It was the summer of 2004.
I had just graduated from CBC with my BA in April, and then immediately flown down to Costa Rica for three weeks to pursue my sense of adventure. Upon my return, I interviewed for my first "after college" job, and went home to the Island to waitress for two months until that job started in August.
And...I needed a car.
Being the investigative type, I remember looking online at all the options locally in the Comox Valley, and then, with Mom in tow, perusing car lots after closing hours so that I could freely ogle cars without the hassle of sometime trying to convince me to buy them.
And within a couple of weeks, I had found it.
It was a mermaid green Jetta. (They called it Silver Green).
I could picture myself behind the wheel, pretending I was cool and German. (A half-truth in real life.)
So, I took lessons on how to actually drive a standard from my friend Joy...with her two kids in the back seat. I will never forget some of those lessons. Let's remember, learning how to drive standard is stressful enough; I had the benefit of Joy's two kids (then, something like 4 years old and 1 1/2 years old) running commentary from the back seat. Jeremy (the then 4 year old) kept commenting on what bad sounds their car was making, and how mad Daddy was going to be if he knew I was breaking their car.
Joy looked at me and said, "Kathleen, if you can learn how to drive standard with these two yelling in your ears, you will always know how to drive standard, and nothing else will phase you".
(And she was right. I remember mentally thanking Joy and her two shouting kids when I was whipping through the streets of Costa Rica, driving standard 15-passenger vans full of teenagers.)
After a couple of lessons with Joy, my Dad joined me as I went and bought the car. It was the most money I had ever spent on anything outside of education. It was my first "thing" that I owned, and that I actually worried about losing/breaking/crashing/etc. My mom reminded me it was still just a tin can and it kept me humble as I stalled repeatedly at red lights, and sweated at the thought of stopping on a hill.
I named her Wanda, cause Maria looked at me one day and said "your car reminds me of a fish". I looked back at her and said, "A fish called Wanda".
Four years and three alternators later, dear Wanda was causing me grief, and making me seriously look for mechanic-type-boyfriends.
It was 2008.
I had just returned from another summer in Costa Rica, meeting with and praying for people who shared their stories with me. Stories of poverty. Stories of desire. Stories of joy with a whole lot less than we have here.
I came home and thought,"how dare I be ungrateful for Wanda! She may be difficult at times, but I have so much to be grateful for!"
That week, I drove to the Island, and my muffler fell off when I rounded a bend on Highway #1.
That was the end.
Wanda went to live with my friend Mike, was appropriately re-named "Wanda Thunderbolt the Second" and I bought my Honda Fit.
About two years later, I got a text from Mike. He'd given away my car to one of the youth at his church, and, ironically, had bought a Honda Fit.
Last week, I drove onto campus. The parking lot was full with new students.
And I saw her.
Could it actually be Wanda?
I chuckled at how my eyes were drawn to the car, and glanced over as I walked by, too focused on the work ahead of me, and running a little late. It couldn't be Wanda, I surmised.
But every day of this last week, I'd drive into work, and there she was, catching my eye.
Today, having a little more time to look, I finally noticed the license plate holder, proudly stating "Courtenay, BC". My mouth dropped open. I walked around the car and there it was. The scratched bumper from that time I backed into a very low cement barrier.
I had to laugh out loud.
Does life really just always loop over and over like this?
Owning Wanda taught me a lot about being capable, being confident, solving problems, finding solutions, asking for help, and budgeting for the unexpected.
Seeing her on campus today reminded me that those are lessons I still need to learn; I can't assume I've already learned them and moved on.
And maybe that's why she came home...