My husband’s 1999 dark green Dodge Dakota, with its 200,000 plus miles, broken air conditioning, and doors that don’t open properly, has been collecting cobwebs and growing rust spots while sitting on the side of our suburban driveway for the past 5 years.
“Ol’ Betsy”, Will’s affectionate nickname for his first vehicle, had been relegated to retirement in 2018 upon the arrival of both our third child, and a new (to us) white Ford F-150 that could accommodate carseats and get us places with more reliability. In spite of my gentle yet persistent ‘encouragement’ that he wish Betsy a ‘Bon Voyage’, Will just couldn’t find the time or inclination to part ways with the pickup that had borne witness to so much of his personal history.
Recently, however, my patience had been nearing the end of its tether. Over the past year, we’ve been paying to store a pop-up tent trailer elsewhere, instead of parking it where Ol’ Betsy had taken up residence. Essentially, this meant that the truck we hadn’t been using was costing us money on a monthly basis. Each month I would narrow my eyes at the storage company’s statement that came in the mail, draw in a deep breath, and pray for patience. Finally I’d sigh in recollection of my own hangups which Will has graciously abided throughout our marriage.
And then this summer, Will’s reluctance to give up on his old pickup paid off.
While I was in England leading my Women’s Walking Retreat through the bucolic countryside, Will found himself at the centre of a wild traffic accident which involved a 19-year old flipping his Honda Civic in the middle of an intersection and landing his car atop the hood & driver’s side panel of our truck while in mid-air. Unbelievably, everyone involved walked away from the accident. Our F-150, though technically drivable, was destined for demolition. We recently accepted the insurance company’s payout and have been on the search for another pickup ever since.
In the meantime, Will has, much to everyone’s amazement, gotten Ol’ Betsy running, smog checked, and registered again. Initially the plan was for him to drive her to work and back until a replacement vehicle was found. After which we would finally sell or donate the Dodge.
But then it started. First Will mentioned needing to replace the driver’s side window so he wouldn’t need to hold it up halfway when showing his badge at his work entrance. That seemed practical and made sense to me. Next he suggested fixing the interior roof panel, which I thought was an odd waste of time. We were sitting in the near dark under the olive tree in our garden on a warm August night, when he casually dropped the possibility of buffing the rust spots out and repainting them. Travis by his side for every trip to AutoZone. Ol’ Betsy restored to her former glory. I groaned inwardly. Ol’ Betsy hadn’t just received a new lease on life, she was going to get a full-blown engine-to-taillight makeover.
In my mind’s eye, I played out the next few years and envisioned a painstakingly slow process that would see Betsy sidled smugly up to my SUV on the driveway during her multi-year remodel and end in a triumphant finale featuring Will tossing the keys to our firstborn for her inaugural driving lesson. Exasperating in some respects, but not the worst outcome I could imagine.
So I kept my mouth shut and peered up at the first speckles of starlight gazing back at me through the silhouette of our garden grove, and realized that the possibility of redoing this truck was Will’s chance to play. To tinker, fix, and create. To teach our kids about mechanics and fixing things that still have a chance, instead of tossing something with potential and succumbing to the wild call of consumerism. It was noble and hare-brained and I loved him for it. He has loved me through, and in spite of, and because of so many creative, beautiful, wild ideas that don’t always make fiscal sense and often take up more time than they should. Here was my chance to extend the same grace and humour his desire for creative expansion.
Creative exploration & outlets do not require a purpose. Play need not have a specific outcome. Just as children require the opportunity to play in order to thrive, we too as adults need the chance to fling ourselves headlong into pursuits that allow our minds to unhinge, relax, and unravel. When this happens, all sorts of breakthroughs, solutions, and epiphanies can seep through the cracks of our stress come undone.
I believe that through the process of working on his old truck, Will is likely to experience lightbulb moments that have nothing to do with mechanics, but provide clarity in other areas of his life. Creative play and exploration have tangible, practical effects that can help us process our past, problem-solve in our present, and plan for our future. Who knows, maybe that future looks like seeing your 5 year-old son one day hop into the driver’s seat of your pickup from the last century and drive off into the distance.
“Creative exploration & outlets do not require a purpose. Play need not have a specific outcome”
Do you wish you could enter into a world of play in order to explore the possibilities and lose yourself in the beauty of creative output? Join me on my next Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds for opportunities to rest, play, and pursue creative outlets. Let your imagination be reignited on our weeklong walks through the English countryside and bring inspiration home with you. Click HERE for details & dates.