“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching” – St. Francis of Assisi.
I was sitting in my car, enjoying the view of swaying wild grasses, singing trees and a lake filled to the brim at Crown Hill Park near Denver. Before I could get out and begin my walk around the water, a man approached me. I noticed he wore a hat with the name of a politician I don’t particularly like. That fact fell away as his exuberant smile framed the words he spoke.
“Wow, what a beautiful old VW Beetle. What year is it?” He was looking at my car, not at me. I was looking at him, not his hat.
“He’s a ‘69 model.”
“No kidding. I had
I had a ‘68 just like it. My brother and I took a cross-country trip in that little car. We had some good times. I think baby blue was the best color VW ever used. I love these cars. Every time I see one I think of my brother. He went to Nam after high school; he never came home.” He looked toward the water, and we both fell silent.
“I’ve always wanted to buy another car like this, but my wife thinks it’s too extravagant. She doesn’t understand ‘Beetle Fever.’”
I nodded. “I know. Of all the cars I’ve owned, Lynard is fender and hood above the rest.”
Why did you name him Lynard?” He stopped calling Lynard “it” and used the pronoun “him.”
“He’s named after Lynerd Skynard.” His grin told me he recognized the 1970’s rock band. This time he nodded.
“Well, that’s a good name for this guy. You two have a good day. I have to get my daily walk in before it gets too warm. Take care of yourself, and that car. He’s a treasure.”
I assured him that Lynard was in the best of hands as he and his dog moved toward the walking path around the lake.
I put my head back on the headrest, closed my eyes, thanked God I met a new person and that Lynard brought a smile, and sense camaraderie, to the stranger and me.
When I opened my eyes there was a woman approaching my car waving. As I was trying to figure out if I knew her, she came to the driver’s side and asked, “How old is your car?”
“He’s a ‘69.”
“I graduated in 1967, and I remember these cars. My sister had a yellow one. Why do you call your car him?”
“He’s named after Lynard Skynard. I named him that because I am an old hippie and Lynard is a free bird.”
She clapped her hands and issued a deep, rich laugh. Sunshine bounced off her silver-grey crown. “I remember that band. I saw them in 1973. And the song ‘Free Bird’ is one of a kind. What a great guitar solo in the middle of that one. I’ve never heard anything like it before or since.” She stopped talking and looked out at the lake’s waves dancing to the music and memories of another decade. I joined her.
She broke the silence first. “You know, my father’s name was Leonard. He passed away almost fifteen years ago. I believe you and I were meant to meet today. I’m Lorraine.” She extended her hand.
“I’m Laura and this, as you know, is Lynard.”
She stroked the top of my car as if touching the face of a baby and looked at me through tear-filled eyes.
“Thank you. I’m missing my father today. I bet you get lots of attention with this car huh?”
“Well, it’s not so much about the attention. It’s about making folks smile. You see, I believe we live in a world that is toxic like never before. It seems we are all at each other’s throats, angry, afraid and divided. Lynard and I are on a sort of mission. We like to roll around trying to find common ground and connections with others. He brings lots of smiles and memories. Everyone has a VW story. I feel like, in a small way, my little car helps heal the brokenness in our world through connection and storytelling.”
“Well he does that for sure. I couldn’t agree with you more about this world. We have to get back to loving, or at least liking, each other. God bless you, my new friend. And God bless you too, Lynard.”
She took her leave and walked to her own vehicle. I tapped Lynard’s steering wheel and said, “Old man, you are indeed a treasure. You be good and try to keep people smiling while I go for my walk, okay?”
I got out of Lynard, locked his doors and headed for my stroll by the water. Before I ventured more than a few yards, I noticed a young lady sitting on a bench near the walking path and putting on a pair of roller skates. I hadn’t seen a pair like that in years. They were white with four pink-rimmed, plastic wheels, high top laces and toe-stops.
“Hello,” I greeted her.
“You know,” I told her, “I used to have some just like that. Now those bring back some memories.”
She beamed at me and said she couldn’t help noticing my car. “I love those cars. How old is it?”
Copyright August 2017
Laura L. Padgett
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Check out my first book, “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.
See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.