Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day Obsession

While out driving yesterday, I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks: a 1969 Volkswagon Beetle. For Sale!

I almost never see these beauties for sale anymore, at least not while I'm on my way to buy groceries. I had to stop. I had to get out of my car. I had to peek in the windows and peer inside the engine and lay down on the wet asphalt and gaze longingly at its underbelly. Not many people would understand this obsession of mine, but those of you that know the deepest parts of me, know. You know that my heart started aching the minute I set eyes on it and I could hardly sleep thinking about it, trying to rationalize the purchase in my brain.

In the midst of the grand procession of Mother's Day joy, the seller returned my call. He was asking $4,500 for it. A fair price for a car that's almost 40 years old. It had a new engine, new interior, new gas tank and lines, new tires, and all those lovely chrome bits-- ALL of them! Nothing was missing. Everything worked, even the windshield wipers-- which is no small feat.

But $4500?!! That's a whopping sum for a one-income family like ours. And it's not even a family car, or even safe. My last VW bug got busted to bits when I was rear-ended twelve years ago. A newly rebuilt engine, gone in a flash, and me, whisked to the ER with sirens and the whole nine yards. No, definitely not a safe ride for kids, even if I could fit them and their carseats in it, which I can't. It would have to be a grown-up toy. My toy.

I could drive it to the store, I guess, if I ever went to the store alone, which I don't. Impossible! But my brain tried to rationalize it all day long. We could take the money out of stocks. I could host a bake sale. It could be my Mother's Day present! I could drive it to knitting class and relive my youth for ten minutes a week! Sigh. There must be some way to make it sound feasible.... I tried all day.

Meanwhile, while I mulled over the VW, Sunburst gave me this Mother's Day present, a styrofoam ball sculpture of our old, beloved cat, Peppercorn. She ran away 16 months ago.

This is one of the many tributes to Peppercorn that we have acquired over the last 16 months. It's the first planter though, as this is intended to be... something to decorate plants with. A large styrofoam mass of cat-gone-by. Very sweet. It may, however, need its own pot.

This cat will remain in our hearts and minds and now plants forever.

Moonshine, presented me with a whole bevy of hand-crafted items. They know I'm a sucker for handmade goods, and boy do they provide. I will never be left wanting for:

A styrofoam guy

A "turny thing"


A plastic eye glued to a pompom....

The purpose of which was explained to me as:

"It's for picking fuzz."

Sweet, clever children. All this is mine, all mine!

What was I doing pining away for a 1969 Volkswagon Beetle? And on Mother's Day of all days, when I already have a pile of lovely presents, I'm trying to convince myself that the universe must have dropped this car in my lap for a reason. The perfect day, the perfect car --just like the one that I lost 12 years ago, only better. Perfect. Near Mint Condition. A reward for all my hard work and dedication and perserverance and long labors and cheeriness.

I went ahead and took it for a test drive. It was dreamy in that nostalgic kind of way, but it wasn't perfect. It was actually a bit rough and finnicky and awkward. It was easier to handle than our '65 VW bus we recently sold, but still, not the pleasure ride I had been working it up in my mind to be for the last decade. It was actually a lot like work, and goodness knows that with three kids and homeschooling I don't have time for any more work.

And then I realized that that was the part I loved about it. The work. The fiddling, the fixing, the getting greasy and figuring out bits of it, like the time the starter went out and I had to continuously push start it for three months. Or the time my bearings busted loose, killed the speedometer cable, and made the most horrible racket known to man. Or the time my wipers went out in a heavy downpour and I had to blindly pull over and wait out the storm for over an hour. And the time the engine went completely kaput and I asked the mechanic in all seriousness, "How hard is it to rebuild an engine?"

That car and I had memories. It grew me up into the person I am today. If I hadn't ever greased a set of ball bearings, or fiddled with a cable, or gave it a multitude of solo running pushes before jumping in.... If I hadn't ever really listened to the melody of the rain drumming on a tin can roof, or steam-cleaned an engine, rebuilt a carburetor, replaced spark plugs, or loosened a stubborn bolt with a torch... I'd be a VERY different person today. It made me capable of pretty much near anything. Fearless. Strong. Independent.

"I don't think I'll buy this car today," I told my daughters. "But someday, when you're older, we'll get one. It may not be a '69, who knows. Maybe it will be a '63 with an oval window... but anyway, we'll get one. And it won't be perfect. It can be our homeschool project. We'll have to fix it up, you see. We'll get some parts, and some tools, and we'll take the engine out and get all greasy, and make it run good as new."

Moonshine, my princess duck, looked at me with all sincerity and asked, "Tomorrow?"

That's my girl.


  1. A pom-pom EYEBALL!!! Oh, I love it!

    Eva drew me umpteen drawings of cats.

    I have not a clue how to rebuild an engine. I have never greased a set of ball bearings. I built something out of wood once in junior high shop class.

    I want to be useful!!! Wah.

  2. Usefulness is just a dream some of us had. How does that saying go? "Start where you are." --But where we are now is with these computerized, fuel-injected cars that are near impossible to work on.

    That said, I think everybody should use a blow torch at least once. I'm thinking about taking one to our toaster which no longer produces toast, but that's me. :-)

  3. Oooh, a blow-torch! Now you're talking! I've always wanted to learn to weld...I love those big masks that you wear...yeah, I'm having a testosterone moment, I'm afraid. But maybe I could wear high heels while torching...wasn't that the whole FlashDance thing? Oh, what a feeling!!!


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