And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
23 or so years ago, when I divorced my first husband, I drove out of there without any idea what to do for my car. I could fill it with gas, and I could take it through a car wash. That was about it. I didn’t know how to fill my tires or change one. I didn’t know how to check the oil. I didn’t know anything.
I’ve learned a lot since. Especially since my current husband doesn’t drive. I am the car person in my family. And I kinda like it. I so wish now I’d taken auto shop classes in high school. Engines fascinate me. Cars fascinate me. But I still don’t know a whole lot.
Olivia dreamed of owning a VW Beetle since she was in late elementary school. Her room at home and at college is decorated with Beetle posters. She has a Beetle throw rug. She has Beetle t-shirts and Beetle jewelry. Her high school graduation gift was a little white VW Beetle, who she calls Snowbug. I call it (her) Lil B. I love this little car, particularly after I did a spectacular job of showing my lack of knowledge by buying her first very used Beetle, a black one called Starlight Lashes (it had pink eyelashes). It was very, very, very used, but I thought it was fine for a first car, one for her to learn how to drive in. I don’t even remember how many miles it had, but it was well over 100,000. I called it the rollerskate. But it chugged more like a train. The darn thing broke down just sitting in the parking garage so many times, the tow driver knew me by my first name. Olivia rarely drove it, and I ditched it before she learned how to drive. Then, later, I bought her this much nicer Beetle. She learned to drive, and now she and the car move together, back and forth, to college.
Recently, Wisconsin has been hit with lots of snow and then bone-chilling cold. Lil B, out in the college’s uncovered parking lot day and night, was buried in snow. And then frozen. Solid. She got it mostly scraped off and drove it home. But the driver’s side front window was about an inch down, and it wouldn’t close or open the rest of the way. The inside of the car was covered with frost.
She drove home anyway.
I tried scraping all around the window, even getting the scraper into the indentation where the window disappears. I pounded gently. Nothing.
“I think there’s ice below the window, in the door,” I said. “I’m going to buy some de-icer.”
The next day, I trotted off to the auto parts store and acted like I knew what I was doing. Can of de-icer in hand, I had Livvy warm the car up while I was on my way home. Then I sprayed and sprayed in that little groove. We waited a few minutes.
I sighed and told my daughter to drive the car up into parking garage, so no more snow would get inside of it. Then I would have to drive Olivia back to school, and get her car in to the mechanic this week, because I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I went into the house, dejected, while she drove it up the ramp.
From the garage, she texted me. “Mama! The window went down and then it closed all the way! It worked!”
And I suddenly felt like the mechanic in the golden coveralls. I figured it out! I diagnosed the problem! I fixed it!
I very much remember the first time I checked my oil after my divorce. I was driving a cute little Dodge Neon, that I loved with all my heart. I propped the hood up, used the oil stick, checked it like a chemist at work on the cure for cancer, and then went inside and bought the oil. I bought the correct oil, after reading what kind in the manual, and then rereading it and rereading it again. I used a paper funnel and I filled my oil. I rechecked it. I rechecked it again. It was at just the right level. I cured cancer!
Well, no. But I sure felt capable there, in the gas station’s parking lot. I wanted to ask other drivers if they wanted me to check their oil, just so I could do it again.
And now, the driver’s side window of my daughter’s little VW Beetle. And you know what? I showed her how to do it too. So she can be a mechanic in golden coveralls.
There have been many challenges in my life, over what I can and cannot do. It’s amazing how something as simple as checking a car’s oil or getting a window to open and close can lift the spirits and the confidence.
But I didn’t stay Supermechanic for long. When my daughter drove back to school that day, I texted her and asked if the car did okay on the drive.
“It did just fine, Mama,” she said.
“Your mother is brilliant,” I answered.
“Oh? What did you do?”
Well, I still have the golden coveralls in my closet.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.