by Christine Baker

I don’t remember when I became a lover of stories, but somewhere on this road of loving stories, I started writing stories – my own and others – not just perfect ones or happy ending ones – but stories about imperfect people with imperfect pasts and lives that lived and died. Why? Because I want to remember that everyone’s past, my own included, is intertwined with both good and bad, and to remember the past is to not forget the past. And when we don’t forget the past, we learn from it.

This story was told to me by my Dad about my Aunt and Uncle. All of them are gone now, “On into glory,” as the saying goes. All I’m left with from them are memories and stories. They live on in me. My Dad told me this one many times. I have to believe he wanted me to know it. He wanted me to keep it. He wanted me to pass it down. It’s about my Aunt and Uncle, an Aunt who was more like a grandmother to me. She was my Dad’s older sister and by older I mean she was already married and out of the house when my Dad, the caboose of the family, was born. He was close to her and her husband. Our lives intertwined.

One day, my Aunt and Uncle decided it was time to buy a new car. This was not an everyday occurrence for simple country folk. They both dressed in their best go-to-town attire, nothing pretentious about them. I imagine my Uncle was in his overalls, straw hat and old work boots, his usual attire. My Aunt’s dress was probably homespun, made from a simple pattern and cloth. Her purse was simple. She may or may not have powdered her nose and put on a little lipstick.

The story goes that after much fuss, they set out for town. They lived far back in the prairie woods in Louisiana, a time when “Town” meant a far drive away on limited roads with a much lower speed limit than today. The two of them were excited, almost giddy about buying a new vehicle. They were probably in their late 60’s or early 70’s and this may have been their only new vehicle ever purchased before, although I am not certain.

It wasn’t long on the highway that they came to a dealership in a nearby town. The salesman met them out in the parking lot, looked them up and down and brought them into the showroom. He sat them down in the corner and left. The place was pretty empty as there weren’t many people buying new vehicles that morning. They waited. And they waited some more. A few people passed by, but no one spoke to them. Not one person came back to see if they needed help. My Uncle wanted to leave. He was furious. My Aunt suggested they wait a bit longer. Still nothing happened. Finally, my Uncle put his foot down and they quietly slipped out the door without a scene.

This incident did not deter their goal and they continued on the same highway into the next town where they stopped at another dealership. A similar salesman met them in the parking lot, looked them up and down and walked them into the showroom. But this salesman was different, an exception to his craft. He treated them kindly and in no time at all, they were test-driving a new car out on the road. One salesman made a cash sale on a brand new Chevrolet Monte Carlo that day. The other salesman did not. And my Aunt and Uncle? They rode by my Dad’s place and showed off their new beautiful car, a car that would outlive my Uncle by many years and serve my Aunt very well until her end. One judged and lost. The other gave the benefit of the doubt and won. The moral of the story: Never judge a book by its cover!

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