A Remembrance of my 1995 Mercedes-Benz

I put on my mink jacket and sunglasses and began to drive to a local parking lot. The air, despite it being April, felt brisk that day, almost like the weather understood what I was about to do. As I rode silently, I approached my three friends, all also dressed in floor-length mink fur and solemn concerning the goodbyes we were about to say. We were not about to say goodbye to one another, but to my 1995 Mercedes-Benz, Penny. As Katie, one of my dear friends, began to eulogize, "When I think of Penny one thing comes to mind: family. Not just family to me or you, but to anyone who sat on her scratched leather seats". As she began to tell a story about her trip to an Amish market with Penny to pick up homemade horseradish for her mother, we all began to fill with tears.
Like a flame, they say that the most passionate romances are the quickest to burn out. While I do not know who ‘they' are, I have found this to be true. Penny and I were set up on a blind-date on my 16th birthday. I remember walking outside of my house and seeing her, in all her elegant, broken beauty standing in my driveway. Unlike most highschool relationships, I thought we would be different. Instead, she was brutally murdered by a Honda Pilot who took a left turn without looking. Despite her age and inability to likely pass an inspection test, Penny's airbags shockingly went off and protected me and my friend from injury. However, her selfless act of protection did not prevent her from injury. As I was pulled out of her old doors by a construction worker, I saw the feeble, destructed exterior of Penny. I knew at that moment she was gone.
It may seem crazy to mourn an inanimate object, but there was just something about Penny. She had this ability to make other cars jealous and always knew how to make an entrance whether that be hydroplaning on the way to school and hitting a sign or scratching other cars because of her bulky exterior in my gym parking lot. She was classy, requiring premium oil and doing her part in contributing to our climate crisis, while also having a little bit of spunk to her. My favorite part of Penny was her cassette aux cord that never seemed to work, but led to a great conversation opener for guests.
Penny was more than just a car to a lot of people, but the reason I write about her isn't because of her exterior quirks. As Katie artfully said in her eulogy, "Penny never judged. She never hated. She accepted every person for who they were and that's what made her so special". Maybe it was the black driving gloves Katie wore or the way she so intensely articulated Penny's absence, but her positive presence reinforced the fact she was not just a car, but a soulmate and a friend to many.
From spilling homemade Chili in the back of her seats to getting rear-ended on the Walt Whitman bridge in stand-still traffic, Penny was a force to be reckoned with. She taught those around us what resilience was and was a free spirit despite her age. In an age of new, technologically gifted automobiles, Penny's glamor was soft-spoken and barebones.
Yet, still, why am I telling you about such a car? I think there are random things, for every person, that make their highschool experience their highschool experience. For me and my friends, Penny was not just a transportation vessel, but a vessel of late-night rendezvous, excessive laughter, and a lot of silly moments. For us, saying goodbye and mourning Penny was not simply mourning a car we loved, but an integral aspect of our highschool experience. The fabric of her seats and buzzing sounds intertwined with the very moments of highschool that were so ordinarily fun.
When we choose to reflect back on our relationship with material objects like that of Penny, it is easy to sanitize or bathe in our emotional attachments to them. I think of the calmness my childhood blanket brings to me or the joy I felt riding in Penny on a warm summer day. We allow ourselves to give objects emotional weight, but I do not believe that means they have agency over us in any regard. It may seem weird to love or speak so highly of such an object like Penny, but I believe this speaks highly to the complexity of the human experience. By associating these objects with memories, it gives us a form of power - the ability to reclaim a moment and associate it with something real, to allow ourselves to remember life at our highest of highs and lowest of lows. When trying to rationalize my grief regarding Penny, I thought back to an episode of Gilmore Girls where Dean breaks up with Rory, the main character. As her mother, Loreali, attempts to comfort her, Rory is rummaging through her room, attempting to rid the room of Dean. She cries stating, "No, take it out of the house. Throw it in a dumpster, burn it, I don't care. Just - I want it gone". The objects, frivolous items Dean complimented or gifted her, held such weight she would rather throw it away than deal with the emotional repercussions of her breakup. Our ability to attach ourselves to an object can allow us to perceive an entire moment differently. There is something remarkable about being able to associate such powerful emotions with inanimate objects. While associating our favorite sweater with a fight may make us hate our favorite sweater, I think it speaks to the testament of our human experience.