In 2002 we were expecting our first baby, and the Mazda was eight years old and was at that cuspy time when you need to decide if you’re going to put $3000 worth of work into it for another four years, or just give up and get a new car. I was strongly in favour of getting a new car because although I’d been driving the Mazda for a long time, I have never been a very good driver and the manual transmission continued to be something that took a lot of my attention. I was picturing myself with a baby in the back seat, trying to focus on shifting while he was crying, and it was not a pretty picture. I figured a new car with an automatic transmission would make things safer all around.

Because Sir Monkeypants had had carte blanche to buy any car he wanted the last time around, this time it was all me, and I knew just want I wanted – a Subaru. I wanted the reassurance of four-wheel drive for Ottawa winters and nothing anyone could say would convince me otherwise. Sir Monkeypants made me test drive a few other cars but I loved the Subaru Forester right away – it just FIT. We almost backed out when we found that my chosen colour, red, came with a barfy tan-yellow interior, but in the end even that wasn’t enough to deter me. We bought a nice candy-apple red 2003 Forester and I was super excited (although weirdly sad about saying goodbye to the Mazda – at least James inherited the 594 VTO license plate).

The new car was a four door model and it became our family car. It’s a surprisingly small car – I think of it as being a small SUV but it’s really a compact car with a fancy trunk. We have a lot of memories of taking that car back and forth to visit family in Toronto, two car seats in the back, stuff packed in around my feet, the kids’ feet, and piled to the ceiling in the back. Eventually we had to buy a rooftop box to accommodate the overflow and I’m totally embarrassed to admit I forgot the box was on there MORE THAN ONCE and got the car jammed up in an underground parking garage. GAH.

When the Captain turned three he became totally obsessed with Thomas The Tank Engine, and thus every vehicle he saw got named after the Thomas train of the corresponding colour. So, my red Forester became James, and the silver Integra became Spencer, and both names stuck.

Although James was never very good on gas and the dealership was totally annoying to get to for servicing, I absolutely loved that car. I loved the peppy way it merged on the highway and the sure footed way it zoomed around corners. I loved the way it slid into any parking space, anywhere, and how the truck was roomy enough for all my baby gear. I loved that it was easy to lift the kids in and out of their car seats and I loved, loved, loved the bright red colour. Sir Monkeypants felt about James the same way I felt about Spencer – that it was a drag to drive and just wrong in some way. But that didn’t matter because James was MY car, and I drove it just about all the time, everywhere.

Ah James. You were a good friend.

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