“What on Earth were you both doing drinking Champagne at night in the car, parked on the street a block from home?” you might ask. A weird picnic?

Better. A celebration. One year ago, the new VW Golf Ntiniwe materialized in our lives, giving me back my wings and us, our freedom.

Her name is Ntiniwe. Ntini is the Zulu and Xhosa word for the Cape clawless otter. She is gray, nimble and cute, it was appropriate.

We had planned to mark the occasion and go somewhere fun but that night, having just returned from Lisbon, I came home from work exhausted so we decided to simply go pay her a ritual visit on the street.

The air was crisp and cold, it had been snowing lightly. Upon reaching the car I smiled, realizing I had been set up. Flowers were on the dash, an envelope had been slid under a wiper blade, and on the front passenger seat, a bottle and two flutes awaited us. Marie had been lovingly busy.

We sat in, turned the engine and seat heat on to fight off the cold, opened the electric sunroof and Marie popped the cork loudly into the night.

A toast to Ntini

The Champagne overflowed happily and had us scrambling for paper towels, laughing guiltily as we have—a bit obsessively—kept Nitini spotless.

Sitting there in the warmth of our lovely bubble, we had a grateful toast to the prodigy child of German engineering and Mexican labor. Many more adventures await us and thanks to our shiny wheels, we can now hit the road weekly, rather than yearly.

Freedom, it turns out, does have a price. I am happy to pay it.

On the road