Angels in Subarus

December 22, 2011

There’s a famous line in the Christmas movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ staring Jimmy Stewart, that says, “Every time you hear a bell ring, an angel gets its wings.” When I first heard that line decades ago, it made me pause. Implicit in that statement is the question, “How did angels get from place to place before they had wings?” If they used their celestial minds to transport them here and there, why the need for wings to begin with? It wasn’t making much sense to me. Recently, I had an awakening of sorts and solved this angelic transportation conundrum: Angels drive Subarus. I know this because my friend Linda drives a Subaru.

Linda has been my dearest friend since 5th grade when, still vaguely smelling of manure from my morning stable cleaning routine, I stood up during ‘show and tell’ class clutching a horse’s bridle and reins. It was friendship at first sight. Horse people are a different breed; pun intended and embraced. Finding another horseperson, especially during the hormonal storms of adolescence, can be a saving grace at a time when peer pressure tends to squeeze prudent decision making processes from our brains like toothpaste from a tube and leaves us virtually immune to adult guidance. You have to be sensible around horses, simply because they can kill you. That’s why it’s called, ‘good horse sense’.

Linda had and still has more of that ‘good horse sense’ than me. She graduated from college with a degree in Fine Arts and married afterward; I pursued a degree but dropped out to marry. We both divorced our first husbands but not before I had birthed two children into an unwholesome situation. She remains childless by choice but has mothered enough foreign exchange students to have her own zip code. She purchased a respectable and lucrative Auction House; I worked for her. She remarried and purchased a home; I rented an apartment and remained a single parent for a time, struggling to make frayed ends meet. She and her husband Jack played polo and traveled to Europe while I watched Little League games and attended PTA meetings and counseling sessions. Her art studio is larger than some places I’ve lived. Her second husband adored her, and she him. It was a phenomenal partnership and a lengthy one based upon respect, devotion, compassion, understanding and true love; something rarely experienced in this disposable world where relationships and prescriptions share a similar expiration period. My second huband? He left me for some nebulous something else, yet to be discovered. It happens. He didn’t want to hurt me he said, but felt it best if he had to do it, to do it quickly like, ‘removing an adhesive bandage’. Somehow, I’ve erred in appreciating the bandage analogy. Yes, Linda’s life and mine have taken divergent paths over the years. Furthermore, we live states apart. Miraculously, these differences have made little difference in our friendship, but only enhanced it.

This Christmas, she’s driving her Subaru from Maryland to Massachusetts for a visit and I am as excited about that as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. She’s bridged the miles with compassion, wired me money, cried with me when I couldn’t cry for myself anymore, pulled laughter from my gut when I thought all hope was lost, and shown me nothing but grace…angelic qualities made flesh, bone and blood.

Someone once said that friends are angels without wings. It’s true. I know because my angel drives a Subaru.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

December 21, 2011

I was watching a televangelist on TV last month as my three-year- old grandson toddled into the room. “Is that a God show, Nana?” He asked me.

“Well, yes he is talking about God, Chaz,” I replied not quite sure what was going to come out of his mouth next. Was he going to ask me some weighty question about life, something profound which required an equally profound answer that I’d have to revise over and over in my mind in rapid succession before offering him something that had the potential to change his view of existence? Or would he toddle back in to his room, disinterested in anything other than his cars and trucks.

And then he asked it: “If he’s talking about God, how come he’s so angry Nana?” He stood there in front of me, patiently waiting for my answer.

I couldn’t answer him, not in a manner that gave his penetrating observation the corroboration it deserved. “I don’t know Chaz, some people are just angry and it has nothing to do with God,” I said. This seemed to satisfy him for the moment and he toddled back to his room.

I turned off the volume to the TV and watched. The non-verbal language of the preacher pacing the church, pounding the podium, veins pulsing within his neck, held little resemblance to the lowly carpenter that saved my soul and whose emergence into the world we are to celebrate in three days.


I silently brewed a cup of tea and watched Chaz play with his trucks while words of Matthew 21:16 reverberated throughout my soul: “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”

                                           A cliche-ridden commentary on a bad day

Today was ‘one of those days’, that’s right…WOTD. I probably ‘shouldn’t have gotten out of bed in the morning’ but I did. I had to. It was the day I was to borrow my son’s ‘pride and joy’ – his black, 8 cylinder, diesel pick-up truck, that guzzled gas by the gallons just to ease in and out of the driveway – and use it to assist my daughter and son-in-law in moving the contents of their condo into a storage facility. That being said, I dislike moving. It’s high on my list of least favorite ‘things to do’ along with root canals and enemas. Moving on a cold, windswept winter’s day in sub-freezing weather increases its rating on my list of least favorite things to do and equates it to having a major surgical procedure without the use of anesthetic.

Diesel engines are sensitive pieces of machinery regardless of how macho and loud they look and sound. First, you have to turn the ignition key half way on and wait for the engine to heat up in its own little diesel fashion. His truck comes with glowing instructions: a light on the dashboard flashes ‘wait’ in large, square orange letters and then stops flashing when it is time to actually turn the key full forward into the ‘on’ position. This ignites the hot air within the engine that has been heating up during this process, which then starts the truck. It’s an interesting but anxiety producing process.  Before he handed me the keys, he warned, “On cold days like this, you may have to do it a few times before the truck actually starts.”

No problem. Got it.

He was right. It did take me a number of times to actually get the thing running, so many times in fact, that I drained the batteries. After calling AAA and waiting an hour for them to arrive to jump-start the two batteries (yes, I said two) under the hood, I was finally ready to attempt to leave my yard. Engine roaring and neighbors’ running for cover into their houses, I backed out of the driveway and headed toward my daughter’s house and the mountains of boxes awaiting me. Once there, we loaded the truck and drove to the storage facility. ‘Things went smoothly’ until they didn’t anymore. Let me explain: Diesel engines require oil just like any other engine does. This one didn’t have much oil, as demonstrated by the rat-a-tat- sound emanating from the engine as well as the indicator arrow under the little dashboard oilcan icon pointing to zero. I stopped and checked the oil. The dipstick was as dry as the Mojave and what little was still desperately clinging to the stick was as black as coal. Not good. I called my son who told me to get an oil change. Since there was no oil in the engine to change and we had already lost two hours of moving time, I suggested I put some oil in the truck and continue doing this, one of my least favorite things. I put the truck in gear and headed out of the parking lot on my way to find some oil, only to move a few yards before the truck…um…stopped. Silence. No roaring diesel engine sound. No rat-tat-tat. No movement. Stillness.

By this time, I had AAA on speed dial. Two men arrived and attempted to charge the batteries, but without success. They bantered auto parts language like ‘alternator’ ‘starter’ and ‘fuel pump’ back and forth, then in resignation, called a tow truck. Since I had no other transportation, the tow truck driver was kind enough to drop me off at the nearest U-Haul dealership. By the time the sun had set, we had rented a truck and finished the day, exhausted as much from the drama as from the moving.

It ‘could have been worse’. Yes, it could have been worse and it was. Two hours later, the garage called my son and told him his engine had seized. Yes, It was ‘one of those days’. To salve my guilt for having driven his vehicle into its imminent demise and in the hope of maintaining some perspective, I keep telling myself, ‘it could have been worse, it could have been worse, it could have been worse.’ It could have been worse. I could have been killed. I could have cancer. I could be homeless.

But still, that other cliché counteracted, ‘it could have been better.’

I guess it was just ‘one of those days…’

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