So I got my new car. I was, and am, very happy with it. It's a simple car, a six year old Ford Focus. I found it on Craigslist, and really, it's kind of a funny story. Not funny like my Craig from Craigslist Segway date, but funny enough.
I saw it, saw the price (around $4000, which was basically all I had) and called the number listed immediately. A guy with a vaguely Latino accent answered, told me that yes, it was a salvage title (which means the car had been totaled out by an insurance company) but that he had fully repaired and restored it. He assured me that he had driven several cars with salvage titles, and had never experienced a problem. I told him I'd call him back in a bit, after I talked to my insurance guy. Insurance guy gave me the thumbs up, so I called Vaguely Latino Guy back about the car.
"What's your last name?" he asked me. I started to spell it out for him, but he interrupted before I could finish. "JENNY!" he exclaimed..."Jenny, it's me, Manfredo! Silvia's husband, Carlos' dad!". It took just a second to sink in...this was a man I've known for over a decade, the father to two sweet boys (one in Molly's grade, the other in William's) and husband to one of the most genuinely wonderful women I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
We laughed for a bit over the insane smallness of the world, and then arranged a time for me to come see the car. Remember, at this time, my truck was already history so I was relying on the kindness of my hens for rides everywhere. This particular day (and several days before this) my driver was Danielle, who also happened to be recovering from knee surgery. But Danielle is one of those "It takes more than knee surgery to keep me down" kind of gals, so she schlepped my sorry ass over to Manfredo's house later that day.
The car was tiny, it was a no-frills Ford Focus with cloth seats and a cold, slippery steering wheel and absolutely standard EVERYTHING. No bells, and definitely no whistles. It seated five, and the trunk looked just big enough for a couple of big suitcases or one hockey bag.
Danielle and I took it out for a spin. It had been a long time since I'd been behind the wheel of something that didn't weigh over 7,000 lbs and towered over everything but semi trucks. It was like getting behind the wheel of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe...I felt exposed and light and....FREE.
We drove back to Manfredo's house and I told him I'd take it. I wrote him a check, I signed a few things and then he handed me the keys to my new ride. He assured me that it was SAFE and that if I changed my mind, or if any problems arose, to call him and he'd take care of it. And you know what? I trust him. He's that kind of person...kind of like my sainted landlord. The kind of person you can just trust, you know?
It's an older car, a very very basic car, the kind of car most of you would probably buy for your teenager. But to me? This car is a symbol. A symbol of a new beginning. I finally got rid of that god forsaken truck, that gas-sucking parting gift that was as full of bad memories as it was full of petrified french fries and chewed gum and candy wrappers (judging me about what my kids eat? That's what was in the front of the truck, bitches. I can't even begin to describe what lurked under the back seats.). I was finally rid of that weight, and it felt awesome.
And for a few days, a week, a week and a half, that awesome feeling continued. I felt like I was taking steps to improve my situation, to improve the lives of my kids. Like I was finally, FINALLY taking charge and doing what needed to be done to start making positive changes.
It was nice while it lasted.
Tonight was a Big Daddy night for the kids, one of his "dinner hour" visits. The kids and I were hanging out, talking about stuff and working on yet another art project and every once in a while one of them would peek out the front window to see if Big Daddy was here. Finally, one of them announced, "He's here!".
Time was, I used to go outside to greet him, to talk about whatever needed to be talked about, share information or give updates. That all stopped when I found out about the affair with Secretary, when I found out everything. That's when I began kissing the kids goodbye inside, telling them that I loved them and always, always, "Be good.".
Tonight was no different. But for some reason, I decided to look out the window.
And that's when I saw Big Daddy's shiny new car.
His 2012, tricked out, BELLS AND WHISTLES Ford Focus.
Really, the irony is not completely lost on me. It's funny.
But what's not funny is that his Ford Focus costs about $26,000.00 compared to mine costing $4,000.00. What also isn't funny is that he owes me thousands upon thousands of dollars. And I don't know how he came to be the proud owner of this shiny new car..maybe he bought it, maybe he leased it, maybe he traded in his soul...but no matter what, he owes me and his kids more than what that car is worth.
When the boys got home, I casually asked "So did your dad get a new car?" which I am pretty sure falls within the limits of "dad talk" that I've allowed myself. After all, a new car is an exciting thing, right? It's novel, it's unusual. It's EXCITING.
The boys told me about Daddy's car. "He talks to it, and it answers him!" they said. "It has a huge big computer control panel!!!" they said. "It smells like that new car smell!!" the youngest one said.
Now, I've been on a path lately. I'll write more about it later, but this path I'm on is kind of a spiritual one, kind of a Godly one. I'm not going to go all born again on you guys, I promise. But I'm in a place of realization, a kind of soul-centering pit-stop on the road trip we call life. It's been brewing for some time, giving me hints and clues, but I've only recently begun acting on it.
Point is, it's helping me deal with things like this. It's calming me, keeping my focus where it should be: on my kids, on our life together...on what's important. So tonight, as I felt that old awful "one upped" kick in the belly that always feels like a fresh knife in the back? I tempered it with a healthy dose of calm and rationality and level-headedness.
But sometimes, bad wins. Sometimes, the negative steals the spotlight from the positive. Sometimes those icky feelings just come bubbling up to the surface and demand to be noticed. Like they were tonight.
Why? Why can't life be fair? Why can't my asshole of an ex-husband just be a decent guy and do what's right? Why can't I be the one picking out a brand new car? Why can't he be the one driving a six year old, salvage-title holding, generic car?
I want to be the one with the heated seats and the fancy schmancy command center. I want to be the one who can talk to my car (ok, yes, I've talked to mine but SHE NEVER ANSWERS). I want to have a car that tells me not only who is singing, but what the name of the song is! I want a car that is shiny and pretty and hasn't been totaled.
So I cried. I cried a lot, actually...got so bad that I had to banish myself to the bathroom and listened to my pathetic sobs bounce off of the tile. The kids did that horrible stand by the door thing and asked if I was ok. I sucked it up, got them tucked in. Loved them, kissed them, wished them sweet dreams and told them I loved them. They told me they loved me, too. Told me to stop being sad, told me that they didn't care about cars. Told me they loved our "new" wheels.
And that's when I realized that cars aren't so important. They get us from A to Z. They carry our groceries, our pets, our art projects and our stuff. But they don't have squat to do with the intricacies of everyday life. They have nothing to do with what makes life, "life". They have zero to do with the relationship between parent and child.
Here's what I did today:
I sewed a tiny hockey jersey for William's art project. (and you should know, needles and I don't mix)
I talked to my high school senior about life and what he's feeling about it.
I laughed with my 14 year old.
I helped my daughter with homework and listened to her as she told me, in the way that only a 16 year old girl who is in the absolute THROES of adolescence can, how frustrated she is with some of her friends.
I went into the elementary school this morning, intending to just hand in a permission slip but ended up watching one of my favorite 4th grade girls do a presentation on Thailand and helping her fabulous mom dish up fresh homemade Pad Thai to an entire classroom. (rice noodles, yo, I'm still wheat-free!!!)
I did 4 loads of laundry before 9 a.m., made 5 beds and walked 4.5 miles with my dog.
Watched Contagion and didn't ONCE go on WebMd nor did I use hand sanitizer while it was on.
So as I sat there, and felt sorry for myself, felt shame for driving an older, less fancy car than my asshole ex-husband, it slowly dawned on me that this wasn't a big deal.
Oh, no, don't misunderstand: he still owes me thousands of dollars, and that's a big deal. His kids think he's hot shit, and yes, that's a big deal. The fact that divorce in the United States is supposed to be fair and just and equal, but it rarely is, is a HUGE deal.
But at the end of the day, at the end of the line, at the end of my run...this isn't even going to be a blip on my radar. In fact, I would bet you some good money that when both Big Daddy and I are on our deathbeds, I'm going to be the one thinking that my Ford Focus was an absolute kick ass, symbolic, life-saving little car. I can't speak for him, but I'm guessing that Big Daddy won't be thinking the same thing about his shiny fancy talking new ride.
And I know for sure I won't be thinking about what an asshole I'd been.
What will he be thinking? I can only guess. Maybe he can ask his car what to think about?
Ten on Tuesday will be here tomorrow, folks. A day late. Mayhap I'll have to come up with a funny name for it, but it will be here. Sorry.
Stay happy, stay focused and stay centered, my friends. Life isn't about what we have. It's about what we do with all we have.