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Each day, I do an entry in my gratitude journal. Okay, not actually each day. About 2-5 times a week, I fill out an entry in my journal. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought I would share a personal journal entry after being in a car accident.

The car commercial promises that “an adventure awaits” as the sedan winds its way up the forested highway. A lone driver snakes his way through the rocky crags and out to the beach. Another commercial promises perfect handling as a driver does donuts on the sand dunes. Another commercial features an SUV that flies through the desert promising an epic off-road experience.

In each case, the cars are flawless. No scratches. No stains. No dents from shopping carts. No scratches from baseball cleats.

Even the cup holders are pristine.

Not mine.

My cup holders are caked with coffee that spills every Saturday morning when Christy and I sit on our deck and goof off and tell stories and have hard conversations and sometimes just sit there quietly sipping from our Starbucks cups as the sun rises. And in those moments, I’m almost never watching the sun because there’s something magical about Christy’s eyes when she sees something beautiful. I’m captivated.

My car is a mess.

There’s dust from the sanding project that took nine trips to the hardware store and three times longer to finish than it should have. I’m 42 years old but I want an Adulting Badge for that one.

The backseat is covered in dog hair, or rather, “greyhound glitter” from that retired racer who may have lost most of her races but immediately won our hearts.

I’ve vacuumed it thoroughly but I still find the occasional crusted up French fry from that instant meal after that game where Joel hit that double that knocked in two runs. Or that game where he struck out three times and he walked into the car, head down, and I couldn’t tell whether those were tears or the late May Oregon rain. But then he said, “Thanks for always watching my games” and I was the prouder in that moment than any time he ever hit a double.

There’s that bracelet from my daughter’s first ever concert when we jumped around and danced so much my quads hurt for three days.

There’s a drawing lodged deep under the middle passenger seat. It’s from the time when Micah was obsessed with designing his own monsters and though he’s become a more skilled artist, something about that piece feels like a preview of his style.

There’s a set of extra lanyards with university swag that I gave away to my latest cohort — the first ones to meet in person after COVID. And even though we had to wear masks, I swear I could see people’s smiles and it felt so good to be face-to-face again.

There’s a stain in the rear passenger seat from the salsa that spilled on the backseat that night after our close friend got her diagnosis and we listened and wept as the guacamole turned brown.

My car won’t be doing wheelies on sand dunes. It’ll be stuck in traffic, surrounded by grumpy travelers, where Micah and I make the conscious decision to do an Elton John sing-along at the top of our lungs on our way to Portland.

Right now, it’s a typical Friday night. My car will carry four large pizzas for a hoard of hungry teenagers who will play pool and ping pong until one in the morning.

Except not tonight. This time, my car will is stopped behind a truck. A white Toyota slams into it from behind. The car skids into the median. I stare at the crumpled up hood. I kick open the front door and step out, pulse pounding, feeling grateful that I’m okay. I dial that number, the lone number I have memorized.

“John?” Christy answers.

A sense of relief washes over me. I’m alive to hear her voice one more time.

Our life is messy. It’s joyful and chaotic. Sometimes hard. Often mundane. But I love it.

Forget the car commercial. I’m not looking for a new adventure. I’m just looking for a new car.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me

One Comment

  • Christina Spychalsky says:

    Mr. Spencer’s writing brightly displays the beauty within his heart. He creates magical images, from daily details, for readers. Take a moment to read his perspective and you will leave with an improved outlook. Mr. Spencer does, in fact, make a difference.

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