I lost a piece of my heart + soul in the back of that red Jeep Wrangler. It tumbled atop the stretch of I-95 along the central coast of Jersey. I don’t remember where we were headed that day, just that some cars hold hearts and some cars hold belongings and some cars hold precious precious cargo that feels like both.
That car felt like freedom for a little girl who often wore dresses on Sunday mornings and tripped up Sunday school stairs to find her mom chatting about Lent and the things we give & the things we give up.
That girl sat pretty and proper in the empty classroom while her mom chatted, and the other kids pushed through double glass doors, spilling into the sunbaked parking lot. They hoisted each other into caravan side doors. Cars revved and reversed and vroomed into the winding road away from God & his Lent, but she stayed. She stayed and they went, to find a chocolate frosted donut and greasy hash browns and steaming, milky coffee. Shoved God to the third row of seats, beneath collapsible dog crates and soccer cleats, while she patted her knees together and Mom kept chatting.
She was different, quiet. Other kids rubbed their faces with sticky sprinkled donuts and she held onto the taste of chocolate icing rimming her fingertips.
For her, God was a quiet man, a patient man, a man who looked at soccer cleats with grass & mud caked spikes, with dirtied Sunday school textbooks, and shook his head. A proper line, she thought. Walk a proper line and iron your skirts and never miss a Sunday school lesson and that is how you live. That is life.
That Jeep Wrangler felt free. It felt wild. It felt reckless.
Five years later, a red Jeep crashed on the side of a winding rural road, much like the ones she traced home after Sunday school. All infinities, she knew then, had endings. All rushes had to settle.
She curled back into that churchgoer self. She stayed quiet. She lost hope. She forgot that car crashes and Jeeps had everything to do with living a full live — not nothing, like she once thought. So instead, she quit things she loved. She set bravery aside. She apologized to herself, and others, for existing, for choosing silliness.
Ten years passed before she stopped walking with apologies. Ten years passed before she decided differently. Nobody, she said, nobody deserves to hold themselves quiet. We are rays of sun. We are stars at the end of someone’s life, especially if that someone dies too soon. We are bright and shiny and brave and important and God, we need that from you. God, we do.