This morning I drove the old Mazda across town to pick up a friend for the boys, to get out of the house on a sunny day otherwise dedicated to chores, to help my friend, to make the boys happy. As we left the boy’s house, rounded the corner onto a private way, came to the next intersection, the car stalled and wouldn’t restart. Oh, well. What next. Considered, then tried pushing it to the opposite side of the intersection, worried about getting stuck midway, plan B. Called for a ride for the boy from the husband, called AAA, called the repair shop, bases covered, sit beside the road in the sun with the boy and talk about our adventure, he with his DS, me with my eyes and ears, then with our mouths we decide to break into the tray of Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns made by his mother, discussed over the phone as plans were made, lowbrow treat we both approve of and enjoy, makes the waiting sweeter for me and her boy, unexpected pleasure.

Then a neighbor in a clean white t-shirt, older guy, fit, walks by, asks if he can help. Comes back later and asks if he can bring me a cup of coffee, tells us where he lives, in case we need help with the pushing when my husband arrives. Folks drive down the street, I direct them to pass by, they decline, turn around, what appear to be grumpy expressions at first turn to understanding, have a good day. Then a guy in a big red econoline van turned camper asks if we need help, waves out the window when I say triple A is on the way, thank him for his offer, another good day sent my way. Woman on the bike tries to pass, I wonder if she can, no problem, she smiles, sorry for my trouble, I say how nice it is it’s sunny and she says it is, and then the husband arrives, the car starts when I get in to test it, I drive it around the corner just as the AAA guy calls on the phone, husband off with the kid to join the boys in a day of Magic, I here to ride to the shop with the tow truck guy.

He reminds me of my brother, muscular young guy, tan, short blond hair, cigarette dangling as he works (though David has quit, hurrah for a new baby to get him serious). He asks if I am going with him or staying here, I say I am hoping to go with him, as the shop is right near where I live.

Hard to know what to say to a tow truck guy in the tidy cab with the tool bag between us and the dispatch radio talking to itself or to some other driver, but I wonder after looking at the houses and the trash on trash day if it is harder driving here than in Everett where he has said he’s from, and then we talk all about driving, and trucks, and cars, and stick or standard, my term and his, and learning to drive, he with his father, me with my stepfather, both in trucks, both to get us somewhere we needed to go, me a country girl, he a city boy, and in his story I think later, he is telling me how much his dad loved him, how he taught him the things he needed to know, made him drive with dunkin donuts coffee, no lids, in the cupholders of a big standard truck just about like the one he is driving now, made him change a tire by letting out the air in one, restricting him to the tools on board, made him drive through Harvard Square his first few times out. We marvel at folks who never learn to drive in the city, I am grateful to my brother for having taken my boy out in his truck in Washington, tell the driver about him learning to drive stick in a field the way good country kids do, wonder aloud how I will teach the boy to drive in Harvard Square, not a total city girl yet, that still scares me, tell about the truck I drove, the car I wrecked, the first car we bought when we were young a civic, stick, which was so easy to drive it surprised me, now this car, might be dead, old, but like that Civic, I like to drive it, small, standard, I can park it and also know what it is about. And we talk about that, knowing what it is about and he tells me about the new truck his boss offered, an automatic, and how he didn’t want it, preferred this old truck with no AC, which at least could go up hills, and about the passing of those old standard trucks, amazing what two strangers can discuss in the two miles driving across Somerville in the cab of a truck.

And then we are home, at the shop atop my street, where the guys know me as they know the owners of other old cars in the neighborhood. I am becoming a regular, wonder if this is the last stop for the Mazda. The shop owner smiles and I drop off the keys, walk home with the keys to the house, minivan out front, boys at the table playing Magic, one cinnamon roll left on the counter, no coffee in the pot, should have accepted that cup from the stranger, go to my computer to tell my story instead, wonder if it is narcissism or self-exposure (lost the word for guys in trenchcoats), disturbing the privacy of the tow truck driver, or honoring him and his dad, to tell his story, too. What I want to say, in plain English, is that most of us had fathers who loved us, or who wanted us to have good lives, and that there is a lot of learning and a lot of story in each person’s life, each one deserving honor, a concept I read recently in the description of a Catholic man’s life, I think, and something I feel down deep, perhaps from my days in the church, for sure from the way I was brought up, grateful for that bit of raising and educating of this child, down deep.

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