a/c was working on this particular day (unlike the focus on my camera, eek).

 

I put a swell ad with lots of description and pictures on Craigslist, rejected a couple of ungrateful and poorly behaved low-ballers, and amended my ad to include the following:

This is a good-looking, comfortable car that has aged well, and I recognize that it has some needed maintenance. It is being sold “as is.” I don’t want to investigate or fix anything, and I already know that this lovely 13 year-old car is not perfect. Just come and see if you like the car and make an offer. I’ve loved this car, but she’s ready to move on. I am willing to look at your offer—just don’t be ridiculous.

It worked.

Blaze found a new home with a competent young mechanic sort in need of a red 5-speed with a stiff clutch and turbo, and we all lived happily ever after.

Humble Honda to the rescue:

I know, not a very glamorous name. And seriously, she was not a glamorous car.

Yes, after cruising around in a very red car for years it was a bit of a difficult transition driving a rather anonymous car. And for a good while I had the hardest time finding my new ride in parking lots. I mean, there were so many others just like it.

1998 silver honda civic parked in yard beside a brick house
Humble Honda on a clean and shiny day.

 

Her color was optimistically called “heather mist,” but most of the clear coat was long gone, so she had this flat, mottled skin condition sort of surface, bless her heart. And some of the paint was chipping badly from her front bumper for no reason at all. Whatever, I guess.

Also, there was no clicker with Humble Honda—just an old-fashioned key. Yeah, that’s humble alright.

I dunno, I just kept the car clean and enjoyed that plush velour interior, even if it was a little (a lot) beige.

But Humble Honda was a damn steady car.

And but for maybe that carpool incident and another time when my dad pitched in to help, Humble Honda served the family well for quite a few years, even taking many a long trip. After all, you know how Hondas are.

young girl driving honda accord with leapord-covered steering wheel
The teenager, the learner’s permit, and Humble Honda.

 

Enter Liam Nissan:

So last year when my gf’s brother in Florida—who is so meticulous I’m envious because I aspire to be as neat and tidy as he is—said he was trading his truck in to get a new one, I was like, “Lemme get my purse, I’ll be right there.”

It didn’t even matter what kind of vehicle it was because I knew it’d be in tip-top shape.

After negotiations were complete, I called my sister who happened to be heading to Florida that same week (What are the chances, right?), and so she swung by North Carolina on the way from Virginia and we took a little rode trip.

Florida being a long-ass state made it more than a little road trip, of course, but never mind, we had a great time, and then I met my new car.

And I’m telling you, when I saw Liam Nissan, it was like when Barbie and Ken spot each other in Toy Story 3.

Now this wasn’t exactly the pick-up truck I’ve dreamt of because it’s an SUV and not a truck, obviously, but I was nevertheless thrilled at the upgrade. (No offense, Humble Honda!) I mean, I was ready for some road presence and cargo space and engine sound and power and towing capacity.

My new car/truck didn’t disappoint.

Going from little 4-cylinder Humble Honda to a shiny, like-new SUV, I felt like king of the road driving back to NC. I loved every minute of that drive.

I love all that space in the back, I love sitting up high on the road, I love how bright and shiny Liam Nissan is, and and believe it or not, I’ve used the optional third seat (which is really only for the nimblest of your friends) more than a few times.

I can’t say I love the price of filling Liam Nissan up at the gas station. Girl’s got a big… ahem… tank, and she’s not all that conscientious with the miles-per-gallon thing, bless her heart.

But here it is a year later, and I still get a little thrill when I grab the interior handle, step up onto the running board, and hop into the driver’s seat.

So call me shallow, but I’m telling you, Liam Nissan just makes me happy.

shiny dark blue 1998 nissan pathfinder parked on grass
Liam Nissan at home in eastern NC, complete with a lovely pecan tree canopy overhead.

 

 



 

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