One day I was driving on my way to pick up my children from school. It was a slightly overcast day in the late Fall – rare for typically sunny and dry weather in Southern California – and I was in an unusually free-minded place, not pre-occupied with my many mental musings about clients, family, what’s-for-dinner, and the latest news segment on the radio.
I was taking in the world around me as I drove….noticing many vibrantly green lawns, edged to perfection, and flanked with seasonally appropriate flowers and freshly pruned fruit trees waiting for Spring’s bounty of leaves and vibrant colors. Each driveway and street space was either bare (occupants were assumed to be either at work or on vacation – I envisioned the latter) or providing sanctuary for what seemed to be all of Southern California’s rations of Acuras, Mercedes, Escalades, and the like, with the occasional Prius or Volt added for a splash of variety. Each seemed newly washed, with shiny paint (in the latest shades of silver, gray, blue, white and red) and all seemed to be in mint condition. It appeared either a skilled body-shop was nearby or there was an unusually high preponderance of careful drivers who never scratched a door or hit a fender on a guard rail living side-by-side. I mused on this for a while, noting conflicting thoughts about this more traditionally “ideal” neighborhood scenery (it looked to me like the picture perfect neighborhood street in Steve Martin’s 1991 version of Father Of The Bride) that simultaneously garnered appreciation of the efforts put forth to make it look that way, and yet I was also uneasy – aware that seemed perfection rarely is what it seems – noting the many costs to relationship, self-worth, and life-ease the quest for perfection attaches to those who seek it.
I continued my drive, lost in these thoughts, until something caught my eye at the bottom of the street, near the corner where I would turn. I found my gaze staying there, curious, and far-too-slowly processing the vision before my eyes. To my right, nestled in-between two other seemingly show-room caliber vehicles, was a rusted and chipped, grayish-toned – part paint/part primer-ed jalopy, with a dangling bumper and several dents, showing years of engaging with the elements and with life.
On the side near the back bumper – or maybe it was along the trunk – my memory is a bit hazy now as to the specific location, but this I will never forget as it is the reason for this post…Someone had spray- painted the car with large, dripping, uneven, capital letters:
IT GETS ME HOME.
Time held still for moment, and I found myself smiling with a quickly piercing sense of deep respect, appreciation, and awe at this much used – and seemingly well-loved – pile of metal, duct-tape and rubber. I even found a light chuckle rise from the location of my heart and wander audibly from the back of my throat as I had my own thought process checked with the clarity of perspective brought by this particular vehicle parked on that particular road on that particular day.
I loved the willingness of the owner to be bold in the truth of “What Matters” – and how they seemed to own the contrast between theirs and the other vehicles surrounding their unpolished heap of metal on wheels. Something about that contrast made that vehicle feel more important to me than any other on that street that day.
I have thought of this many times over recent months, and often wonder where that car now parks it’s weary frame. (I have not seen it since that one fall afternoon – even though I look.) I find myself hoping that the owner still gets safely home – that the car still makes its journey through the fast paced metropolitan and suburban streets, proudly showing its history and age. And each time the memory crosses, I find myself a little better grounded in what truly matters and a little more open to enjoy what authentically IS.
Wishing you moments that catch you by surprise and inspire your own version of awe.