The Old Wagon
Early one morning my dad woke me. Towering above my head he asked me to get dressed because we had cars to tend to. I cowered into my warm bed sheets as I looked out at the window covered with grey skies. He ripped off my sheets like a band aid, with a raspy tone he mumbled “come on it’s getting later every minute.” I stood up making my way to the door, holding it open as he seamlessly walks by. My slump body was still waking up as I quickly dressed for the day. As I headed toward the yard I saw him, “Don Luis” (Mr.Luis) but I just call him “Apa”. He had his hair combed back and a clean teal blue button up shirt. Some squeaky clean shoes? Then I remembered it was the day of the car show.
My father has always been a piece of work. He’s the most stubborn person I have ever met and boy is he messy. I mean you can’t blame the man after being fed and dressed by his wife for the past forty years or so. He has had someone put everything right where he needs it when he needed it and then when something needed to be cleaned he’d just leave it there then later, poof, it’s gone as if it never happened. Though he is a small skinny man, he’s an intimidating one. He scares most people with his serious stare and fierce stance that most don’t even dare to approach him directly. Needless to say that boyfriends never lasted at our home. They never make it past the “Hello sir my name is….” leaving them their hand hovering in mid air waiting for something, anything. Then they usually never return after that cowboy stare down with my dad. His face is the only part of his body with wrinkles, from frowning and shrugging his eyebrows together almost constantly. However I imagine his face has just stuck this way due to having so many daughters. I think his facial expressions just became permanent after daughter number seven, or so I assume. Physically my father is a seventy-year-old man running on a twenty-year old’s body. He has rather large biceps for a fellow senior citizen, and if you ask him, he’d love to show off his conejitos, “his bunnies” as he calls them. He has rough sandpaper like hands with black grime underlining his nail tips. His arms and face are burnt brown while his chest and legs shine fluorescently bright. The majority of his wardrobe is stained from oil, grease and any other car fluids you can think of. However, underneath the thick layer of mechanical stench and debris lies a caring and loving father who is a very well respected man to his peers.
In order to understand my father, you need to learn about his yard where he spends the majority of his time, day in and day out. The pavement yard once white and grey is now covered in countless tools and jacks scattered throughout the floor. Blotches of black oil stains and broken run down parts left to rot and decay crowding it’s path. It’s like a miniature junk yard cluttered under a big tarp tent that’s shape resembles a house. He has five cars all red and all parked alongside each other. Each car not too different from the other except his old wagon. This is where my dad gets any old rusted, mold infested car shell and turns it into a stunning car of his own desires. I can’t remember the last time it was possible to walk through his domain with ease. Making make my way through the clutter, I trip left and right over one metal “clink” to another. Gasoline crawls up the walls of my nose as I make my way towards my dad’s Chevy Nova. The old wagon has been my dad’s fundamental prize that has transported our family since he started it over forty years ago. The long baby blue Nova was parked just outside the tents tarps where it usually stays. I knew their only could be two places to find him, either under the hood or underneath the car. To my surprise, a deep voice calls behind me. “Well, get to work!” As I reached for a bucket and sponge music poured out the car doors. “Bamba, Bamba, ba da da da….” As we started to soak the nova, its baby blue essence began to vanish behind white foamy soap.
When it comes to cars and especially his own, dad has always been particular about the way they are handled. He loves his cars very much he; has dedicated a lot of money, time and effort to assemble them to his likings. So surely he has very legitimate guidelines to follow when handling his cars in any way.
First and most important he’s the only one to drive his cars period.
Secondly, if you’re assisting him make sure to do things exactly as he does.
Do not lean against his cars or enter with dirty shoes.
Handle with much caution. These cars are his babies!.
And lastly just enjoy the car and its beauty.
After rinsing the car we then proceeded to dry it carefully and slowly. I can remember how every wipe made the wagon sparkle and its thin decorative chrome trim glistened right alongside the doors just a few inches beneath the windows. Its unique headlights complimented the front chrome bumper so well the wagon smiled back as it began to come alive. The early morning sun began to break through the grey skies slowly cooking the crowns of our heads. The heat began to tamper with my mood as my mind began to ponder I could only think why am I the one to always do this? Am I not his only daughter? What does this car do for me? It’s not mine why is it my responsibility?
He notices my distraction and with a grin on his face he obnoxiously spits out “Come on I’m not paying you for nothing”
As if payment were an option I sarcastically laugh. “You should pay me pa” I grinningly add.
“Andale nina” handing me the wax finish.
With an open hand I reached out to pry the wax finish out of his hands, “Okay apa, I’m going!” I keep wondering why I’m here instead of cozy in my bed. I never spend much time with my dad other than riding with him in the car on our way to school, but just as he is, I myself am as stubborn as a bull’s horn. Thinking again he only spends time with me to make me work! I’m not a boy, and he’s always complaining about women not having men’s abilities, why am I doing his boys work? I shake my head ridding of my nonsense and get back to work. Round and round I rotate the wax finish just as he has taught me so many times before. The now shiny white roof top reflects a face, not too often seen. I turn to watch my dad climb into the driver’s seat stroking the big white skinny steering wheel back and forth as if it were driving on the road. My bad temper suddenly disappears as I watch my father. He glances up and smiles at me so sweetly, in that moment he seemed so brilliantly happy. He waved his hands inviting me in.
Afraid to dirty the cream interior I stay standing there, but he quickly assures me “it’s ok mija ven”, come here he said. I pull the heavy metal door as it creaked open, I clumsily fall into a sitting position on the elongated cushion that stretched from door to door. He reached over with a strong grip and pulled me closer, wrapping his tiresome arms around my body, he whispered out “thank you mija”. I opened my mouth to reply as he abruptly squeezed me tighter, forcing the almost words to vanish; physically pushing out the air in my mouth. Instead of regaining my breath I sat there with him in silence, embracing that prolonged hug as my father’s love tuned out the music to an echo in the background, synchronizing our hug to what felt like a frozen moment in time. There he stayed imprinting such a beautiful memory of what I believe he will always be, a simple happy man. In that moment my heart flushed with warmth to such an emphatic hug and a small tear formed in the corner of my eye. It was so majestic to exist here with him in his ambience; I then knew that he had shared something with me that meant more than the car itself, we were beginning our friendship.
When looking at my father you may easily be deceived to believe he is an old grinch; but instead he is one of the most hard working, intriguing, and proud men I have ever known. I am so exhilarated to be able to learn from my father and follow in his footsteps. He is old enough to be my grandpa, but that’s what so delicate about him as a father. He has so much life experience to offer his family as wisdom. He has been a devoted husband and amazing father to nine girls; if you ask me any man who has dealt with that much estrogen deserves a medal! I couldn’t ask for a better dad; I’m just lucky he’s my dad.
The Old Wagon