Recently, we were swapping first car stories with a new friend. We were laughing at our youthful choices and the circumstances surrounding them. I remember that old car with fondness for a couple of reasons. First, it served it's purpose and got us where we needed to go and second, it's a fun story to tell.
Shortly after we were first married, with our new baby boy in tow, we purchased a little chevette for $300. You could start it with a screwdriver and if you accidentally locked the doors (we never locked them on purpose, having nothing worth stealing) you had to climb in the back hatch, which couldn't be locked, in order to get in. It had character. My favourite part of the story is what made it particularly special to us. It is also what will cause me to inspect any cars my children plan on purchasing in the future....
Our little chevette had a fairly significant hole under the drivers feet. We could literally put both feet on the ground when we were stopped. Obviously that would have been quite an unintelligent choice while we were moving. We affectionately referred to it as the Flintstone mobile. Alex welded a large metal plate to the bottom and covered the hole. Whoever sat behind the driver would get a splash, but it worked. It was not our dream car, but it was an adventure and we were grateful because our other option was no car.
The lesson in the story of our little chevette hit me this weekend as we were moving into our new apartment. Or rather, trying to move into our new apartment. We walked in on Friday with the realtor and it was utterly trashed. The smell of a completely hot-boxed house hit us on the way in as we made our way up stairs covered in torn linoleum. A heater was ripped out of the wall, there were almost no lightbulbs, and the carpet was putrid. To top off an already horrific experience, we walked into what was to become our bedroom to find the walls graffitied. The pentagram was quite artistic.
I wanted to cry.
For two days we lent our dog to one of my new co-workers, stashed our stuff in an old friend's trailer and couch surfed with four kids. We waited for the cleaners and carpet installers to redeem the place we needed to call home. Meanwhile two of four kids came down with a cold that made their faces swell and leak all kinds of special and interesting fluids.
Sunday night, my friend Megan and I stayed to create some sense of order while Alex stayed with the kids at a friend's house. Early Monday morning I headed to work and prayed for perspective. I'll be honest, I was saying bad words under my breath. I was having a full-on temper-tantrum on the inside. I own a gorgeous house in Cranbrook! IT is delightful! IT has sunshine coloured walls! IT has a shower that smells spring fresh! WHY am I putting my babies to sleep in a sketchy place, so far away from the home they have always known?!
When I came home Monday evening, the kids were playing happily on the part of the floor not covered by boxes, Alex had set up the beds and was scrubbing the artwork off our bedroom wall. "You know, I was thinking." he said, "It is amazing the damage one family can do in a short period of time." "Uh-huh." I said, thinking to myself, "way to state the obvious, Alex." Then he went on to speak to the heart of who I am, or want to be anyway, and provided the perspective I had prayed for that morning. "Imagine what could happen if we looked at it the opposite way. Imagine the good our one family could bring if we were intentional about it. Even if we only stay for the length of our lease, we could leave this place so much better. We could fix it up, meet our neighbours. This could be a really great experience."
Our chevette was a great car. It was not our dream car, but it ran, we bonded over it, it met our needs and most of all, it is still memorable thirteen years later. After all these years, we still tell chevette stories while we never talk about the cars and vans that ran smoothly. (Yes, we did have those!) This place is a disaster, but like our chevette, we are determined to make it better. Like the chevette, it is not our dream house, but it will serve it's purpose and it is already a pretty good story to tell.