The Trade-In

Lainey bids farewell to the family car.


My daughter Lainey is five years old and I love her. We recently said goodbye to an unsung member of the family, our 2004 Volkswagon Jetta.

Purchased new in Berkeley, CA, two months before my wedding, and three years before Lainey’s birth, the Jetta escorted our family coast-to-coast, and residence-to-residence. For nearly nine years, the sporty four-door remained a constant source of comfort and dependability. But as Lainey’s legs grew into the back of my driver’s seat, and ’s enormous baby carrier swallowed more space, the time to acquire a roomier vehicle had arrived.

My wife and I began talking about minivans months ago, and Lainey overheard.  She cried in outrage, astonished that we would betray Jetta like that.

“Lainey thinks the Jetta is a real person,” my wife said.

“She loves that car,” I sighed. And so did I.

Soon we found a great deal on a pre-owned VW Routan. After signing a down-payment, the family stopped at a restaurant to celebrate, but the mood was hardly festive. Lainey sulked in her French fries and brazenly spilled her chocolate milk.

“The Routan is a Volkswagon too,” I consoled her. “Like Jetta’s cousin.”

Lainey was not convinced.

The Routan needed a minor repair before finalizing the purchase, so Jetta stayed home a few more days. We shot and took a couple joyrides. On her last ride, Lainey held the steering wheel for a block, and then kissed the dashboard.

“That kiss will stay there forever,” Lainey said. “Even for the next owners.”

“That’s right,” I agreed, and kissed the steering wheel.

After I picked up the Routan, or Rudy as my wife dubbed it, we cruised around Arlington.  Joey slept in his carrier, while Lainey sat comfortably in ample space, and kicked her legs.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Lainey smiled, “But I think I love Rudy just one-half inch more than Jetta!”

As the Routan made its home in our driveway, Lainey couldn’t be happier. She ran around its interior like a big clubhouse. She thrilled about the extra seats for grandparents, and space enough for a mattress when .

By and by, Lainey forgot about the Jetta, but I’m not quite there yet. Made some good in that little car. Rudy has some big shoes to fill.


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