Sunday, December 17, 2023

Adoption Series: Christmas

Read Time: 4 minutes

I pushed ahead. Not sure why.

I knew the scene I envisioned wouldn’t get the result I wanted.

(My writing is personal. I write to help others and so readers and my clients come to know me better.)

Christmas with snow, a brown fedora, leather work boots, a heavy duck work coat, a vintage station wagon, a tree on top, happy workers at the tree lot, and an adoring family welcoming me home with the beautiful tree. That was the little drama I envisioned.

My costume, the car, and the tree are perfect. The light snow is perfect, too.

My family and the people at the tree lot wouldn’t complete the image in my mind. They weren’t hired actors. I knew the concept was flawed. Flawed? No, not flawed; it was my own need I had to fill, whether or not others participated.

I knew all this as I pulled on my heavy leather work boots and felt the texture of my wool socks pressing against my ankles. Down to the front door for coat, old green scarf wrapped, and out the door, down the steps to the garage where the Dodge waited.

Seeing the old car pushed away my doubts. I felt proud to own her.

Pleasure aside, I needed to think through starting and driving the old car. Choke all the way out. Two pumps of the gas pedal. Key turned on. Press the starter button and hope.

She catches on the first try. I push the choke in halfway to keep her on fast idle, slip the gear lever into reverse, and back her out to warm up on the apron. Set the heater to defrost and turn on the fan. All okay I get out to let her warm a bit.

Light snow drifts down, barely covering the streets. It’s warming now. Must be just above freezing.

The tree lot isn’t far. Just over the hill and down in the valley. Only one stop sign between here and there. The stop was on a hill and a bit tricky. With the danger of stalling and, in panic, flooding the engine clearly in mind, I set out.

These thoughts, which I enjoy, keep my head out of the inevitable disappointment I knew was guaranteed. Operating the car. Knowing its quirks. Feeling the accomplishment and the sense of mastery. Appreciating its beauty, style, and the craftsmanship that went into making her are all part of the pleasure the moment gives.

The tree lot is jammed with people and cars. It’s slightly warmer here and the lot is a sea of mud. The workers are tired, cold, and wet. Working for minimum wage. Hoping for tips.

No one notices the Dodge, as expected.

I pick out the best tree I can. With the help of a worker tie it to the top of the car and give her a big tip. She smiles not at me but at the hundred-dollar bill.

My imagined image of happy people at the lot gathered around the car to admire and congratulate me on my good fortune remains a fantasy, as expected.

I get back in the car, praying she’ll start. My now wet, muddy boots drip on the floor mat. The pleasure of the experience replaced by anxiety at my overwrought display.

Focused on the steps to start the car, I put the key in the slot. Turn it on. Press the gas pedal halfway and push the starter button. She fires. Hope lightens my chest. She dies.

I look around. No one seems to notice. I keep my foot steady on the gas pedal, holding it at the halfway point, and press the starter button again. She fires. I give her a small squirt of gas with the pedal. She revs a bit, and I hold her steady at a slightly high idle. Fear of stalling fades. I pull the lever into first, let out the clutch, and pull slowly out of the lot.

Now the final act of my little drama approaches. In the ads where this scene originates, family and friends greet my return and joyfully help me remove the tree from the top of the car after taking a photo with smiles and hugs all around.

But I knew this wouldn’t happen. I knew it when I pulled on my work boots and felt the texture of the wool against my ankles. No, the family would stay inside, not wanting to be a part of my display.

I didn’t know then why people liked me. I thought it was my style and the things I did and acquired that people admired. I didn’t know that people appreciated me because I listened, because I was deeply interested in them, because I mostly only wanted to help. I didn’t know that stuff like that drew people to me.

The forty-nine Dodge was beautiful, but it wasn’t why people who loved me did so. Maybe the opposite. Maybe the Dodge was an obnoxious display that repelled people.

It was a beautiful car. And I do miss her.

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