“Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” – Stephen Colbert1924-Ford-Model-T-PO

At my friends’ design, I began a five day personal retreat. Due to my physical constraints, I modified it to be solitary, and concurrent with my nine friends’. For me, beginning a new year is always joyful and auspicious. Consciously honoring the passage of another year is a feat I choose to highlight. During my first meditation I had some fond memories beginning in my latency years through adulthood and I wanted to share them.

Someone said to me the other day, “You have an engineer’s mind.” I never really thought about that, because psychology and spirituality are so central to my Being. However, mathematics was my best subject and I did very well in statistics, a subject that I notice was cringe-worthy to others in graduate school. I was the person in the family who frequently assembled washers and dryers and the toys for the children. Upon seeing a hammer at a friend’s house when he was around six years old, Jordan excitedly exclaimed, “You have a hammer like my mother’s!”

My family was a doing family. I haven’t identified with doing for quite a long time, given my physical circumstances, but I remembered my father collecting antique cars. He had a 1929 Model A Ford and a 1924 Model T Ford touring car. I remember around age eight filing the rust off of tiny parts of the engine that was splayed all over the garage floor at the lake where I grew up. Doesn’t everybody work on antique cars and learn mechanics by osmosis? I was horrified when my father acquired a 1950 Silver Dawn Rolls-Royce. My 16-year-old self found it ostentatious and refused to ride in it in daylight. It was actually pretty cool, as the turn signals raised out near the side doors and were lighted. The back seats had a glass desk that dropped down like tables on airplanes. The class tabletops were perfect for separating lines of cocaine, but that is for another blog entry (that will be very short, if you’re curious). My wheels ambulated a ten year old 1962 Willy’s Jeep, my first car. I could take the top and doors off and it was like my Barbie camper as a child. The problem was that it needed a ring job that was worth more than the car, so I had to carry a sixpack of oil around with me. The muffler occasionally fell off and I needed to get under it to clamp it back on, so I always needed tools. What do you mean, other 16 year olds didn’t have this avocation?

I guess we were a mechanical family. When people complain about automobile repairs, I notice that I know quite a bit about the parts, just not much about the inner workings of the engine. I learned to drive a stick shift in my younger older brother’s GTO. He was a good instructor teaching me about the friction point between the clutch and the acceleration and compression when braking, but his car was losing the clutch and if I let it grind at all, he was furious with me so I learned to drive a stick shift very quickly. For a while during college when visiting home, the Rolls-Royce became the party mobile. The transmission was on the column in an H design, very fun to drive. I guess I took for granted that other people didn’t know to be extremely careful when cranking a Model T to be sure you don’t dislocate your shoulder.

My older older brother sold Snap-On tools for a while, an excellent quality tool. He also worked on foreign cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I didn’t get to drive any of those, but I was an avid passenger. While down with the flu in college, I put a Harley-Davidson model motorcycle together in my spare time when not studying math. Perhaps that was preparation for purchasing a Honda 350 modified dirtbike to avoid hitchhiking.

Understanding my propensity for recklessness on my motorcycle, I sold it after six months. I tended to bungee cord my fashionable chunky high heels on the back of the bike and ride barefoot. I never told my children about this behavior until they were beyond the age of danger. I didn’t want to glamorize recklessness. I did however always wear a helmet with a face shield, which came in handy when riding a few hours down to Key West on the weekends from college. I was fortunate that the worst calamity with my motorcycle happened when I got off and forgot to put the kickstand down. I know, that’s why I sold it. I knew the statistics for fatalities in Dade County were high. Math.

During the late 90s, I learned to drive a vintage 1950 Ford tractor pulling a bush hog. A few years later I graduated to a new Kubota tractor. I soon learned to drive a two horse trailer with living quarters to take my horse to the veterinarian at the LSU vet school. I happily could drag the arenas on the horse farm with the harrow and mow the fields for hours at a time. Riding the tractor was almost more joyful than riding horses.

It surprises me when I know things that other girls don’t know. Growing up with brothers did have its advantages.
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