farewell beautiful red wagon

“It’s just a car. It’s just a car.” I repeated to myself as I walked toward my lovely car at the back of the wreckage lot. Hidden behind a dented gate and surrounded by broken glass, crushed fenders and burned out roofs- even covered with dust- she’s still the belle of the ball.

You’d never look at my Volvo and think it’s totaled– it’s simply one of those insurance puzzles where the salvage value is high and someone will fix it up and resell it. Good for the insurance company; sad for me. Global supply chain issues and all that.

Most of the contents of the car, I removed the day after the accident. Today, I simply went to clear out the rest and say goodbye.

I’m always overly sentimental about cars– I recognize that. I’m still mad at Erik for getting the Sequioa hauled away without letting me have one last look. $400 in scrap after 17 years of loyal service. We kept my mom’s old silver wagon through dozens of repairs, a bumper secured with duct tape and barely passing emissions tests each year until it gave up on the side of the road in Lehi.

It’s not the car. It’s the memories. Buckling my babies into the back seat, car pools and car trips and throwing the Christmas tree on the roof.

I bought the Volvo in preparation for grandchildren. Searching the internet and the car lots for the safest wagon out there, what else could I have chosen? The back up camera, the assisted driving, the alarms and lights whenever something came too close… did you know Volvo not only works to insure their are no fatalities in their cars, but not even serious injuries?

My kids borrowed my car all the time– for a trip to IKEA because of all the cargo space, up the canyon because of the 4-wheel drive, or just to run to Home Depot because, “mom’s car is sooooo nice.” It’s true. Every quick trip to the grocery store, run to the airport or mundane doctor visit was cushioned with a layer of luxury.

Mary learned to drive in Volvo, I folded Hans’ wheelchair into it and Xander’s crutches, I insisted my kids take it if they were driving to Provo late at night, and one the happiest days of my life was strapping Fritzie’s car seat into the anchors in the back seat. With all the worries of mothering, this car made me feel like my kids were physically safe. I’m the kind of mom who watches my kids’ location at 2 a.m. and even when everything else felt wrong, I trusted my car to protect my babies.

Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened. Xander was driving home from tutoring one December night when the rainstorm turned to snow and the roads turned to ice. When he called to swap cars, I didn’t hesitate. I should have told him to wait at our house until the storm passed; I should have called Erik to take him home in his pickup, but I didn’t.

The Volvo navigated the storm beautifully. Xander drove past car after car spun off the side of the road (154 total that night). Then the ice took over, the car spun and crashed into the median, facing the wrong way. In a cloud of airbags, Xander called me and the car called him. I could hear the Volvo dispatcher checking on him, asking if he needed an ambulance as Xander described the crash.

Even the tow truck crashed on the way to retrieve the car. Initially, the damage appeared slight. There wasn’t a scratch on the car– the rear wheel took the entire impact (you can see it in the photo). Xander was absolutely fine.

Today, I checked under the mats and in the glove compartment finding old Trader Joe’s receipts, a dozen black pens, extra wipes and a diaper tucked behind the driver’s seat. It’s just a car; it did it’s job perfectly.

January 16, 2022



  1. Anie

    January 15, 2022

    I love this. A few years ago we realized we didn’t really need our 9 passenger Excursion anymore, we were down to 3 kids at home. We sold it to a family that did need it and I felt happy about that, but at the same time, I felt SO sad to see it go. So many memories, so many miles together. It felt like losing a member of the family.

    • mlehnardt8@msn.com

      January 17, 2022

      Cars really do become part of the family, don’t they? Thanks for commenting.

  2. Andrea Sangster

    January 16, 2022

    If you haven’t already sealed the deal with the car – you can buy it yourself from the insurance company. My daughter hit a deer last year and it was ‘totaled’ but not in our opinion. When I went to sign all the paperwork they said I could buy it back and we could have it repaired with a salvaged title. It’s a teenage car so we didn’t care about a few dents. Just a FYI if you want to keep it in the family.

    • mlehnardt8@msn.com

      January 17, 2022

      Thanks for the tip! We looked into it, but the salvage value is so high we’d be left upside down on repair costs. 🙁

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