My truck—a royal blue 2001 Nissan XTerra—has been with me through some pretty serious life moments.
I bought it while living in New York on Sept. 4, 2001, which means the two of us spent our first week dealing with the aftermath of the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001. It was the vehicle I took to pick up my wife on our first date (of course she wasn’t my wife back then). The truck moved me across the country to Seattle, then down the Pacific Coast to the Bay Area. It off-roaded for weeks in Montana. In more than 13 years in my possession, the SUV also has served as my tent for more than 100 nights in the woods.
All these years, I’ve thought of the vehicle like an old friend, a manly man, sometimes even more masculine than little old I. This week, however, after a short road trip with the girls to the southern end of the Bay Area, I safely can say the truck is more girly than ever before. I’m not talking about “girly” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger sense; I mean girly, as in, frilly and sparkly and stickery and just full of really little-daughter type stuff.
In short, the truck has become a symbol for how much fatherhood has altered the way I live my life.
Exhibit A: My rear windows.
In years past, the filth on the outside of these windows was like a badge of honor, a bulging bicep that announced to the world: I AM TOUGH. After our family roadie, my back windows are covered with stickers—everything from Hello Kitty to random birthday cakes. There’s even a “Visit Montana” sticker I got at a press event. Definitely not an amalgamation that conveys toughness.
Exhibit B: My cup holders.
A lifetime ago, the two cup holders near the main gear shifter provided safe haven to gas-station coffee cups, empty cans of Red Bull and nondescript Styrofoam dip cups. This morning, I looked down and spotted L’s broken turquoise Cinderella necklace at the bottom of one of the holders. The other one was dotted with tiny speckles of glitter.
Exhibit C: My trunk.
My truck used to house supplies for the zombie apocalypse: an Earthquake survival kit, jumper cables, solar cell phone chargers, first aid kits (the one built into the trunk is not that great), and more. Today, everything back there fits around the buggy, and my first aid kit has been downsized to a tiny box of band-aids with a tube of Bacitracin. (Also, there are some empty fruit-chew wrappers.)
There are other examples of “evolution” but these three will suffice. The girls have taken over my truck. To paraphrase the Borg, from Star Trek: I will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
Does it bug me that my trusty truck isn’t as macho as he once was? You bet it does. But when I think about what’s driving all of the changes to my lifestyle and my truck, I always take a step back, look around, and quietly give thanks for the two young humans who firmly have established themselves at the center of my world. Stickers on windows and necklaces in cup holders are temporary; the bond I share with those kids will last forever. That’s more important than any set of wheels.