3/16/23

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

Some see the signs of spring in a robin hopping on the newly green grass. Others see it in the raucous honking of geese, flying overhead to return to the opened water in the river. Some see it in blue skies, white clouds, more sunshine, the time change as we wind our clocks forward an hour. Some see it on the Spring Equinox, coming up next week.

And some, like me, see it in a 2012 Chrysler 200 LX convertible, top down, music up, iced latte in hand.

Some see it…but then that vision is obscured by 8 new inches of snow.

One of my students lives in Wyoming, and she told me this week that they’re just moving into the snow months. “Just moving into,” when they’ve already had 75 inches of snow this winter. “Just moving into,” when April is just ahead, a month (supposedly) of daffodils and tulips, lazy Sundays on the deck, and shirt-sleeve weather. I don’t know how my student stands it.

Here where I live in Wisconsin, I’ve been looking hard for signs of spring. I’ve seen the robins, briefly seen the green grass, there have been some blue skies and white clouds, some sunshine, definitely the time change…and that 8 inches of snow.

But then my friend Darrick came over. Darrick has been my car guy for over 20 years. And he was coming to install a new battery in  my 2012 Chrysler 200 LX convertible, who goes by the name of Semi. When I first brought Semi home, I also owned a Chrysler 300C Hemi, who I called my bodyguard. I gave Hemi the name of Hemi, because there was just no ignoring that engine. So when Semi showed up, my husband said since this was a 200, and Hemi was a 300, the new car was a Semi Hemi. And so Semi is still Semi, even though Hemi is no longer with me. I tearfully traded him in a couple years ago for a 2018 Chrysler 300S, named Barry.

I have a thing for Chryslers.

My very first car was purchased for a dollar from my father. It was a 1969 Chrysler Newport sedan. I was born in 1960, so this tank was only 9 years younger than me. If you’ve read my novel, In Grace’s Time, you know that one of the main characters is a 1969 Chrysler Newport 4-door sedan. When the publisher asked me for suggestions on the cover, I said the only preference I had was that it had to feature that very car, in tan, with a cream-colored roof. Look at the cover.

When that car, known as Tank, went to that great crushed-car Heaven in the sky, my then-husband and I, just out of college, could only afford a used Plymouth Volare, which we bought at a local Chrysler dealership. As we filled out the paperwork, I kept my eyes on a Chrysler LeBaron convertible. I swore I would own one someday.

I did. If you’re currently reading Hope Always Rises, Hope, in Heaven, is given back the car of her dreams – a hunter green 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. That car, and my own, are called LeB, pronounced Luh-BEE.

Then came a Chrysler Sebring convertible, called SeB, pronounced Suh-BEE.

Then Hemi. Then Semi. Then Barry. (Oh, there’s a little white Volkswagen Beetle too, called Little B, bought for Olivia so she could chug herself back and forth to college. She feels about Beetles the way I feel about Chryslers. The fool.)

And now, in this winter of a just-dumped 8 more inches of snow, a convertible that wouldn’t start. At all. Dead. I don’t drive Semi in the winter time. He is pristine. He has never touched salt or snow. But his registration always needs renewing at the end of March, a mystery to me, since I didn’t buy him in March. The date is coming up quickly, and instead of steadily warmer temps and bright sunshine, there’s more snow. I knew I was going to have to bring him in for his emissions test very soon. But when I went to turn his key, no resulting roar sounded.

Dead.

So Darrick came over. He discovered that Chrysler puts batteries in very odd places – under the car. So he had to return with the tools that allowed him to hoist Semi up. I was upstairs working when he messaged me: “I’m done. Car in garage. Key in door. Garage door closed.” He warned me that I’d be needing new front brakes soon, and that I should have the lug nuts torqued in about 50 miles (what’s a lug nut? I thought that was a football player).

For a moment, I sat back in my office chair, closed my eyes, and thought about selling Semi. Living in Wisconsin, I only drive him a few months a year, though I don’t park him firmly in the garage until the temperatures are steadily in the 40s. The car has heated seats, and between those and a jacket, I can handle driving with the top down in 50-degree weather. Michael doesn’t drive; only I do. I don’t need two cars. I love Barry, my 300S. Semi, despite being over 10 years old, is beautiful. I could get some decent bucks for him.

I could.

But then I went downstairs and into the garage. Barry was waiting to take me to an appointment, but Semi, newly powered, was looking at me hopefully. I got in the front seat, twisted my key, and…

ROAR!!!! Hallelujah!

In that moment, despite being in the garage, despite the top being up, the blue skies opened above me. The sun shone down. I propped an elbow on the door and felt the wind buffeting my hair. I heard music, and I knew if I looked at my cupholder, there would be a Starbucks grande iced latte, with two pumps of cinnamon dolce syrup and topped with whipped cream. My winter coat and sweater disappeared and I was in a sleeveless top, the sun warm on my shoulders.

It was spring! Hell, it was SUMMER!

In my car, I raised both fists (knocking into the top) and shouted, “Woohoo!”

And then I turned Semi off. I didn’t drive him; outside of the garage was the newly fallen 8 inches of snow. And 36 degrees. Slush. Road salt.

But in my garage, it was spring. I patted the steering wheel, told Semi we’d be turned loose soon, and then went out into the cold. Where I patted Barry’s hood, so he’d know I love him too.

You get spring where you find it.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Cover of In Grace’s Time. See the Tank?
Author photo for The Home For Wayward Clocks, taken by Ron Wimmer of Wimmer Photography. I’m sitting in SeB.
Hemi. I still miss this car.
Semi.
Barry.
And just for Olivia – Little B, the Beetle, Olivia’s dream car. (The fool.)

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