Dear Little One,
Many years ago, when I was ~7 or 8, your grandma managed to get a new car. She had gone through numerous cars in her lifetime, but they had all been used and on their last legs. But this time, this time she actually got a new car. From a dealership. She got to pick out the interior and exterior colors from a catalog (she chose dark gray and blue). Now, this wasn’t a terribly expensive car – it was a little Ford Escort hatchback – but it was hers and it was new. She brought it home and was so excited. And then I ruined it.
Your grandma had always liked history. She would take us to places like Colonial Williamsburg when we visited her parents in Virginia. She would sew us costumes from all different eras. I looooved it. I loved getting dressed up, I loved listening to the stories of people who were long gone, I loved it.
In the months leading up to the car purchase, we’d discussed colonial history and some of the things that made that time different. One of the differences that was brought up was how they did basic household chores. Either my mom or my sister explained that they didn’t have dish soap, so they would use reeds or sand to wash their pots and pans and such.
I’m not sure if you can see where this is going, so I’ll go ahead and put the pieces together. My thought process went like this:
Mom’s been complaining that her brand new car already needs to be washed > back in colonial days, they’d use reeds or sand to wash metal stuff > cars are made of metal > I don’t have any reeds, but there’s a bunch of sand in the driveway > I will clean mom’s car so she’ll be happy/less stressed!
And that’s what led to me and my friend LG grabbing handfuls of sand from the driveway and scrubbing the hell out of my mom’s new car.
So then my mom comes out to see her brand new car with giant swooshy scrape marks all over it and two little kids beaming up at her thinking they’re about to be thanked.
We were not thanked.
She was devastated, but she kept it together fairly well. I was confused and upset, since I thought I was doing this nice thing to make her feel better and then it turns out I’d done a huge amount of damage to something she cared so much about. I imagine it’s probably similar to what that old woman in Spain felt like after “restoring” that fresco of Jesus.*
At the time, the only thing I really learned was that I was a screw-up who couldn’t even do one nice thing (what can I say, even as a small child I was just bursting with self-esteem). As the years have gone on, though, I’ve learned a few different things from this.
- It takes an insane amount of patience and calm to raise a child, and no one succeeds at maintaining those all the time.
- Even the best of intentions can turn sour if you don’t know what you’re doing, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to help people.
- Always try your hardest to value people and relationships over money and things. This isn’t always easy, especially when you’re struggling to have even the basics of life, but should still be the goal.
P.S. She did somehow manage to convince the dealership to repaint the car (perhaps just leaving out the details of exactly how it’d happened – not lying, just not exactly telling everything).
*Note: For the fresco thing, at least she had permission from the clergymen before she started…