Twice last week, Heather took my car. A 30 minute country drive to a class full of four-year olds and a fairly new job; yes, of course, I let her take my car. Hers is old and has an astronomical amount of miles on it. One day the steering wheel locked and the alarm would not stop. Incessantly blaring as I look out the window from my yellow Bible reading chair and I see her jerking the steering wheel side to side, then she slams the door and walks back towards the house to ask “Mama, can I take your car?” I had my keys in hand and met her in the garage.
Two days later, the steering wheel is working but the gas and the ignition are just not connecting.
Yes, you can take my car. Later, she says ” I sure do love that XM radio. ” I smile and say, “Me too.” She then says, “Well, my gas gauge quit working about 3 months ago, so I try to measure how long I can make it; but this time I might have pushed it too far.”
Yes, her car is again out of gas in the front yard. “Okay” I say “we’ll figure it out this weekend.”
Then comes the weekend and the car has not moved and I say on Saturday morning, “Please don’t wait until Monday morning to figure out if you’re out of gas.” Fast forward to Sunday night, 9:30 ish and a full fledge manicure session going on in the bathroom…fumes and gels from polish seeping under the door as I walk towards the bedroom. I remember then, and ask “Did you do what I suggested and make sure your car’s okay?” “Oh no, I forgot.” she says.
Of course, we then get the gas can to make a late night trip to the convenience store. Me, in my old out of prescription glasses that I wear at night (held together with a paper clip), pajama bottoms and a hoodie. Her, with half-dry sticky gel tip, French manicured nails and a gas can. We head down the road.
“Stop breathing so loud, stop huffing and puffing..you’re not gonna breathe in five years if you keep huffing like that.” I laugh because I know she’s right; I sigh and groan way too much… so we laugh at me and my increasingly crazy old lady ways!
Back home, cell phone flash light in hand, Greg puts the gas in her car that hasn’t moved in a week and lectures us about not stopping for gas. He beats on the dashboard trying to coax the gauge to work. The needle doesn’t move. Then, I glance over and see the glow of the little gas tank light. I look, panicked, at the dashboard and say “Heather, the gas light’s still on…you’ll never make it to work tomorrow.”
Calmly, she turns and says, “Mama , the gas gauge doesn’t work!” Inside, the manicure completed, bathroom back in order, I get into bed with my book…an hour and a half later than planned. I think, always an adventure with Heather.
Heather is smart and she is stubborn. I want her to buy a car now. She wants to wait. She is smart, stubborn and determined. She is resilient… She reminds me if she can get through this year of grad school, she will then look for a car and since hers only breaks down in the yard, she should be okay! So, I accept that rationale because I know she is smart and stubborn.
“Good night, I love you.” she says, then turns back and stands in the doorway and says something along the lines of “hard work and hard times” I say something in comparison of my hard times and she reminds me that times are good and then says “It’s okay. I’m a survivor…I learned from the best.”
She reminds me of my single parent days when she, blonde hair, blue-eyed ate fish sticks ’cause that’s all we could afford and we always rode with the windows down because our car was old. The rough times, fish sticks and car problems.
So, I smiled and I settled on that image of my freckled-faced little country girl who always smiled, never quit, and was simply content…whatever came her way, old cars, fish sticks and the promise I made her…”We will be okay.”
Now, I remember why we never eat fish sticks and I remember my promises and what they made her and I’m glad I kept them.