To my family, the car was simply “the Mazda”, but its personality was anything but plain. It seemed to take on the persona of its owner, energetic and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The roar of the muffler announced its arrival from a block away. I used to smile at the familiar sound as it came down my street, slowed for a U-turn at the end, and ground to a quick hault in front of the house. I would listen for the sound of the emergency break being whipped into place like a zipper being smartly fastened. The kids would call out, “Grandma’s here!” and up the front steps Mom would come, pocketbook in hand, keys jingling and usually a grocery bag full of treats to have with our tea.
When Mom passed away, my brother took “the Mazda” under his wing and it performed for him and his family like a thoroughbred. It was always the car that kept running and was available to those of us who needed another set of wheels when our classier vehicles were in the shop for repairs. When my brother offered to sell it to me for my son to drive, I knew I was inheriting a rare jewel. The car’s finish was a little duller by now, perhaps more gray, and as old things will do it tended to leak fluids every now and then. She was banished to being parked on the street so as not to dirty the driveway.
Then one night, about a month ago, through no fault of her own, the Mazda made her final run. We credit all those holy medals that she bore with protecting my son, when he was broadsided at a traffic crossing. He and the Mazda were able to limp home, and when we saw the damage we knew that her days were over. I felt so disloyal bringing another, shinier model of Mazda home one day, and with a heavy heart called a towing company to come and haul the old girl away. By this time she couldn’t even raise her head, the battery having died in the weeks that she sat there. A kind man, large and tall with soft blue eyes, came with his tow truck. He wheeled her onto the tow ramp as though she were a little toy. I choked back a tear as they drove away, knowing that her legacy was not over, as she would become an organ donor for other little Mazdas. To the shiny new car sitting in the driveway, appearing so smug, I gave a nod of my head and said, “Just hope that you turn out to be half the car that she was.”
The trunk leaked whenever it rained. That was the musty smell you all thought was old floor mats. During April showers you could start your summer tomatoes in the dirt next to the spare tire. It left an oil stain every where it went, like an old dog marking its territory. I can still see the spot on the side of the house where I used to park it -- it put the Exxon Valdez to shame. I could tell it was down a quart when the engine started to sound like my Maytag washer.
I once hooked up a power converter to its small running engine and ran extension cords to light fixtures in a warehouse allowing my crew to do a sort during a power outage. I could change the oil and air filter in 15 minutes, while sipping a beer. I pulled my neighbor's BMW out of a snow drift with it, then dragged them down the street till they could go on their own. The Maz was cabled up...yep, cables for the snow..never got stuck. It got 40 miles to the gallon and started every time until the day I handed the keys off...I could go on and on. We all have a million stories about our cars.
But the best thing about the Mazda was that I could go through my entire day. . . good, bad, busy, completely absorbed in job, kids, errands. . .then, I would climb into the Mazda and suddenly...think of my mom and a great feeling would come over me.