Slug Bug Good-bye




It’s hard to say good-bye. And I’ve had a lot of good-byes to say.

At the end of fourth grade, I had to say good-bye to my friend Ruby Ann Warren. We spent every school recess together and spent the night at each other’s homes.

As the school year ended, Ruby told me her dad’s company had transferred him to a job in Texas. (Texas is a million miles from California where I lived. How rude of her dad’s company to send him so far away!) But I didn’t say that when Ruby told me the news of her departure. Instead, a silent sadness came over me. Ruby lived across the street and the day she moved away, I stood on the street curb and watched her pile into her family car. When the family’s car pulled out of their driveway, her dad stopped the car at the spot where I stood. Ruby jumped out of the back seat and ran to the curb and hugged me. “Good-bye,” she said, then hopped back into her car. She waved from the car’s rear window as I stood there watching her family sputter away. She continued to wave until her car turned the corner. I raced to my bedroom, put my head in my pillow, and cried hard. I never saw her again.

Ruby is in the back row, next to me with my hands on my head. (I liked to practice different poses.)

Ruby is in the back row, next to me with my hands on my head. (I liked to practice different poses.)

She sent me a letter a few weeks later and with it she included a photograph. “This is me water skiing,” she wrote. The photo featured a lake and a dot trailing behind a boat. Is the dot her? Is she having fun when she knows I’m sad about her moving away? I would have preferred knowing she was miserable. Thank goodness I had my best friend Teresa who wouldn’t think of moving away and having fun without me.

My dearest childhood friends (l-r) Teresa, me, Marian with brother Paul. They would never leave me and they haven't.

My dearest childhood friends (l-r) Teresa, me, Marian with brother Paul in front. They would never leave me and they haven’t.

I’ve since said good-bye to other friends (thankfully, none sent me a photo of their fun water skiing outing after we parted); I’ve said good-bye to teachers (some I was happy to say good-bye to) and I’ve said adios to husbands (well, only one husband. To put it into context, he said adios first and he doesn’t even speak Spanish.)

I’ve said good-bye to homes, like the first home Jerry and I purchased. “Good-bye home in North Bend, Washington,” I said as I left a note on the kitchen counter for the new homeowner. The note outlined the joys I had of living there, including mention of the Japanese cherry tree Jerry and I planted in the front yard to commemorate our son’s birth. I explained it would explode in gorgeous pink blooms every April. Jerry and I drove by the North Bend house a few years later and noticed the cherry tree had disappeared. I hated to even think of what kind of torturous demise it possibly endured. Good-bye cherry tree.


This weekend I said good-bye to my 2006 convertible Volkswagen Beetle. I wanted to sell it, it was time. And I’m very happy my brother bought it, so it stays in the family. Even so, I’m sad. I didn’t shed one tear when Jerry and I sold the Mercury Sable or the Ford F-250. But the VW Beetle was my car. I paid for it. I picked it out. It wasn’t exactly the color I wanted, but the price was too good to pass up. It never broke down and took good care of me. I hauled bags of compost in it and giant potted plants, one so huge I had to buckle it in the passenger seat to keep the seat belt alarm from beeping. My VW even cared about the safety of potted plants! I loved riding with the top down on cool, cloudy days, which come plentiful to you when you live in the Pacific Northwest. There’s a therapeutic feeling of freedom with wind whipping through your hair. In the Phoenix area, convertibles don’t have the same hair-blowing, thrill-factor due to the blazing sun beating on your head and frying your hair to a sizzle.

I asked Jerry to take this picture an hour before I turned it over to my brother. It was windy that day.

I asked Jerry to take this picture an hour before I turned it over to my brother. It was windy that day.

A few years back (ha, like twelve years), I said good-bye to my son when he moved out of the house to begin his life as an adult. I put my head on my desk and cried for a day and a half. Or was it a month and a half? I had a feeling then that life would never be the same—and now, I have that same kind of feeling with the loss of my car.

“You can drive my car until you get a new one,” Jerry generously offered today.

Jerry’s Ford Explorer doesn’t have a working AC, so a ride in it is like a trip in a sweat box. Still, it does get you where you need to be, albeit not very comfortably or feeling fresh-as-a-daisy. I was appreciative of his offer, however.

For now, I need some time to grieve my Volkswagen, dubbed Chugabug. I’ll miss people whooping “slug bug” when I drive by.

That’s the real loss. No one will slug each other when they see me in my new car−whatever that turns out to be. Think of it. No one slugs you when they see a Ford Escape or a Hyundai Tucson. No one cares about those cars.

Besides, “slug Tucson” or “slug Escape” doesn’t even rhyme.



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