I woke up with a knot in one of my engine parts….
I couldn’t make out whether it was still night or if it was dawn. I felt different, I felt new. For the last 2 weeks that kind man Tommy and that beautiful lady, Mrs. Hamilton, have been working so hard on getting me back to my former glory. I knew it was her soft hand that crept up on me so calm and lovingly in the garage all those times, clutching that handkerchief to her soft face. She has brought so much life back into this dusty old garage and I am so glad.
Everywhere I look I see my old man, my master. All of his memories, his golf prizes, his pictures hanging on the walls, his records – even his personality and the feeling he brought to the place, has come back.
I hear a fumble at the lock as the light cracks slowly into the garage and rises inch by inch above my body, the heat of the welcome morning sun heating my new paint work and beating energy into me. I have a great feeling about today.
“Oh god Tommy would you look at that! Wow….the paintwork is just gorgeous! I don’t think I’ll give Martin the car now, I think I’ll just go ahead and keep it for myself!”
“Haha…now Carol, you know as well as I do that as soon as Martin sees this car he is gonna want to show it off to everyone”.
“I hope you’re right Tommy. I’m so nervous about the party tonight. I didn’t sleep a wink and I’m certain Martin sensed it on me. What if he gets mad? What if he doesn’t like any of it? All of our family and friends are going to be there”.
“Carol, everything will be fine. Just take a deep breath and keep positive about it. Come on now, we need to get the gloss on the car and then we need to let it dry. And then you have a party to get ready for!”
I feel swift and gentle hands working all over me, I’m starting to feel nervous myself. This could be enough to push Martin over the edge and to get rid of everything in the garage once and for all. I’ve heard about those things they call auctions. Vast and empty warehouses that are filled with peoples memories and heirlooms, just sold off to the highest bidder. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want to sit there with my new red paint and be lost to the memory that I belong to. I want to stay where I am.
I quiver at the thought, and quieten myself to the hands that have stopped working momentarily.
“Did you see that Tommy?” her muffled voice called from behind the mask she is wearing to protect her from the gloss coat.
“Whats that Carol?”
“Oh never mind, I’m seeing things. Must be down to getting no sleep last night”.
They both move around me with such care, I get to see them both close up now. I see their paintwork – their wrinkles and their laughter lines, freshly painted on them in the last few weeks. What a joy to see an old friendship become reacquainted again. I turn my attention to the beautiful morning peaking in at me from the double doors, and I wait for myself to dry in the sun.
Where in Gods good name has that morning gone to? I swear sometimes 24 hours isn’t enough. Thank god we got the car finished and Tommy helped me to pull out some tables that I can put together for the party. Amanda is busy downstairs in the kitchen with her friends fixing up the food and the nibbles.
I step out of the shower and stand inside my wardrobe. I have no idea what I’m going to wear but something blue catches my eye and I pull it down from the hanger.
“There is no way I fit into this 20 years later?” I don’t know if its the devilment of the last few days that has gotten into me but I look at my reflection in the mirror and think to hell with it. Why not?! I pull the beautiful blue dress over my head and gasp as it still fits! The old man bought this dress 20 years ago for me as a birthday present. He said that it was like it was made for me. He said there is no other woman in the world that it would look right on. Kind of like his car. There is no other family in this world that it belongs with, but us; the Hamiltons. I make a sudden rush to the window and I peek through the curtains at the garage, now dimly lit by the fairy lights hanging around it that Amanda put up for the garden party. I am so afraid of Martins surprise. And I think I’m afraid of something happening to the car now after all myself and Tommy’s hard work.
I invited Tommy and his wife to come around for the party and they said they’d be here at 7:30. It’s now 6:15 and everything seems to be running smoothly so far. My sisters and their husbands and children pile into the wide hall of our home and we hug and kiss each other. While other guests arrive I show them out to where the tables have been set up in the garden. It looks amazing, like something from a dream. There is a lovely buzz about the garden and my nerves are quietened by the fuzzy warmth of everyones laughter and chatting. I take my last two very important guests, Tommy and his wife, to my table.
I make my way back into the kitchen and I can see Martins headlights coming up the driveway. Amanda gasps and runs back out telling everyone to quieten down, that the twin birthday boys have arrived. I take a gulp of wine from my glass and prepare myself for not being able to hide anything from Martin. As soon as he sees my face, he will know something’s happening.
Brendan is the first through the door, his face tan from his days golfing and catch up with his brother. Its a wonder he got Martin out onto the golf course in the first place.
“Carol….” Brendan holds my two arms out at arms length and looks me up and down with that childish grin of his, that he had the day I met him. “You look absolutely beautiful, you know the second Martin sees you he’s gonna know we’ve all been up to somethin’. But don’t worry, he’s actually in great form. I think he realised he needed a break from that ball and chain desk of his”.
I smile sympathetically at Brendan, because I know it won’t be that straight forward with Martin. He isn’t like his brother in that way. I can hear his footsteps coming up the steps to the doorway and my heart skips a beat. I start to sweat instantly.
“Well, would you look at that? My, my, my Carol! What are you all dressed up for? Are we going out some place nice to eat for my birthday?! Come here and give me a kiss”.
He pulls me close and kisses me on my pursed lips. I am in shock. What has gotten into him?
“Come on Martin, we have something out back that we want to show you”. Brendan pulls him off in the direction of the back door to the garden and I follow, cringing. Both of my fingers are crossed behind my back as I walk gingerly behind them.
I hear the massive roar of “SURRRRRRPRIIIISEEEEEE” from the adoring crowd that wait below in the garden. Martin looks at Brendan and playfully punches him in the arm. He swings around to look at me and comes at me with both arms open, the most emotional and loving smile spread wide across his handsome face. There was no other person for me in this world than my Martin, and I felt every atom of it even more so when he hugs me.
“I thought you’d get angry Martin if I allowed Amanda to have the party here. I know you’ve been working so hard lately, and I know how you feel about…..”
“Sssshhhhhhh” he whispered to me, placing one finger gently over my parted lips. “I couldn’t think of anything better right now Carol. I was playing golf today with Brendan and we got talking about the old days and how this house used to be, how our family used to be. And for the first time I felt angry at myself for allowing myself to forget that, to let all this happen. I’m so sorry Carol for the way I’ve been these last 10 years. I never stopped to think about what it was all doing to you. I’m sorry”.
“Oh Martin, stop that now. We can talk about this tomorrow. Tonight, it’s your birthday and we have so much to look forward to. There’s a slideshow and some gorgeous food, and your favourite – Red velvet cake!”
He laughed from the pit of his belly, and there I saw the Martin I fell in love with more than 30 years ago.
“I have a little surprise for you too Carol, don’t think you’re getting away that easy” he winked at me as he walked towards the waiting crowd of our friends and family. I wrapped my two arms around myself and I squeezed myself. I was still petrified about the car, but I thought by what Martin said about being sorry, gave me some reassurance. What was making me nervous was the excited but fearful feeling in the pit of my stomach about what he said about a surprise for me. I don’t like surprises, and he knew this, but something felt different. It felt like something big was about to happen.
I rushed around with Amanda, filling half empty glasses, passing around beer bottles and making sure everyone was comfortable. I looked at my watch and it was almost 9:30. I grabbed Amanda and reminded her that now would be a good time for the surprise slideshow she had for Brendan.
We all settled back into our seats, Martin draped a cosy blanket around my shoulders and sat beside me, interlocking my fingers in his as we sat under a huge blossom tree. He looked at our hands, up to my face.
“I’m looking forward to this Carol, I haven’t seen any old photos in a long long time”. He smiled at me and looked at the projection screen that started to flicker like an old movie reel. The images started to roll up on the screen to music in the background from the 50’s. There was black and white photographs of all the family; the old man, Martin and Brendan, their sisters, their Mother and of course myself and Richard. I couldn’t help the tears that fell down my cheeks. I brushed them away with a single knuckle, still holding on tightly to the blanket that comforted me. Martin wrapped his arm around me and gently stroked the back of my neck with his thumb.
In the last 2 weeks, I done nothing but try to bring life back into my past, my memories. Our memories. I attempted to resurrect the memory of my son along with my Father in law, both of whom I loved more than love itself. But I couldn’t help but feel that I had failed. Sure, the old red car sat outside the garage waiting to be revealed to Martin, but the empty hollow that burned daily inside my chest, was never going to go away. No amount of paintwork or polish could bring back Richard. I didn’t even know if my only son was alive or dead.
As the slideshow came to a close and people started to chat and laugh amongst themselves again, I gathered myself for the big reveal.
“Martin, I have something that I want to show you. I had been contemplating what I could get you for your birthday, but I couldn’t find anything that fitted to show you how much I still care for you and love you after all these years.”
Martin looks at me with such an innocent and loving but lost expression on his face, and I nearly crumble. Tommy and his wife give me a reassuring nod, as the party listens on to what I say. Taking a deep breath I continue.
“For the last 10 years, I have been occasionally spending time in a very treasured and cherished part of our home. I have always been fearful that you might frown upon me for doing this to myself, as I know how much you worry about me. But these last 2 weeks, I have been inside the old mans place working on his most treasured possession, hoping that if I restore this one thing, then maybe it will be enough to bring home the life and the love to our family. To bring us all together again”.
Martin looks down at his hands and then stands and walks towards me. I grab him with my two hands and we walk towards the garage. My heart is beating so hard and so fast that I’m afraid he might hear it. The party follows us, whispering quietly amongst themselves at what is happening. I put my hand inside the garage and flip the switch on the wall. Instantly the whole place lights up, the juke box starts to play music in the background and everything inside shines so brightly and so proudly out at the spectating crowd, like it once used to.
Martin looks inside with his mouth open. I walk towards the car.
“This is what I’ve been doing for 2 solid weeks Martin. Happy Birthday”.
With one swift movement I pull the sheet from over the car and I hear gasps from our family looking on. Martin puts both hands to his face and a single tear falls from his eyes that are filled with such warmth and such love that I think my heart is going to burst. He runs towards me and scoops me up in his arms and twirls me around.
“Oh my god Carol….Oh my god.”
He puts me back down. “You’re not mad at me Martin?”
“For heavens sake Carol why would I be mad at you?! This is the nicest most sweetest thing you could ever have done for me. And not just for me but for our family. I had been thinking a long time about coming back down here, looking at stuff and remembering how it used to be but with Richard not around, I just didn’t see any point. But, thats all gonna change now Carol”.
I look into my husbands eyes and a frown crosses my brow. I can hear footsteps, muffled whispers and then a voice……
“Are we too late to join the celebrations?”
The crowd parts and I can hear someone say “Oh. My. God.”
I squint at the man, the woman and two little girls standing at the bottom of the parted crowd. He is holding a bunch of flowers, and he looks at me with the most bluest eyes, with a flop of mousy brown hair that falls over his forehead. I haven’t seen eyes that blue since…My Richard.
My Richard. I try to say the words but my mouth won’t move. My hands shake as I put them to my lips that are now quivering with emotion.
I run on legs that don’t feel like my own and I throw myself into my sons arms as he wraps his arms around me and whispers into my ear – “I’m home Mom”. I cry and I sob so hard into my sons chest and I can hear his heart beating and he smells the same way he used to. My son, my beautiful boy has come home to me.
I don’t know how long we stand there holding each other and crying but I stand back and look at the fine man standing in front of me. He is so beautiful and I am so proud of him. The weight of 10 years lifts from me and I take a deep and shuddering breath as I look at the woman and two beautiful girls that are standing with Martin and holding his hands.
“Mom, this is my wife Christine and these are my twin daughters Isabella and Caroline. They’re 5. Come on girls, come over here and say hi to your Grandma”.
I look from Martin to Richard, to Christine and to the girls. I cannot believe everything that has happened tonight. Everything is magical and for the first time I don’t feel like the lost and broken woman that I once was. I scoop the two beautiful twins up into my arms beside Martin and they laugh and giggle at me and touch my face.
I spend the rest of the night with them on the big porch swinging seat, wrapped in blankets and stroking their hair as one by one the guests leave and say their goodbyes and how thankful they are for being a part of something so special. Tommy and his wife are the last to leave. I hug Tommy and his wife from my seat and I tell him how grateful I am for everything he has done for me. “Didn’t I tell you it’d be ok Carol? That everything would work out just fine?” “You did Tommy, and I’m glad you were there for it, my old friend”.
Martin, Christine and Richard come to join me on the porch and we begin where we left off 10 years ago. Martin tells me that he has been in contact with Richard for the last month and that it nearly killed him to keep it from me but that he wanted him to come home the night of his birthday because he was going to throw a family party anyways, and that he knew all about myself and Amanda’s surprise party but just went with it. He had no clue about the car though.
“Isn’t it crazy that we were both thinking the same thing Carol at the same time but managed to keep it from one another? I mean its almost like me getting Richard home and you working on the car happened like some sort of magic?”
Richard coughed on the mouthful of beer that he drank and said “There was always magic in this house Mom and Dad, you just forgot how to use it”. We smiled at our beautiful son that sat with his beautiful wife and I looked up at the stars and thanked God that very moment for the beautiful blessing I had just received.
“We better get those two to bed Christine, they’ve had a heck of a day travelling”. I move out of the way for Richard and Christine and tell them to take them to the guest room upstairs. Martin plonks down beside me and looks at me.
“Are you ok Carol?”
“Oh Martin, I swear I’ve fallen in love with you all over again. You have given me my son, not once, but twice in my life and I just am so overcome by so many happy emotions that I don’t know how to process it all”.
We laugh and hug one another on the porch and make our way to bed. We tap lightly on the guest bedroom door and Richard comes out to say goodnight. He looks as overwhelmed as I do standing there with his hands in his pockets.
“It feels so good to be home Mom and Dad. I know I’ll sleep well tonight.”
“Ok son, you just get on in there to bed and we’ll see you in the morning”. Martin reaches out and squeezes Richard reassuringly on the shoulder and makes his way to our room down the hall.
I clear my throat, not wanting to move or say goodnight to Richard in case I wake up in the morning and he is gone again. “It’s so good to have you home Richard, I’ve missed you so much and….”. The tears begin to fall again and Richard steps into me and surrounds me again with his embrace.
“It’s ok Mom, I’m still going to be here in the morning and you and I can talk properly, on our own. We’ll take Daisy out for a spin or something and you can show me all you’ve done to fix her up and you can tell me all about it. Just the two of us, how does that sound?” He looks worryingly at me and all I can do is smile and nod.
“Ok son, you get some sleep. I know this is probably going to be the best nights sleep I’ve had in 10 years”. We laugh and Richard kisses me on the cheek and gently wipes my damp tears with his thumb and smiles at me.
“Goodnight Mom, I love you”.
To hear Richard say those three little words to me fills me up with such warmth and reassurance, right on the spot. “Goodnight son, I love you too. I never stopped loving you”.
He winks at me and I watch him close the door quietly. I walk towards my bedroom, take off my dress, take down my hair and slip into bed beside my husband and we hold each other as we both sleep away the worry of a decade.
The next morning I wake to the patter of feet and the sound of giggles running down the hall and Martin and I peek up at the door as two little angels peek back at us. I pull up the side of my duvet and I say “Come on kids, jump in for a snuggle with Granny and Granddad”. They both squeal and jump on top of the bed, almost winding Martin as he laughs and gets a teddy bear thrown at him. Richard taps on the door and looks in at the four of us in the bed and laughs to himself.
“Are you lazy lumps staying in bed all day? There is breakfast on the table, come on lets go!”
We all make our way to the kitchen and I can’t believe my luck as I look around at the family that sits at my table. For so many years I have wished for my son back, but I never knew that what I would get in return is my son, a beautiful and gentle daughter in law and two beautiful little girls. I drink my tea and place my hand over Martins as we all talk and laugh. Finally, life is complete because we all remembered the little things.
Later on, myself and Richard make our way to the garage. I jingle the keys in my hands and Richard looks at me.
“You might as well drive Richard, after all, the car really does belong to you”. He looks at me with those bright blue eyes and we jump into Daisy excited by our trip to the look out point – his favourite place to spend time with the old man. I look at my son starting up the car and letting the top down. “Hold on tight Mom” Richard laughs as we drive out of the garage and down the driveway. I breath in the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on my face and I just know that everything is going to be ok now. Life has begun again.
It isn’t possible for a car like me to cry. I wasn’t built for that. But I’m pretty sure last night I cried my headlights out. He hasn’t changed much in the 10 years when I saw him last. Still shockingly handsome like the old man, except with less wrinkles and more hair. But it was the eyes that gave him away in the crowd.
When I think back of how lonely I felt in that dusty garage, surrounded by such memories and happy times I can see now why Carol was afraid. She was afraid of living them again, but afraid that she might lose them at the same time. I always was pretty smart for a car, but I know how lucky I am to have been that memory that will never be forgotten or feared again.
Here I am now, bright shining red, passers by staring at me again. My beautiful leather seats feeling the warmth of the sun on them again and strapped into them are two of the most important people in the world to me, and I am aware of the person that sits in the back seat. And he speaks to me in his old way of how ready they all are to make new and happy memories with me.
I drive up passed the main street, passed the big old oak tree that I know too well, towards the lookout point that was always Richard and the old mans favourite spot and I know that nothing will ever be lost to the past again.
Tommy and Sid Wilson make their first call out of the day in their pick-up truck. The brothers make their way past the garage entrance and onto the main street.
“Hey, how’d the party go over at the Hamilton’s last night Tommy?”
“Magic Sid, just pure magic. You’ll never believe it but the kid came home”.
“What do you mean, the kid? You mean Richard Hamilton arrived home at the party?”
“He sure did Sid, with his family. He has a wife now and two beautiful little twin daughters.”
“Well, I’ll be damned…’aint that somethin’ else”.
Just as the brothers made their way onto the main street and Tommy brought the truck to a slow stop, there they saw the shining red convertible blaring out Billy Holiday’s “All Of Me”. Their mouths hung open as Carol Hamilton waved at them from the car with her cat eye sunglasses on, and her hair wrapped in a beautiful silk scarf, as her son Richard sang the words “Take all Of Me” at the top of his lungs, the wind blowing his moppy hair.
“Well I’ll be damned” Sid Wilson said with his mouth hanging open.
“Say Tommy, may the good Lord strike me dead if I’m wrong, but did the Hamilton’s bring home a lot of relations or somethin’? I could have sworn that was the old man Hamilton sittin’ there smiling in the back seat of that car”.
Tommy shook his head and smiled as he put the truck into gear and he said, “No Sid, thats cause it was the Old man Hamilton that you saw”.