My Sexy Christmas Car and the Gift of Forgiveness
“Change is the only constant in life,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and it was clear to me that I was ready for a change.
“I’ve been driving the van since the kids were in diapers, ”I complained to my husband. “They’re practically grown, they don’t need me to chauffeur them to soccer practice anymore and I’d like a smaller car.”
What I didn’t say was, “I feel like a frump driving that behemoth of a van, my kids are almost in college and what I really want is something to make me feel sexy and young again.”
My husband, in an amazing display of perceptiveness, read between the lines and on Christmas morning surprised me with a vermillion red Z28 Camaro T-top powered by a 5.7-liter V8 engine. He even put a bow on top.
It was the best Christmas surprise ever. I had no way of knowing this gift would also call on me to exercise the greatest act of forgiveness ever.
My car was a beauty, sleek and streamlined, nimble but strong, with an athleticism that lived up to her reputation as a muscle car. Roaring to life with a deep-throated rumble as soon as I turned the key in the ignition, she leaped to speed in a heartbeat. She hugged the road like a lover, zoomed in and out of tight spots with finesse and turned heads wherever she went.
“I know when you get home from work. Your car rumbles into the garage like a jet on a runway,” my husband said. He was proud that he had gotten me the Camaro and admired her slender strength and latent power as much as I did.
My son was itching to get his hands on her, but I turned the van over to him instead. I was reluctant to allow anyone who had totaled his second-hand Buick to sit behind my car’s steering wheel.
Did you know the Camaro’s name was conceived by merchandising manager Bob Lund and General Motors Vice President Ed Rollett while they were reading a French-English dictionary? The name was slang for friend, pal, or comrade.
The fourth generation Camaro, introduced between 1993 and 2002 had the same small-block V8 engine as the one introduced in the 1992 Corvette. The Camaro was a car that was of the SCAA-sanctioned Trans-Am series, the official car used in the international race of champions from 1975–1989, is still a favorite for drag racing and in 2013 was the car used in the NASCAR Nationwide series.
My Camaro truly was one badass car.
Time marched on, I drove her for many years and she aged well. She never lost her sexy youthfulness, and she continued to mesmerize men and women with her sporty, compact body and outstanding performance. She refused to keep silent, announcing her comings and goings with the boldness of something that knows its worth and will not go silent into the night.
My daughter finished college and married, one son graduated, the other son started college and we ended up giving the van to my daughter and her new husband. I never failed to attract attention as my Camaro, lovely and intrepid as ever, roared to life at my touch. She streaked along the highway like a teenager, drew admiring glances at stop lights and aroused envy when she thundered into a parking lot.
Then one day she developed an oil leak. It wasn’t cause for alarm. We took her to a mechanic for repairs, paid too much money, and she returned to us with the same slow leak leaving a dark puddle of oil that soaked into the garage floor beneath her.
I decided to ignore it, other than making sure her oil was checked and replenished periodically. Her performance never faltered and her looks never faded, so I could live with the leak.
But my new son-in-law liked to work on cars. “Looks like you’ve got an oil leak,” he said one day when he and my daughter were visiting and he spotted the black stain on the garage floor.
“It’s nothing. The car runs fine,” I said.
“Let me fix it for you. I’d like to work on it.”
I resisted. “Let’s just enjoy each other’s company. You don’t need to work on my car today.”
“No, I’d like to do that for you.”
My daughter chimed in. “Mom, he’s really good with cars and he wants to do this for you and Dad.”
Finally, I caved and he went to work, starting out nonchalant but becoming more intense, which was worrisome. Every time I walked through the garage, I grew more and more uneasy. By mid-afternoon, the car’s many parts were spread across the floor of the garage like the entrails of a gutted animal.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to put it back together?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just need to figure out where this goes. Do you have the car manual?”
This didn’t look good, but my son-in-law sounded confident, my daughter trusted implicitly in his abilities, and we were too far gone to turn back. Day turned to dusk, the garage light went on, and l waited for my car to be put back together. Then finally it was! My son-in-law summoned us to the garage and said, “I think the oil leak’s fixed.”
He and my daughter left since they had a long drive home, I turned the key in the ignition, my Camaro roared to life, there was a loud pop as if fireworks had exploded, and she died. A thousand dollars later and she still wouldn’t run.
After much deliberation and a few more worthless repair bills, it was time to cut our losses. My husband is a high school teacher and we gave her away to a high school boy who loved working on cars. I think he painted her black and got her running, but I’m not positive it’s the same Camaro.
“To err is human and to forgive is divine,” said the English poet Alexander Pope, so of course I forgave my son-in-law. My faith encourages forgiveness and he truly is a good man who only wanted to help and loves my daughter.
Max Ehrmann in Desiderata advises us to “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” I drive a more appropriate and sedate Sonata now, having gracefully surrendered the car that was sheer exhilaration to drive, and although I insisted on a red car with a sporty look, the Sonata will never come close to that V28 Camaro my husband surprised me with on Christmas morning.