I was on my way to Seattle before dawn Monday, when the engine died. On the interstate. Again. This time, though, it wasn’t yet rush hour, I wasn’t far from home, and I was able to get from the center lane to the shoulder before CuRVy stopped coasting. In the words of Anne Lamott, “Thank you thank you thank you.” A two-hour wait for AAA, the discovery that it’s not that hard to pee into a cup while sitting in a car, a 25-mile tow back to my mechanic, and another tow to another mechanic, preceded the bad news: the timing belt had snapped and taken five valves with it. Apparently this is a very bad thing.
I rented a car, drove to Seattle (I was not going to miss my baby time), and picked Elliot up at his Mommy’s office, where not much work had happened over the previous several hours. And then the big question: to scrap my 17-year-old beloved Honda—with 250,000 miles of adventure on her—or pour more money into her yawning need? And, if I decided to say goodbye, how to replace her in a hurry?
On Tuesday, as Elliot and I were getting ready to walk to the library for baby story time, an excavator took its first swing at the house on the corner. We watched while it ate the house. The living room blinds, the kitchen sink, the bedroom closets, the wisteria-covered front porch.
As we watched the walls wrenching apart and listened to exploding windows, I wondered: How many babies were conceived in the bedroom? How many learned to crawl through its rooms? How many children left each morning to walk to school and pounded up the front steps in the afternoon? How many sat at the kitchen table to learn multiplication tables and write book reports? How many birthday cakes came out of the oven? How many arguments, how many reconciliations? How many times did the walls change color? Did someone wait and wonder if her husband would come home from Europe or Japan? Or if their son would return from Viet Nam? How many daughters dressed for prom? How many teens were told to turn the gol-durn music down? How many dreams were born; how many dashed? Did grandchildren come to visit?
It took ten minutes for the giant claw to reduce decades of story to a pile of rubble and shattered glass.
As I watched the wolf huff and puff and blow the house down, I said goodbye on behalf of all who had lived there, doing what I could to honor the history. No one knows the whole story except the walls of the house; and they are gone now. The line I read in a novel recently came to mind: “all goodbye ain’t gone*.” The cover of the book is gone, but what happened there lives on in the collective memories of those who called it home.
I decided to fix CuRVy. It’s not time to relegate her to the junk yard. But when she leaves me, our story will not be gone. It will live in my heart: a trip to Quebec with a partner, to Maine with a daughter, visits to Appalachian grandchildren, a cross-country adventure, mountains and oceans, tow trucks…
As long as the story lives in hearts and on the written page, as long as story is passed from generation to generation, goodbyes ain’t gone.