July 25, 2013 2:48 pm So New It Is Old
The Hogans were looking forward to getting a new car. Their car ran well most of the time. Sometimes, however, out of the blue, it wouldn’t start. It was really tired looking, too. The old green paint was dull and the car had scratches and a few dents. This car was going to become Bill’s station car and they were buying a navy blue minivan.
Eileen Hogan was excited to at last have a brand new car. Bill was also happy knowing he could be responsible for taking himself to the train and bringing himself home again. His need to be at work early and come home often late had been a pain for Eileen with two very young children, Bibi, four and Elsa, just a year. This new car was going to be a great improvement in their lives.
Bill whistled as he emptied the dishwasher. Nearby, Bibi was drawing a picture of a little red building while Eileen was getting Elsa ready to go out.
“Daddy, I’m so happy we are getting our own bus. Maybe we can drive all around the world today.”
“That sounds like fun, Bibi. Right after we go to Percy’s for breakfast. What do you feel like having?”
“Oh maybe a short stack of silver dollar pancakes.”
“That sounds great. You really know Percy’s best stuff.”
Just then Elsa appeared in Eileen’s arms, all dressed. Elsa lunged at Bibi. Bibi gave her sister’s toes a few gentle tugs.
“This is our big day,” Eileen said, smiling as she patted Bibi.
“Please remember we all have to be really good to our new car. Absolutely no eating anything, ever. Let’s keep it really clean too. We want it to last for at least as long as Mr. Green.” Mr. Green was what the Hogans called their old car. “He” had been a faithful machine since Bill’s graduation from college.
“Okay, Mommy. I really will.” Bibi had been reminded of these rules for the last three weeks. She wanted to be good to the new car, but she responded quickly hoping to not hear anymore.
Bibi got into her booster seat and put on her seat belt as Eileen fastened Elsa’s car seat right next to her.
“Percy’s, here we come!” Bill said, beaming.
Bibi smiled back at Bill as they looked at each other the rearview mirror.
Eileen tapped her fingers on Mr. Green’s door handle during the entire trip to Percy’s.
Elsa’s small pink crocs could just reach to the back of Eileen’s seat.
“Let’s all remember we’ll soon have a new car. We have to try to keep it clean. Feet off the backs of the seats. No snacks, and let’s make sure to never leave things in the car.”
Bibi, looked dreamily out the window, blowing her bangs off her forehead, as they tucked into the familiar little parking lot. There was the little red building. When she got home she’d add the letters to her drawing. She said the letters out loud.
“P E R C Y’ S”
There was a line but it always went quickly. Percy saw them and with a wink, made a mental note of their places in line. The Hogans went to the small river and looked into the shallow water. There were tiny nondescript fish and skimmers on the surface. Elsa was now toddling on the uneven, thatchy grass. Looking into the water, she saw their car’s reflection. “Bye bye, car. Bye bye,” she said over and over.
Percy called to Bill and in they went. This was a busy tiny place. The fan was as old as Mr. Green and still worked well.
They ordered breakfast and Eileen let Elsa play with her sunglasses. The meals came quickly and soon everyone was enjoying pancakes, great coffee, cold milk, scrambled eggs, toast and jam and the cozy feeling of this friendly little spot.
Bibi loved maple syrup. She made a little pool and let her pieces of pancake ‘dive’ in. It was messy and delicious. Bibi licked her small fingers.
“It was smart to come here first, Daddy. Mr. Green doesn’t mind syruppy fingers.”
Unfortunately Bibi’s comment got Eileen’s recording to start over. “We all have to remember to try…”
Elsa said, “Bye bye, car” again many times, managing to get Eileen to stop talking.
They left Percy’s and started driving to Finch’s Auto Sales. “I will miss going places in Mr. Green,” Bibi said softly.
“Don’t worry, Bibi. Mr. Green will still be ours. We’ll still go out in him,” replied Bill.
At the big lot, the gleaming new navy blue minivan seemed to be waiting for its owners.
Hugh, the salesman went over a few things and handed Bill the keys. He went for a drive. As he circled back, he smiled at Eileen. “Take a spin. After all, this will be your car, sweetie.”
Eileen gave Elsa to Bill. She wiped her hands on a few napkins she still had from Percy’s and got into their new car. This was a happy day for Eileen. She breathed in the new car smell. The car seemed beyond spotless. She released the hand brake and glided away from her family. The little trip felt like a dream. As she swung back and got closer to them, she saw Elsa drooling and Bibi still licking her fingers. Eileen had barely parked when she began what was beginning to feel like a chant.
“Please remember this is a new car. We all have to…”
Hugh interrupted. “Sign here and she’s all yours.”
Bill shook Hugh’s hand and everyone said goodbye.
“Wait a second,” Eileen suddenly said. “Let’s run to the bathroom first and wash our hands. Bibi, I think you still have some syrup on yours.”
“No, mommy, I don’t,” Bibi protested, but Eileen just about carried her in anyway.
While they were washing, Bill and Hugh transferred the car seats the new car. Bibi very gingerly stepped into the minivan. Elsa began a new round of “Bye, bye car.”
Bibi looked down and saw good old Mr. Green. In the old car was her smiling father.
“Bibi, this is our new car. You have to…”
“Mommy, I want to ride home with Daddy. Please let me out!”
Eileen did let her out. Bill was surprised but delighted with the company. They left a bit ahead of Eileen.
“I don’t like all the rules, and I don’t like how Mommy is like a robot. She says the same thing over and over. The new car is okay, but Mr. Green is just fine,” she blurted to her father.
Looking back, Bibi could see her mother was talking to Elsa. She could almost hear the words. She felt lucky to be in grubby Mr. Green with her happy father. For now, thinking about being at home soon and adding the letters, P E R C Y’S to her drawing was more fun to Bibi than going ‘around the world’ in their new car.
The idea of something new is often met with both delight and trepidation. A brand new car was an especially big deal for Eileen. Yet, the big build up along with all the requests for everyone to be on their best behavior in the car totally robbed this landmark day of its fun.
There is no question that children want their mothers and fathers to be happy. As they feel shifts in parental behavior, children do all they can to make things better and to cope with changes. Eileen’s immense interest in keeping a new car clean is understandable. Children love to be a part of a familial plan and yet Eileen just blew it. The repetitive way of making a totally reasonable request drove Bibi nuts. Elsa felt it too.
When Bibi shares her feelings with her mother, a compromise will be found. Eileen will be helped as she sees how important her part in her family’s lives is. Her huge influence will be more valued as she relaxes a bit and finds a more natural way of saying what she wants to, and maybe saying it only once.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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