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Searching for a new car provides fun for the family

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 2:39 p.m. CDT

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When I returned to the tow lot to collect my belongings after my car was totaled last week, I found a new bumper sticker buried under the old blankets, forgotten water bottles and worn-out soccer balls. For some reason, I never got around to putting it on my car.

“That’s because there wasn’t any ROOM for another sticker!” on the stickermobile’s bumper, my son would probably say.

My head’s been spinning since the accident. There’s been a deluge of details to deal with, plus, there’s the near-constant headache, neck and back pain that leave me feeling pretty crummy. Oh, the irony, of having to be interviewed by multiple property and medical claims adjustors, when it hurts just to talk on the phone!

But there have been bright spots.

For example, two days after the accident, I picked Noah up from school in my rental and headed to Trader Joe’s to find something simple for dinner. I was too wiped-out to go in, though, so I just parked and handed Noah some cash.

“Chicken, carrots, whatever else you want,” I muttered, and closed my eyes.

Ten minutes later he called me on his cell to ask if he could put the chicken back and buy ingredients for the cheesy potato soup recipe his foods class had made the day before, instead.

“Uh, yeah,” I replied.

Things were looking up. Noah made dinner, even whistled while he worked (while I chilled-out with a few ice-packs on my sore parts) and the soup was mmm, mmm good. I seriously considered becoming a career malingerer after that, but as any mother knows, unless you’re bleeding from your ears you must get on with things, pain or no pain.

Dishes have to be done, kids have to be cuddled and the laundry must be folded (um, no. Does anyone actually fold laundry anymore?).

In my case, I also had to negotiate a property claim with the other driver’s company and wrap my head around the project of buying another car. But I haven’t really been up for it.

My kids are having a ball researching used cars online, but the whole thing makes my head swim. In fact, Sunday afternoon, after several minutes of being crowded onto the couch with everyone poring over listings on my laptop, I handed it off to Noah and headed upstairs to close my eyes. Not 10 minutes later, though, after I’d finally gotten myself situated with my varied and sundry ice-packs (um, I don’t recommend using bags of frozen mixed berries in a pinch, by the way. They eventually leak.) and nearly drifted off to sleep, my firstborn tiptoed into my bedroom with my laptop to show me a Volkswagen for sale. Nap over.

It’s hard to resist, though, the enthusiasm of a kid hoping to have a say in the car he’ll get to drive later this year, once he gets his permit.

Oh, the joy.

Holly got in on the act, too. One morning before school – before I even got out of bed, actually – she showed me a car for sale online.

“Not bad,” I said, impressed with her skills, but she wasn’t done.

“Show me the CARFAX,” she said, as she clicked on the link detailing the car’s history.

I laughed so hard I cried. And that afternoon, as she walked through the back door after school, the first thing she said wasn’t “Hello” or “Hi, Mom” it was “Equinox and Pilot.” Seems she’d been scoping-out cars on the bus ride home.

It took a few days of this harangue from my kids – and confirmation from my insurance company that my dear, old Subaru Forester was indeed a total loss – before I faced facts and finally began hunting for another car. My kids don’t really care for my methods, however.

For example, when I stumbled across a sweet, used Mini-Cooper online (hmmm, bike-rack on the back, dog in the rear, a roof-rack for the kayaks, awesome gas mileage, it can be done, right?), Noah made it clear he didn’t approve. Too small.

Besides, “You’re not a Mini-Cooper kind of girl,” he added.

“What’s a Mini-Cooper kind of girl?”

“A teeny-tiny woman,” he said. Boy, that boy is bold.

“Just what are you trying to say?” I sputtered in mock protest, hands on hips.

Me thinks he doesn’t consider himself a Mini-Cooper kind of guy, truth be told.

Later, when a few other cars caught my eye as I circled the Trader Joe’s parking lot I simply rolled down my window and interviewed their owners.

I’m not a stalker, though my kids would beg to differ. En route to soccer practice that afternoon, I spotted several more.

“What about that one? Or that one? What is it?” I asked, as I slowed down to let the car in question pass so I could get a better look.

“Mom, stop looking at cars,” Noah pleaded. “We’re gonna be late. You’re driving so slowly, everyone’s passing you.”

True, but I was on a mission and not quite up to passing others in my unfamiliar rental. Everyone else was just doing what they usually do, anyhow, racing to red lights.

And besides, I added, “I can’t fly. This thing isn’t Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.”

No, it most certainly isn’t.

I’m not a fan of the new-fangled keyless ignition. All that’s required to start it is that the key be somewhere in the car, and then you just push a button. But on our way to school Wednesday morning Noah decided that he need something from the trunk, so I pulled over and gave him the key. He got what he needed and closed the trunk. It wasn’t until minutes later, when I pulled into my driveway and noticed the flashing “THERE IS NO KEY IN THE CAR” light on the dash, that I realized that the key was still in his pocket.

Once I turned the car off, I wouldn’t be able to turn it back on. I had to fish Noah out of class to get the key.

I miss my old Forester. I’d planned to teach Noah how to drive in it, a stick (manual transmission), as I believe that knowing how is really valuable skill, enabling one to drive any car. But manual transmissions are hard to come by anymore, I’m finding, so I’ll shift gears and keep things in perspective.

It’s just a car, after all. I may be stiff and sore and headachy for who knows how long, but hey, I still have my life. And one more sticker.

“One love,” it says. Yeah, everything’s gonna be all right.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She provides this personal recollection of an event she experienced. Contact her at jenniferdubose@msn.com.

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