Tanya is one of those cars that you connect with immediately. The day I bought her, I was deciding between her and a 2007 navy blue mini cooper. I finally settled on Tanya because the moment I sat in that driver’s seat, I felt an inimitable rush of ease and renewal and also because the mini cooper was way out of my price range. I named her Tanya on impulse. I’ve never met anyone named Tanya, but I imagine if I did, they’d be warm and inviting, and smell like a mixture of a gentle sea breeze and a musty old rug, just like my car. I took one look at that smooth exterior and those faded leather seats and decided that we’d be lifelong besties. Her lifelong though, not mine. If all goes well, I plan on outliving Tanya by a good couple decades.
She supports me in all my endeavors, both the righteous and the risky. She listened Monday morning as I droned the 400 Statistics formulas I’d hastily scrawled on rumpled flashcards late the night before, and she listened the next day as I angrily cursed myself for failing the same Statistics test I had been so woefully unprepared for. She warmed our nervous butts the night we decided to explore the abandoned houses deep in the woods alongside Highway 55 and, though she knew there was a small chance we’d end the night in police custody, she didn’t try to dissuade us. Tanya, unlike my mother, respects that there are some things you gotta do just so you can look back and high five yourself for doing them.
My car is so much more than just a reliable mode of transportation; she’s the facilitator of dreams. When Cookout finally opened in Cary and my friends and I were in need of a late night milkshake, she welcomed us with open doors. When one friend who shall remain nameless spilled said milkshake on the peeling caramel leather of her backseat ten minutes later, she accepted the apology and moved on. She’s never been one for drama, but that doesn’t always end in her favor.
I’ve spent every day of the past four months telling myself that today, I’ll clean out my car. Last Friday, I finally did. I retrieved 3 empty bottles of chocolate milk, 6 CD cases, 9 pencils, 4 pens, an empty Tupperware with hummus residue that couldn’t have been less than 3 weeks old, the planner I’d long ago convinced myself was lost, a bouquet of dehydrated daisies that I’m pretty sure wasn’t intended for me, and 4 umbrellas. Tanya, next time, I strongly advise you to speak up before it gets this bad- if that was gross for me, I can’t imagine how it must have felt for you. You truly are too good to me.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been hardships, though. She’s been through a lot over the past ten years and, while I’d like to think her previous owner treated her with the grace and humility she so rightfully deserves, the steady groan she emits whenever I make a turn at more than 14 mph hints at a troubled past. Last month, I was driving home and noticed what smelled like burning rubber flowing from somewhere inside. Maybe she was trying to tell me to turn down my music, but I’ll go ahead and chalk it up to PTSD. A lot of what she says is open to interpretation.
Tanya has taught me numerous life lessons, but the most important of them has been to embrace my individuality. The parking lot of a high school like mine is unwaveringly dull. There are more Mercedes’ than I care to count, and Tanya is often considered vintage in the presence of all the 2013 Jeeps and 2015 Lexus’. She never seems to care, though. She shamelessly flaunts every aspect of her outward appearance, from her smooth black finish to the left taillight she no longer has thanks to that one time I accidentally backed her into a tree. She’s flawed, but in a larger, less logical sense, she’s flawless.
My most valuable possession is so in both monetary worth and sentimentality. Tanya, if you’re reading this, bless you.
A simple pair of earrings tops the list of my valuable possessions. It is not the most colorful, the trendiest, or the one with the most craftsmanship of all my earrings. It is not because it is made of gold either. It is simply because this pair was given to me by an amazing person who gave me valuable friendship and awesome memories. She also taught me a lot about life, love, and relationships.
My first meeting with my mother-in-law was in the summer of 1983. I was eighteen and my family was just starting to know my, then, fiancé’s family. A deep sense of peace was always around her; she was honest, genuine, and warm. Over the next eighteen years, until she passed away in early 2002, her role in my life evolved from a respectable role model and a wise adviser to a close friend and trusted confidant.
After getting married, my husband and I were in the habit of visiting my mother-in-law’s house every weekend and spending at least one night with her. In one of our regular weekend visits, I walked in and she was in her usual elegant appearance as she rested in the family room. I made a simple comment about the lovely earrings that she was wearing and, without a thought, she started to take them off and insisted that I have them. I explained how I was just admiring them and that she really did not have to do that but she insisted that I take them as a souvenir; which they have been ever since.
These earrings remind me of her generosity. Giving was something she obviously enjoyed; she remembered all birthdays and anniversaries and always had gifts prepared in advance. She dubbed milestones as special occasions and had a way of commemorating them. A child’s wedding anniversary warranted a thoughtful gift for him and his wife, a grandchild’s first day of school called for pictures and a cake, and when we bought our home she handcrafted a beautiful canvas for the foyer. My friends loved visiting me at her house and always spoke of her warm reception and lovely company.
My earrings remind me of how selflessness my mother-in-law always was. On Fridays, she always cooked my husband’s and my favorite meal as we always had dinner at her house. On Saturdays, she made sure that the meat was super tender and the chicken fell off the bone for her brother who stopped by sometimes. When she came from Egypt to visit us in America, she was always busy with a long list of loved ones for whom she wanted to buy suitable gifts. It is refreshing to remember how this list grew longer every day.
My earrings remind me how Aisha Abdelatif did not talk about patience much but consistently demonstrated it. Having to live with a tracheotomy for more than ten years, I have seen her struggle with breathing problems, chest congestion, and pneumonia, but have no memory of her complaining or losing her lovely smile. She never spoke ill of someone or made a negative comment. If disappointed, she would just say, “May God guide all of us.”
I wear the earrings and remember her valuable advice on how to deliver unfavorable news. “Ease your way into the conversation with regular talk and a nice cheerful introduction then select words carefully to avoid the shock factor. Make sure to point out solutions or remedies to an unpleasant situation.” I also remember her compliments on how I looked or what I did, and can honestly say that she was my biggest fan! As we were leaving to the airport at the end of her visit in the fall of 2001, she held my hand tight and turned around as If to say a final goodbye and said, “I have a nice feeling about you guys and the way things are settling down for you.”
These lovely earrings bring to mind pleasant company, thoughtful gestures, honest advice, and a flood of good memories. The considerate complements and caring expressions I consistently got from my mother-in-law always echo in my ear and I wish she hears my heart as it says, “I miss you every minute of every day.”