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

I’m currently on the Oregon coast, in the little town of Waldport, for two (and a half) weeks of retreat. The primary purpose is to write, settling into a novel I officially started the first week in September. But there are other purposes too – to catch up on sleep, to read for enjoyment, to maybe paint, and to have some fun.

I’ve been coming to this little town, and to this little house, since 2006. It feels like a second home to me. The travel is getting harder as I get older, and I do worry about being here by myself, more than I used to. During the day, the ocean seems friendly, if vigorous, and the chance of earthquakes and tsunamis seem minimal. I drive over bridges that have been here forever. I walk on a beach where many, many footprints have been left and washed away. Daytimes make this place seem immortal. Night times, I worry that it’s not.

And that I’m not either. A fact that I’ve always known, but which seems to get more real every day.

But even so, I sleep here. And I revel and relax, more than I worry.

Yesterday, I decided to drive into Newport, where there is a SuperWalmart. Waldport has a lovely grocery store, but it’s small, and many of the items I searched for when I arrived on Saturday weren’t there. It’s a gorgeous drive, one I used to make every day, to get to Starbucks. Now, there’s a great little coffee kiosk in Waldport, Espresso 101 (it’s on the coastal highway, Highway 101) and I go through there instead. They make a fabulous macadamia nut latte. And a French toast latte too! But on this day, I went into Newport, and enjoyed the drive the whole way.

On the way out of the store with my bags, I saw it. An original VW Beetle. Bright baby blue. Gorgeous. I thought immediately of my daughter, Olivia. She’s been Beetle-crazy since she was a little kid. There are Beetle posters in her room, both at home and at school. She wears Beetle t-shirts and Beetle jewelry. She owns all of the Herbie The LoveBug movies. When she was first learning to drive, I bought her a beater Beetle, which she loved and called Starlight Lashes. She adorned it with hot pink eyelashes on its headlights. I went online and found an original Beetle flower, which sits in a special vase built in to every old Beetle. The bud vase and flower was discontinued in 2011. Starlight Lashes unfortunately didn’t last very long. She was a mistake. She broke down several times just sitting in the parking garage. I eventually junked her, before Olivia learned to drive.

Later, I bought Olivia another Beetle, this time from a dealership that included a warranty. This one, she named Snowbug. I called her Lil B. In this one, Olivia not only learned to drive, but she took it to college, and the little Beetle drives her faithfully back and forth.

I honestly don’t think Olivia will ever drive another type of car.

So…this old Beetle in the Walmart parking lot. Baby blue. Winking in the sun.

I put my bags down and got out my phone so I could take a picture and send it to Olivia. As I did so, a man came up to stand beside me. “You like it?” he asked. “It’s mine.”

If anyone belonged in this classic Beetle, it was this man. Hair, albeit gray, down to his elbows. A tie-dye t-shirt. Torn jeans. And a great smile.

I told him about Olivia. He told me that he had 3 other old Beetles at home, and he’d just gotten this one running.

“It’s really cool,” I said. Then I went off to my rental car, which it took me a couple tries to find. It looks like so many others in the lot. Not like the standout that is the VW Beetle. Embarrassing to admit, but yes, I hit the unlock button and tried to open the back of a car I thought was mine…and then realized it wasn’t. My car was a couple rows over.

After I loaded up, I was bringing back the cart when I saw the blue Beetle coming toward me. At the wheel, the smiling man. He stopped by me and rolled down his window. “This is for your daughter,” he said. He handed over a small metal sign, pink, of an original Beetle. On it, it said, “Love” and “XOXO”  and “Heartbreaker.”

The Beetle is the original LoveBug, doncha know.

“Thank you,” I said. “She’ll love it!”

He winked at me. “I found it at Goodwill. Knew I’d find a use for it.” He laughed and drove off.

So now I have a special souvenir to bring home to Olivia. And a story.

And the thing is, he could have been angry at me for taking a photo of his car. He wasn’t. He could have stormed off without saying a word. But he didn’t. He not only talked to me, he listened to me when I talked about Olivia. And he didn’t have to go out of his way to find me again, in a completely different row, to give me the little Beetle plaque. But he did.

Sometimes, people are just really nice. And there shouldn’t be a just in that sentence. Sometimes, people are nice. It’s a great thing to be reminded of that.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The blue Beetle in the Walmart parking lot.
The little metal Beetle plaque the Beetle owner gave me for Olivia.
Olivia’s original Beetle, the unfortunate Starlight Lashes. Rarely driven, often broken.
Olivia with her current Beetle, the lovely Snowbug, or as I call her, Lil B.


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