1/28/21

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Since early spring of last year, I’ve been visited regularly by many large, multi-colored cranes. Not birdy-type cranes. Huge, machinery-type cranes.

My city finally decided to put a roof over a 3 ½ story straight-up ramp into one of our parking garages. Every winter, since we moved in here 14 years ago, I’ve sworn at that thing. If it snowed or iced, that ramp was impossible to get up, and unsafe to drive down. From my vantage point across the street, I watched through snowstorms and icestorms as cars and trucks fishtailed, smacking into the concrete walls on either side of the ramp, made it ¾ of the way up, then slid all the way down, hopefully stopping before they smacked into the concrete wall waiting for them at the bottom. I often wondered what enticed the designers to have a ramp of that sharp incline left bare naked to the elements. But now…a roof. And it’s been under construction for months.

Since summer, the cranes have visited, literally right outside my door, close enough at times that I was able to pat them. They lifted men and materials, and I’ve watched the work with fascination. As isolated as I am during the pandemic, the cranes provided an odd sort of company. The men on the cranes often turned to wave at me or give me a thumb’s up as I stood and sat, read and wrote on my deck. I happily waved back.

I’ve always had a fascination for things on wheels, especially those that pack power. When I was six years old, I moved from St. Louis to way northern Minnesota, where I lived in a small town tucked between Duluth and Cloquet. Esko. Our house didn’t yet have a garage, but it had a huge sand pile where the garage would be, and for me, that was the best part of the location. I unpacked all the toy cars I owned, plunked myself in the dirt, and began to play. I built roads and mountains, valleys, racetracks, construction yards and garages.

Vroom!

While I had my share of “girly” toys, Barbies, Breyers horses, I also collected and delighted in Matchbox cars and Hotwheels cars. I had the bendable bright orange tracks that looped the loop. I had the “supercharger” that shot cars out at what I believed to be great speed. But, being who I was, my play carried things one step further: my cars had names. They had families and relationships. The cars didn’t just race and crash, win and lose, they had LIVES. They were put away in a certain order, so that the families remained together. In my mind, the cars talked to each other. They laughed and they cried. And most importantly, they kept me company. They helped me write stories in my head. And as I learned to write, they gave me characters to put down on the page.

This love has extended to my vehicles, from my first car, a 1969 Chrysler Newport sedan named the Tank that I purchased from my father for a dollar in 1979, to a Nissan Frontier pick-up truck named Fronty, to the rest of the Chrysler family: LeB, the 1994 LeBaron convertible; SeB, the 2003 Sebring convertible; Hemi, the 2006 300C Hemi; and Semi, the 2013 200 convertible. Hemi and Semi still reside with me. And when I drive them, we talk. They keep me company.

And now, the cranes. They come and go in families too. Yes, they have names as well. Not very creative names, I’m afraid. Big Dawes (look at the photo – you’ll see why). Greenie. Tall, tall Orange Stretch. Big Blue. This morning, I was delighted to see two blue cranes out my window. Big Blue and now, Blue Bonnet. A dad. A mom. A son. A son. And now, a daughter.

It’s winter now, and we’ve had quite a bit of snow. I can’t go on my deck, unless I want to step knee-high through the drifts. I don’t. So as I watched this morning, I felt a bit cut off from my big blue metal company.

When I went downstairs to the second floor for lunch, I moved first to the floor to ceiling windows in the living room. They face over the street, and they put me just as near Big Blue as I’d been this summer on my deck. There was thick glass between us now, of course.

“Hi,” I said, and tapped on the window. I waved to the newcomer, Blue Bonnet, who was a little further up the street and would have been out of my reach even if I was able to get on the deck.

So maybe it was the movement in the window. Maybe someone somehow heard my tap. But the man on Big Blue turned and saw me. He smiled and he waved. I looked toward Blue Bonnet, up the street, and saw the man on that crane giving me a thumb’s up.

I laughed and waved back.

Good company. Small gestures make all the difference.

Vroom.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Big Dawes. See the name on the side?
Greenie.
Tall, tall Orange Stretch.
Big Blue.
Blue Bonnet.

 

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