In 1988 we bought a new car.
It was a beautiful dark blue, shiny Oldsmobile Cutless.
It had velour upholstery, a cassette player under the radio, and a wonderful new car smell. We were thrilled with it.
So we decided to go visit my mother-in-law to show her our new car. She was living in Sumter at the time, so it really wasn’t a hardship to drive there and back to North Charleston in one day.
We got up early, climbed in the new car and made the trip.
Of course, she admired the car and then hauled us in the house for a meal.
Now, our youngest son had just turned three years old. He was a rather strong-willed child and often gave me a fit…he was a real handful sometimes, but he was also a very loving and affectionate boy. He could steal your heart.
Both of my sons had vivid imaginations and would play for hours together and by themselves, off in some fantasy of their own. That day, after lunch, our youngest son went outside to play and immediately began to entertain himself.
I meandered outside to sit on the porch with my mother-in-law while my husband watched television in the house.
As we sat there, we watched my little boy walk around and around the car…he probably made 20 trips just walking around the vehicle with his little hand on the shiny blue paint.
But after observing his behavior for a while, it began to dawn on me that he had something in his hand as he traveled around the car.
Only a little curious, I leisurely got up and walked over to see what my boy had in his hand. To my horror, it was a small rock.
I distinctly remember the absolute shock I felt staring at the rock, and as if in slow motion, jerking my eyes to the car’s paint job. I remember thinking… “No, please no….but…yes. There they were. There was no denying it. No amount of eye rubbing would remove the sight of the multiple scratches completely streaking the bottom half of the car…all.the.way.around.it.
Our beautiful one week old car was a mess.
I called my mother-in-law over and after surveying the damage, the two of us just stared at each other. An earthquake was coming.
At that moment, I heard my husband come out of the house and make his way toward us.
“Why are you all looking at the car?” he asked innocently.
At the sound of his voice, my mother-in-law picked up the three year old and ran to the porch. She wrapped her arms tightly around him protectively and held on for dear life.
With a sick smile, I simply said that I had been watching our little one walk around the car unaware that he was scratching the car with a rock.
(It’s always better to just get the bad news out as fast as you can).
My husband slowly turned, looked at the destroyed paint job, and his eyes almost bugged out of his head.
Silent seconds went by with no movement from him and then it started.
He grabbed his head with both hands and stomped around the car yelling incoherently “ARGGGGG!” over and over.
Then he turned and with a crazed look on his face, marched toward the porch where my son was wrapped in his grandmother’s arms with very few body parts showing.
My mother-in-law immediately bristled with fury and shouted, “Don’t you touch this baby!” (That probably saved his life.)
At that, my husband grabbed his head again with both hands, yelled “ARGGGG!” and went back to check out the damage. Finally, the yelling turned into sounds more like loud whimpering.
Once again, my mother-in-law’s infinite wisdom responded to the situation, and she said, “The damage is done, it’s too late to change anything, get over it, and figure out how to fix it.”
What a lady! I was blessed with an awesome mother-in-law.
Eventually, my husband calmed down, our son survived, and a few days later, the scratches were buffed out. You could see the scratches if you looked very closely, but for the rest of that car’s life, we just didn’t look down at them. We just pretended they weren’t there.
We learned a lot from that experience. First, cars are just possessions. They can be there one minute and gone the next. People are more important. And why were we so concerned to start with? Because it was brand new? Then why did we purchase something that we would have to constantly worry about?
Every subsequent car we have purchased since then has been used, or previously owned. If it gets a dent or ding, we don’t care. Its purpose is just to get us from point A to point B, and the depreciation isn’t as drastic as it is with a new car.
If our son had been punished for damaging the new car, what would he have learned? Maybe that possessions are more important that he was. We are a lot more relaxed with our vehicles now, and it’s a good thing…especially since I just backed into a tractor.
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