If you seek happiness, let go of the past. Live for today and look toward tomorrow. If there is a philosophy I hold by, that sums it up.
And yet, like most humans, I am not always consistent. I am reminded of my hypocrisy each time I get into my a car, a 2002 Mercury Sable that has logged over 152,000 miles. This vehicle is a worn and dented souvenir from the past decade of my life. It is time to trade it in and get new. The side mirrors are held by screws. When I open the glove box, the entire mechanism falls toward the floor. Heck, Ford has said goodbye to the entire Mercury brand.
Still somehow, I can’t say goodbye. I rack up another repair bill and postpone the trip to the dealership. But although I haven’t gotten a new car, I have given my old car a new name: I now call it “Jalopy,” a term more descriptive of its current condition.
Dear reader, allow me to share the story of the Skippack Blogger and his Jalopy.
How I Met Jalopy
Ten years ago, my dad, Bernie Shaw, was the sales and leasing manager for a Lincoln Mercury Dealership. When it came time to buy a new car, I went to see him. Even though I was grown up and long gone from home, it still gave me a thrill to see my dad at the showroom, beaming out his public persona, dressed to perfection in his suit and tie.
With characteristic self-confidence, he took me out to the lot and pointed to a charcoal grey Mercury Sable Premium LS, all shiny and new.
“There’s your car, Michael”
The thought occurred to me that I had been making my own living for almost two decades and I should have some say in the car I would buy and for which I would be making payments. I was going to ask my dad to show me some other models but the words never quite made it to my tongue. Let it stand, I decided, as a moment of filial piety, as I went for a purely ceremonial test drive with one of the salesmen. I thought to myself, “I’ll find something else to argue with dad about.”
I drove off that day in a shiny new car, with upgraded wheels and a stainless steel dash, back to my own life. A happy customer with a memory of a beautiful transaction that will outlast the vehicle. My dad has since retired; a pleasure to do business with you, Bernie.
Jalopy Goes on a Date
Two years later: I am now over forty years old, still single, a lonely, awkward dude. Jalopy and I go on our first date with Debby. The movie wasn’t so great, why did we have such a good time?
Then came more dates, driving Jalopy to dinners, concerts, and coffee shops. Long conversations in the front seat. Debby’s sweet smile and words flowing easily between us, as easily as wheels spinning on a smooth highway. A power greater than ourselves seemed to be steering Jalopy, taking two lonely souls on separate paths and decreeing that they now merge lanes and travel together as one.
Memories of our youth and troubles of the past fall behind us in the rear view mirror, but where would the road ahead lead us?
Stop thinking about life Michael and take a chance: Time to drive to a wedding, my wedding, and stand under the wedding canopy. We don’t hire a limo, we climb into Jalopy; Debby in her wedding gown, I in my tuxedo. Life is a game. And the game isn’t over yet.
Jalopy Arrives in Skippack
Now married, Debby and I set about looking for a house, one we would buy together and live out our lives, with a garage for Jalopy. We start looking in familiar Pennsylvania territory, eastern Montgomery County, occasionally crossing County Line road into Bucks.
Each time we look at a house, Debby’s intuitive woman’s eye perceives a fatal flaw: the bedrooms are too small, no sidewalks, a train runs too close by, a factory can be seen from the front yard, purple carpeting, too much traffic, or just an indefinable, discordant vibe. Each time we leave, Debby waits until the real estate agent or salesperson is out of ear shot and says simply but firmly “no.”
Throughout history “Westward Ho!” has been the cry of adventurous souls seeking a new beginning. So we headed west; about 12 miles west, steering Jalopy down route 73. As we approached Old Forty Foot road, Skippack Village seemed a new world with new possibilities. It was Jalopy who took us here for the first time together. We went to the sales office at Biltmore Estates, looked at a plot of land and newly constructed homes not yet occupied, parked Jalopy and walked into the village.
Our first walk in Skippack together. We felt the enchantment of the Village, the quaint shops and restaurants, the signs that advertise them, and the buildings that house them, each with its own unique design and structure, so special and different from other neighborhoods we had seen.
We were not long on our walk when Debby turned to me and said, “What are you waiting for? Give the salesman a deposit.”
About six months later, construction was complete, and we drove Jalopy to his new home, a roomy, two-car garage. On most weekends, Jalopy gets a Sabbath rest, as we walk to our activities in town.
We love our new home. But if I ever raise the issue of buying a new car, Debby looks at me with big, sad, brown eyes and turns away. And then one day it dawns on me — when we were dating, Debby didn’t just fall in love with me, she also fell in love with Jalopy!
Before We Say Goodbye
“Jalopy, we’ve been through a lot together, bud, haven’t we? Some crazy trips, some funny, some sad. No one will ever know. Hey, I’m not one to turn my back on a friend. Let’s go one more round together. I’m taking you to Skip’s Garage.”
Skip Dickey and his son run Skip’s Garage, a local auto repair shop in Skippack. Skip is also a fellow member of the Skippack Historical Society, and a soft-spoken gentleman, a pleasure to be around. State inspection, emissions testing, lube and oil change, some repairs. Skip says the mechanics didn’t see much rust. Barring any unforeseen events, Jalopy should be able to carry on for a while.
I still believe that the secret of happiness is letting go of the past, with its mistakes, bitterness and regrets. But if the past had bitterness, there was also love, compassion, and kindness; moments more precious than a king’s ransom. Hopefully, Jalopy and I can make it together through the winter. We’ll enjoy one more spring together for old sake’s sake, happy to have Debby with us in the front seat. Come summer, I’ll buy a new car. Maybe.