Once upon a time, I lived, with my family, in a quiet neighborhood, with a peaceful name, Old Orchard. But then, there was an incident involving a blue Mercedes, and the next forty-eight hours of my life would prove to be anything but peaceful! Those hours were the most stressful hours I had spent in my thirty-some years. And... I brought it all on myself!
The story began in Old Orchard, our beautiful little neighborhood. There were 11 charming ranch homes with matching mailboxes. It gave the beautiful little neighborhood continuity. There was a winding road leading down to the Kankakee River. This little neighborhood sitting on the outskirts of “Kankakee by the Sea,” the nickname I gave the town, had actually been an old orchard with pear trees, crabapple trees and apple trees. The lots were large, of similar size and each yard was filled with several fruit trees. The location of Old Orchard and the fact that we were the youngest family in the neighborhood with children, obligated me to be the designated carpool driver for my daughters since I did not want them riding the school bus. I loved our home, our family, our two dogs and, most unfortunately, my late husband’s, blue Mercedes Benz convertible! How could you not!?
The story goes like this:
My husband, Michael, and I were having a last minute conversation before he took off for the airport to fly to Hawaii.
“I am sorry I can’t take you on this business meeting. You’re my good luck charm and I’m not happy leaving you and the girls alone. Two days will seem like a lifetime. Oh Suzi, I am really serious about this…don’t drive my new car.”
The moral of this story: if you are going to do something wrong, plan for the unexpected.
“Come on girls, let’s go to school.” I opened the door that led to our garage and looked at our two cars sitting side by side: the little, blue, shiny Mercedes Benz and my station wagon.
“Do I dare?” I thought to myself. The thought of driving the “forbidden” car was running through my mind. I couldn’t resist the temptation and said to my little darlings with a naughty twinkle in my eyes, “You wanna drive to school in daddy’s new car?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” they said in unison.
Giggling, we all piled into the brand new car promising each other “we would never tell daddy!” Feeling a little guilt-ridden, I remember thinking to myself, “what kind of values am I teaching my daughters?” But, I rationalized that with, “Eh, no one is perfect.”
Pulling up in front of the school, I kissed the girls goodbye as they jumped out of the car and ran up the steps to class. I put the car in drive and was ready to pull away when suddenly I heard a loud noise and the car shook.
Someone backed into my car!
I turned my head and saw a woman behind the wheel of her car with six kids piled into the back seat. Because of all the children, she could not see the little car! She slammed into the right door of my husband’s new car! I jumped out of the car to look at the damage. The door was destroyed. I ran over to her window and yelled,
“Look what you have done! How could you do this? Do you have insurance?”
“I did not see you and no…no insurance!”
“How can you put six children in the back seat of your car? You had no way to see me.” You ruined my husband’s brand new car – and, now, my life!”
“I’m sorry. Nothing I can do to help you. I have no money.”
I turned away and walked back to the damaged car, my mind whirling and my heart pounding. My first thought, “Who will fix this door?” The horrifying reality of my fiasco: there wasn’t a Mercedes dealership in “Kankakee by the Sea.” I knew exactly what I had to do -- by hook or by crook -- I had to fix that door! I had a day and a half to have a perfect car back in the garage! My mindset has always been to make lemonade out of lemons and I was really putting that to the test in this situation.
“My dad will come to my rescue! He will save me, thank goodness he’s is in the automobile business,” I thought to myself.
I drove the poor battered Mercedes Benz to his office. After hearing my story and looking at the door he gave me a kiss, consoled me, and called his parts manager to see what could be done.
“The car door can not be pounded out. Even if we could, we could never match the Mercedes’s paint. This car can only be serviced by a Mercedes dealer,” the part’s manager said. Explaining further, “You will have to replace the door. Your only prayer is contacting the dealership in Chicago.”
“In Chicago!” I said in disbelief. “That’s sixty miles away!” And so, I started plotting. I was stirring the pot in my mind.
“I will drive to the Mercedes Benz dealership in Chicago…now! No, wait. I will call the part manager first. I will make an appointment over the phone and set a definite time. I can be there in two hours.”
Of course the plot thickens...
How would I get home to “Kankakee by the Sea” and who would pick the girls up from school?
I called my mom, who could not believe my story. We plotted together and she said, “I’ll get the girls. You fix the car!”
Then I phoned a girlfriend, told her my story, and asked her if she would follow me to Chicago in her car.
“Sure” she said laughing. “I will follow you, drive you home and clear my calendar so I can drive you back into Chicago tomorrow to pick up the fixed car. I’ll bet my money on you, Suzi!”
I made the call to the Mercedes Benz dealership. I got my personal appointment with the part’s manager. I was sitting in his office at 11:00am. He walked in and I was lucky to meet the coolest and kindest man about my father’s age. I told him my story.
He looked at the car. “You will need a new door.”
I looked at him and said, “You have to replace this door in one day or my husband will kill me! I have to have it back in the garage tomorrow before he arrives home from Hawaii! Please help me!”
He looked at me and said, “I will. I will help you, Suzi. You will have a new door. The paint will match. He will never know.” And then he said, with a twinkle in his eye, I have a daughter just like you,” and I gave him a big hug!
As I was driving home with my girlfriend to “Kankakee by the Sea,” to my precious, conspirator daughters and my beautiful home in Old Orchard, I wondered if it was possible to will happy endings on oneself. In case you are wondering the same thing, the answer is... yes!
The car, with its new door, was sitting in the garage when Michael arrived home. After family hugs and kisses Michael walked straight to the garage, walked around the perfectly shiny new Mercedes looking at everything. He knew me.
The girls and I kept our silence for several years. One day he turned the keys of his beloved Mercedes over to new owners and on that day the girls and I spilled the beans. His response: pure laughter! He laughed so hard and then I began to laugh and our daughters started to laugh as the little blue Mercedes Benz disappeared around the corner.
Several years later, I walked into the same Mercedes dealership’s parts department with my new husband, Shelly. Who was the manager? My savior!
“You,” he said!
He remembered me and he remembered the story! I mean, how could he not recall the escapade? I certainly remembered him, a man like my father, who took the high road and helped a young wife in need.
I am now a grandmother who has lived through many valleys and I still say, yes, you can will happy endings. I see my valleys as having a positive outcome. This is my philosophy on life. I have tried to teach my daughters, my twenty-five grandchildren and my devoted husband to face any type of adversity or challenge with positivity and tenacity. I have said to them, “When you see a problem, look for possibilities.”
I have also learned about my empowerment over the years and certainly, the choices a young wife makes are not the same that one makes as they mature. Perhaps the wiser me would insist on being given permission to drive the car? Perhaps the wiser me would have come clean with my husband sooner? One thing is certain, this me, wiser with each year that's passed would have done one thing exactly the same: I would rally the troops, hustle to fix any problems and do it all with love and laughter, counting each escapade as an education along the way.
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