She didn’t see it coming.

Until the girl celebrating her sixteenth birthday turned the corner and approached the first driveway on the left did she notice the balloons. Driving closer, she realized the balloons were attached to a polished new (to her) car. You could almost hear the synapses firing in sequence as she tried to put together what was happening. Looking at her mother beside her, she said, “Are you kidding me?” without opening her mouth. A joyful nod was all she needed before the tears and screams made me eager to park.

I spent the rest of the event thinking not about her new car, but mine. The one I was given over thirty years ago. The one that caused me to scream and run in circles. The one I almost stripped of paint because I washed it so often. The one that had the best stereo EVER! The one that made me take forty-five minutes to buy milk in a store five minutes away.

In a week when I drove more miles than I want to admit, when all I wanted to do was get out of the car, it was refreshing to see the pure joy of a new car. What happened to that joy? How is it possible I could take for granted what used to be all I ever wanted?

My reflections moved beyond cars to the other “must haves” and “I can’t live withouts.” The teams made, awards won, friends given, and loves found have faded in time and sit stuffed somewhere in the attic of my heart. Perhaps I am silly to think such emotions can be sustained, but I’m embarrasses by my fleeting passion and excitement.

Rather than pick up the familiar refrain about how awful it is to get old, I think I’ll ask the girl for a car ride. I’ll listen to her music in the “sound system” and give thanks that life goes on and passions remain.

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