I am sitting in a Waffle House in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is a little late for breakfast, but it was one of those mornings that did not go as planned. No matter.
I am driving my convertible. One of my hopes was that I would find some convertible weather down here. My daughter certainly has, joyfully posting pictures of herself over the last week, top down, driving to and from work. But it was not meant to be. It is in the forties and cloudy.
It has been a trip of memories. I visited my sister Sunday night and yesterday morning. Her house is full of furniture they have had for many years, and things from my parent’s home (They died just a few years ago and we all have a smattering of their things.). . It is hard to go into any room in the house without memories of their lives, my family’s lives and my own life with them intruding into thoughts.
The same was true last night and this morning. I drove down to visit my daughter. last night. Her apartment too is full of furniture from my home, from my parent’s home, and antiques she has bought and refinished, each with it’s memory. We went out to dinner at The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant that has long memories for she and I and my wife.
Waffle House is full of memories too. I love Waffle House. It is not so much the food as the busy atmosphere. When my kids were small, we went to Waffle House every Saturday for years. We got to know the cook and the waitresses. There was one waitress in particular who fawned over them, giving them Waffle House chatzky and special things with their meals. When Brenda left, after years of serving us, my son cried. She was like family.
This particular waffle house is in Fredericksburg, Va. It is across from the hotel where I stayed when visiting my daughter while she was in college. I would often come here before meeting her on weekends. It’s been years. One of the waitresses, and older woman missing a few teeth with the biggest smile, greeted me and got me coffee.
“I felt your presence.” she said, when I sat down. “I felt it the moment you came in, just like last time.” It’s been years since I have been here, since my daughter graduated. I suddenly remembered that visit too ,She saw me, and told me she knew I was a “Man of God”. I had literally just begun my journey as a pastor. I didn’t feel holy as much as overwhelmed by the journey I had set out on. She asked for a prayer that day, years ago, and I prayed over her. The whole presence thing kinda freaks me out, but I am not in the judgement business. And it sure brought back memories.
I got a call a few minutes ago as I waited for my breakfast sandwich. It was the transmission guy. Before leaving I took my old Isuzu Trooper over to him. It is my fifth Trooper. I have been driving them for longer than my children have been alive. They have never known me not to have one, and my oldest is 27. It is a quirky thing, big and boxy, one of the first SUV’s, when they were built like trucks.
Having driven them so long, the Trooper is no longer just a vehicle. It is a rolling box of memories. Trips to Disney when the kids were small, Moving my own things out of my house when my first marriage ended after 25 years. The hauling of antiques bought over a lifetime. Countless trips back and forth taking both kids to and from college. Moving my wife;s things from her home in Massachusetts to Vermont just a few years ago as we combined our households into one. Trips to the Cape.
A transmission problem showed up in the Trooper a couple of weeks ago. It was fine in lower speeds, but would not shift to overdrive. I took it to the transmission guy. I was fully aware that this might be the end of my Trooper days. Parts are harder and harder to get for a 21 year old truck from a company that went away in 2004. The woman I love has been gently suggesting I start look for a replacement every time it goes into the shop. I have steadfastly, stubbornly ignored her. (I can be maddening that way.)
The transmission guy has a reputation for honesty. And often, honesty is not what we want to hear. “I can fix it, but you need to know that about 5 percent of these, on these old transmissions, lock up after the repair, never to run again.”
I rolled the dice. I spun the Russian Roulette chambers. “Fix it” I said. But I understood the reality. I began to look for replacements. I even found a couple of possibilities.
He just called me while I was here at Waffle House. “We’re done.” He said, in a somber voice. I held my breath. “It’s running fine.” I released my breath.
Oh, I know it will die eventually. It’s old. Parts are hard to find. But for a while longer, I get to drive my rolling greenhouse of memories. (Troopers have lots of windows, thus the rolling greenhouse moniker.). So my journey of memories has another layer.
I am of the age where almost everything has memories. The new in my life has been mostly the woman I love, my new bride of nearly four years. So much of our life is still new to me. And I love that newness. You can get lost in memories. Or they can die, like the old Trooper always will. But have the right people in your life, and new ones will emerge like daffodils in the spring.
I will visit my sister tonight, and drive home Thursday. I am looking forward to seeing my sister and being surrounded by her own house full of memories, but I am already ready to head home to be with my wife and the cats, as we make new memories. Life is good.
Excuse my ramblings. I do this sometimes. But then, you know that.
Be well. Travel wisely,