I will never forget the first time I saw Cam.
It was Christmas Eve, 21 years ago. I was going through a hard time after several things I had set my sights on had not worked out. I was driving aimlessly, listening to music, passing time and trying not to feel all the hurt in my life.
And then, I looked over at a car dealership off the expressway and there she was. It was the flash of brilliant red that caught my eye. She was parked under the portico, with one of those Jesus lights on her. Well, I call them Jesus lights. They’re the ones they put over cars and jewelry that when you see them, you hear a choir of angels singing.
Now this might sound kind of strange to people, but since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of a red sports car. But as the years passed and I grew older, I never saw one like it. Not until this night. See, they hadn’t even made this car when I was a child. Oh, they had Camaros, all right. But they were a much different shape and body style than the one I saw in my dreams.
But suddenly, on a lonely, dark, cold and snowy Christmas Eve, right out of a child’s dream, there was the flashy red car for which I had longed.
I pulled off the expressway and took the side streets to the dealer. I honestly expected the car not to be there, for it to have been a figment of my imagination. But no, there she was. I knew she was a girl and I knew her name before I got out of my own car to look at her.
“Cam,” I whispered. Her name came to me right then, like I had known it all my life.
Something in that car spoke to me. Oh, it isn’t like I heard an actual voice, but something in her called to my spirit, made me feel peaceful and no longer sad. It was like she wiped the darkness away from inside of me.
I walked all around her, admiring every angle, every detail. I loved the rectangle headlights, the length of her hood, the slant of her back glass. She was exactly as I had dreamed about off and on throughout the years and I could hardly believe I wasn’t dreaming right then.
I sat down on the cold pavement beside her, but I didn’t feel the slightest chill. She made me feel warm and happy, and the only way I can really get close to describing the feeling was it was like I had come home. Until then, I didn’t even know I had been away.
I don’t know how long I stayed, marveling at this wonder. They say there is a magic at Christmas, and I felt it then like at no time before or since. This was my car. She had been made for me, destined to be with me before she was even designed.
I know this may be a little out there for some people, but I also know other people will know exactly what I am talking about – when something is so perfect and delightful that you can’t believe your luck, fortune, chance, destiny, kismet, providence.
It took me three days to make the purchase. The dealership was closed that night, and the next day. But I spent time away from work Dec. 26 to test drive her, work on the deal and try to get financing. It went through Dec. 27 and they called to tell me I could come get her. What they may not have known was that I had visited her each night since and I could hardly wait to bring her home.
In fact, I was standing there beside her when they opened Dec. 26. I was waiting there to make a deposit so she wouldn’t get away. When the salesman asked me if I wanted to test drive her, I laughed. I said that would be fine, but it wasn’t necessary because I knew she was meant for me. He said he had never heard someone say that before. (I did drive her, and when I returned, he said he was worried about whether I would come back.) The growl of her engine just thrilled me to my core then, as it does still.
Today is our anniversary; I have owned Cam for 21 years. I know it isn’t usual for people to keep a vehicle so long, but then, she isn’t just a vehicle; she’s a friend and daughter. She has taken me away from unsafe situations and taken me to wonderful destinations. She has taken me across the country twice, and to lives in many different states. She has known all five of my German Shepherds. And she has never left me stranded.
We have gone on many adventures, and I spend a lot of time taking good care of her to make sure she runs well and looks beautiful. We’ve attended many car shows and won some awards. We’ve driven on a NASCAR track and raced at a drag strip.
For many of her years, she was my only car and we have racked up more than 200,000 miles together. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase a second vehicle, so she doesn’t have to be driven in harsh weather.
All these years later, I still get a thrill every time I see her, every time I sit in her seat, every time I turn the key. I always look back at her when walking away. And when I am having a less-than-great day, just the sight or thought of her makes me smile and feel at ease.
Happy anniversary, Cam. Here’s to many, many more.