A Usual Mistake

"I like to tell all my fairy god-daughters and my niece that when I'm gone, they can sit on the floor and go through all these journals, and they can walk through my life, and they can smell the gardenia perfume on the pages. They can have it in their hands, who I was."

-Stevie Nicks


2. CAM, Glam, Buckingham

January 30, 2016


I got my car today. GranMollie's old car. I've named it CAM, because it was her nickname, "Crazy Aunt Mollie." It's a bright red Ford Escape with light leather seats and little lights in the cup holders that change colors. Right now, I have them set pink, because when I was messing with it while Mom, Colin, and Dean were in the car, they all kind of oohed and aahed over them when they came on. They're very disco. Or glam rock. Or something.

Anyway, we all went to lunch and Mom drove us there because I don't like to park downtown, but I drove us home, and then Dean and I went out alone and circled around the high school, where he taught me to parallel park. Then, Mom took Dean home because the car he came down in is now mine, and I took my three CDs (two are from GranMollie actually - a John Lennon acoustic one, and Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens; the third one is The Beatles Live at the BBC, from Dad) and a few of the registration papers outside to put them in the car - my car - and I was sitting there, alone in it for the first time, and the sky was clouding over ominously with an impending storm. I could see my neighbor Michael raking leaves in his front yard, but he was looking the other way. I closed my eyes. This was the car Dean picked us up in when we went to see the musical Hair, and Maybe I'm Amazed came on the radio as we drove home in the dark, talking about the show, and laughing. That night, I had felt special, alive. I could almost hear the music.

I opened the compartment between the front seats to put the CDs in, and found a smaller compartment on top that I had to move. But when I had it in my lap, I noticed that there were four small trinkets rattling around in it. A box of tissues - practical. The sticker from the last carbon emissions test - that would go in the glove box with the papers. A nice but worn Swiss Army knife - should I return that? And the last item was a cheap pen, the kind companies give away, bright purple with a garish pink cap. I flipped it over. Rabbit Ears Motel, it read, alongside a drawing of a grinning pink rabbit. Rabbit Ears. GranMollie had loved staying there. I realized that the pen and the Swiss Army knife combined into two very her symbols. The pen was her wanderlust, her playful side. And the knife was a symbol of her determination, intelligence, grit. Maybe I wouldn't return the knife, I thought, as I clutched it to my chest, pen in the other hand, and a few tears slipped down my cheeks. I'll keep them right hear and never tell anybody I have them, and they'll remind me of who I'm supposed to be. Remind me of the things that are important.

I arranged my three CDs in the bottom of the compartment, put the pen, knife, and tissues back on top of them, and filed all of the papers into the glove box. Now what? I turned on the car halfway, so I could program the radio. The volume was off. I waited a beat before adjusting it, feeling like the first song I heard in my new inherited car would be an auspicious (or not) omen. I notched the volume up to a quiet but audible pitch and heard the rushing, echoing exit to Men Without Hats' 'Safety Dance.' I laughed quietly to myself. What did that symbolize? Could a stranger song have shown up if the DJ had been trying? I leaned back in my seat, glad for the comic relief. But as the song faded out and the first notes of the next one started playing all around me, I stopped cold.

"Lovin' you isn't the right thing to do...how can I ever change things that I feel?" sang Lindsey Buckingham soulfully. My breath caught as the chorus began. "You can go your own way! You can call it another lonely day!" GranMollie had loved Fleetwood Mac. If the first song hadn't been an omen, this one definitely was. I felt her presence with me, talking to me, through and around the music. I held on tightly to the steering wheel, letting the song flow through me, eyes closed. For a moment, I wondered if Michael has stopped his raking long enough to notice the teenager sitting motionlessly in her car. But then I didn't care. I realized suddenly I'd want to remember this moment. I pulled out my phone and took a quick video, from the snowy street outside to the display on the radio. I felt timeless. And small.

Taking a few deep breaths once the song ended, I opened the garage and pulled tentatively into my new spot, noticing only once I got out that I had come mere centimeters from shattering a flowerpot. That would take some practice. I took one last look at my new (old) car, then turned and hurried back into the warmth of the house.

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