Flat tires, new cars and facing our fears

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Photo by Bill Elsey.

If you’re going to get a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere, it might as well be at a vineyard where several hundred people at a cookoff are filled to the brim with good chili and great wine.

I was out at Spicewood Vineyards over the weekend for their annual Pair It With Claret chili cookoff, a super fun event I’ve judged three or four times over the years. My husband had to work that afternoon, and our sitter options didn’t work out, so I ended up bringing both boys, ages 6 and 2. They didn’t nap on the way out there (always a harbinger of kid drama), and even though they had other kids, toys and electronic devices to play with for the 20 minutes I needed to judge the chili, they wanted to run around like wild things.

It was frustrating, but, sometimes, you just have to rise above the unbelievable stress that comes with parenting and get in The Zone. You know, that impenetrable, adrenalin-filled place where you have no other choice than to own whatever happens next. One kid might be having a very loud meltdown about a toy and while you’re dealing with that crisis, the recently potty trained one doesn’t make it all the way to the bathroom.

What it relief it was, then, to finally get them both (one of whom wasn’t wearing pants by this point) to my little old beat up Toyota Corolla. I’ve put 100,000 miles on her over the years, driving from Missouri to California and back a few summers in a row, as well as yearly trips between Southwest Missouri and Austin.

Corolla She’s a well-loved workhorse, and when we got to the car parked in a field at the vineyard, her flat rear tire made it look as though she’d finally taken a knee.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought outloud, trying to keep the expletives to myself.

A flat tire.

I don’t know how to change a freaking flat tire.

After cursing myself for not having AAA, I realized that my best option was to go back to the judge’s room and find my buddy Andy — a semiconductor guy who grows grapes and likes an excuse to wear his lederhosen — and anyone else who felt like being a hero for the day.

I left the kids strapped in the car with the windows down and the parking attendant on guard (I’m telling you, it was a stressful few minutes), and found Andy and Todd, the Spicewood winemaker, who was able to use the winery’s air pressure thingy to fill up the spare.

By the time we got back to the car, a complete stranger who happened to be going back to his car at the same time we were had gotten to work unscrewing the lug nuts. Together, the three of them took off the flat and put on the spare and saved my ass.

How do you say thank you for something like that?

I tried my best to express my gratitude, and then they all went on their merry way. (Andy, with his wine glass still in hand and a big ol’ smile on his face.)

I’m sure they were fueled by the wine (which to be honest is the only food tie to justify this story as a FK post), but it was so amazing to see these people come together to help me out. Not that I didn’t think people would help me, just how it all worked out so smoothly despite my inability to actually fix what was wrong. (And dear god, what a humbling reminder of what single parents go through on a daily basis.)

When you like to know how to do a lot of things, not knowing how to fix a problem is a hard pill to swallow. I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t know anything about how vehicles run or how to fix them when they are broken, but not as guilty as when I’d forget to get the oil changed and realize it a year later.

photo(2)Either way, it’s remarkable that this car has been so good to me, and I’ve been putting off selling her to get a new one. In part, I’m nostalgic about all the trips we’ve taken, but also, a little nervous about buying my first car. (Yes, I’m still driving a hand-me-down from my folks.)

Just like I’ve been putting off learning how to do stuff like change a tire (and shoot a gun and crochet and freelance my way to Spain), I’ve been putting off making the giant purchase that (in my mind) feels like a financial Mt. Everest.

I’m sure buying the car won’t be nearly as painful as paying it off, but saying goodbye to my Corolla is already tugging on my heartstrings.

I think about all the dents and chipped paint and think of the hail damage insurance money that allowed me to buy my first laptop, on which I wrote my way through college.

I look at the car seats in the back and think about being two days into labor with Julian, when I had to lie back there with an IV in my arm and fluids bag hanging from the handle on which you’d normally hang dry cleaning as Ian raced us to the hospital for a C-section. (Thanks for that one, Austin Area Birthing Center.)

I look around at the broken doorhandles, worn-out seats, torn-up car mats and think about all the interesting, amazing people who have filled the seats around me, from my best friend (and faithful road tripping buddy) from college who died just before I found out I was pregnant with Julian to the little people my now 6-year-old calls his own best friends.

I’ve never been good at letting things go, but it looks like I’m going to have to get some practice at it this week.

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6 responses to “Flat tires, new cars and facing our fears

  1. Man I am tearing up reading this-I just said goodbye to our beloved mini van that we purchased 19 years ago. Though the last 7 years it was my sons. Still watching it get towed away I was flooded with the same memories as you. So glad you got some help this weekend. I’m taking that plunge too in a few weeks (getting a new car) Bittersweet. :)

  2. You made me cry Addie! It’s amazing how many emotions and memories can be housed in tangible objects. Thank goodness for nice strangers to help change a flat tire or provide a jump start (like when I got stuck at work, a gas station, and home due to a dead battery). A new car will be part of the next chapter of your life, enjoy it!

  3. I still don’t know how to change a tire! I love that a few strangers were so willing and happy to help you out. Good karma for them.

    My car was stolen in September and an out of town friend of mine has been in my new car three times now. Each time he is flabbergasted (still) that it’s not my older blue civic. He told me yesterday, “I really liked that car and am so sad it’s gone.” He wasn’t the owner! Sometimes we get attached to things that have seen us through milestones. MILEstones. Get it?

  4. I am glad I’m not the only grown-ass woman who doesn’t know how to change a flat tire. I mean, I get the theory, but the practice… I’d be too worried about driving off and suddenly losing a wheel because I missed a step.

    That’s why AAA came in handy recently, but I had to wait a good 2 hours. I’d say your winery experience was a superior one. Resorting faith in humanity and all that. Glad you and the kiddos were safe and sound in the end, and I’m sorry for the loss of an old friend. May your new ride serve you as well!

  5. RIP little Corolla! You were certainly loved! Thanks for all the memories and keeping my babies safe!

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