Big Guy Car Guy / Parenting Blog

That Wasn’t The Plan At All

It was delivered to our driveway in mid-April so that it might carry us to South Carolina for a spring break visit to the new home of my oldest brother and then, a few days later, to Philadelphia for a pre-Easter romp through a Marvel superheroes exhibit at the Franklin Institute and the Hamilton-themed one at the Constitution Center. That was the plan.

None of that plan came off.

My family barely spent any time in the Parisian Pearl Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited. My family barely spent any time out of the house in April.

Four days before we took possession of the vehicle, the girls and I came in contact with a shit ton of poison ivy and oak.

They had been so excited to help in the yard, to help me get it ready for our — fingers-crossed — best outdoor season yet. I was excited to finally have some help out there.

The poison was dormant, dead, and untraceable. We never saw the evil lurking and couldn’t imagine the impact on our bodies that would follow.

While the Mouse and I were getting over the subsequent itchiness, as our rashes faded, the 15-year-old was experiencing something far more severe and pervasive.

Instead of South Carolina as a foursome, I cruised down solo to Boyds, Maryland to see Mallory Pugh and the Washington Spirit kick off the NWSL season with a 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC, and then I drove that classy Toyota right back home. Six hours roundtrip and the fuel gauge barely budged. To say the Avalon Hybrid Limited gets good gas mileage would be as big an understatement as saying the women’s soccer league in this country doesn’t garner enough coverage nationally or locally in its nine, mostly-fledgling markets.

Then the car sat cold and alone; it collected not miles and memories, but a layer of pollen that took its sheen away. Metaphors.

Finally, on Easter Sunday, my oldest girl was feeling marginally better, enough so that she asked to get some fresh air. I suggested a drive to anywhere, to nowhere, to somewhere away from the ivy-covered house of horrors that her bedroom had become.

Thankfully I had just the car for that kind of aimless automotive meander, one that would allow her to sink into a cushy cabin and allow me to use virtually no gas.

We each filled up our water bottles and set off, rambling through the sneaky patches of farm land only minutes from our suburban strip mall hell. We kept Zillow up on my phone, with location on, and spied which of the for-sale wooded palaces were fetching more than a mil. Then we stopped at CVS for some road trip munchies — Doritos, Peach Snapple, pretzels, manna from heaven (or Reese’s Snack Mix, as it is more commonly known) — rolled without fanfare into a local park, and sat idling beside a lake with the new Duran Jones & the Indications record playing softly.

We laughed together watching an extended family, each dressed to the 9s in their Easter Sunday best, try to wrangle their tiny tots for a mantelpiece-worthy holiday photograph. I thought about asking if they’d like me to press the button for them, but didn’t want to be anywhere else but with my girl in the Avalon as the wind blew across the front seat and “True Love” spun to finish off the album.

It was the first time my oldest daughter flashed a genuine smile in over a week. For the first time over that same stretch, I felt like I was of some help to her which produced a genuine smile from me too.

And that’s the only plan I ever really care about keeping.

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