It be like that sometimes.
First, RIP to the legend Ms. Cicely Tyson 🙏
I saw this quote on Instagram the other day and it resonated with me deeply. I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but I had to share.
“You’ve turned your pain into flowers, and while you may have a certain glow about you that attracts different people, you have the right to refuse access of yourself to anyone trying to pluck you from your roots so they may benefit off all the hard work you’ve put into yourself.” – @iambrillyant
This Week’s Story
Honestly, this story made me emotional, in a good way. It’s not particularly sad, but something about how Zoe wrote about her mom made me hope that my future child will regard me in this way. Is that vain? Not sure.
While reminiscing on her mother’s spirit, she writes, “It was barreling through life and grabbing hold of the fun and the beauty of it, not always with a solid plan.” Like Zoe and her mom, this is how I tend to live my life. I have sometimes wondered if people like me—people without plans, people who barrel through life—would make good parents. I guess it depends on the personality of your child? But after reading Zoe’s story, I realize maybe that’s a quirk my future child will see as something to look up to. And maybe they will be even better for it.
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PS – We have an fun announcement in next week’s email, stay tuned!
by Zoe Banoža
There was liquid spouting from a crack in the plastic tank beside my engine and tape failed to solve the issue. My father said he could replace the tank when he returned from a weekend trip with his girlfriend, and that I’d be fine driving the forty minutes to Malibu where I worked until then. I only needed to fill the tank—which I learned was the reservoir for the engine’s cooling system—with water before leaving. For this, I kept an empty jug of cranberry juice in my backseat and a cup holder of quarters for the air & water machines they have at gas stations.
Since my father didn’t seem too worried about the situation, and my horoscope said I ought to do something wild that weekend (the moon was in Scorpio), that Saturday, I drove my childhood friend Kaylie to a university friend’s party Downtown. I had just been promoted at the restaurant I worked in and was in a bit of a funk thinking constantly about training, about money, and about the looming idea of grad school, so I figured I needed to have some fun. I wore a short, black, velvet dress and Kaylie wore white jeans and a literal bra as a top.
On the way to the party, with my car’s engine barely holding itself together, I thought of my mother. Before she moved back to her home state of Texas while I was gone for university, she had cycled through a number of cars herself. One was a shiny model bought with a vehicle allowance from her sales job, but the rest were what she called “hoopties”. This means ripped up fabric on the ceilings and detailed instructions to valet drivers. I have memories of the two of us encouraging her cars up hills and of her using my friend’s garden hose to cool off her radiator when coming to pick me up.
Kaylie and I stopped for gas on the way Downtown, and over the rumble of the air & water machine filling my cracked tank, she agreed that the whole thing felt “very Paulette.” She too remembered the likes of sitting in the backseat while strangers pushed my mother’s car down the road.
Oddly, the connection to my mother made me feel proud of my car problems. Having gotten my license just a year before, this was my first car—which I purchased in cash on my own—and something about checking under the hood of my car to see what was what felt grown up to me. Something about being out there, on the way to a party in the nighttime, music on the radio, heels, and gas station light—it felt womanly. Nearing the end of my first year out of university, I reveled in feeling like an adult, in feeling like I was in control of a situation.
We weren’t at the party long. My university friend had spent his year after graduation collecting Hollywood-types who had jobs on studio lots and tried not to seem superior when I told them I was a waitress.
“She’s saving up for business school in Spain next year,” Kaylie kept blurting, a reveal that changed each Hollywood-type’s tone to something like relief as if what they saw as the direction of my life had made them uncomfortable.
I tired of the whole thing quickly, and we left within a few hours. I made two refill trips carrying my cranberry jug of sink water to the popped hood of my car, and we were off.
It was easy to pretend it was the smugness of film kids that upset me at that party, but really, it was my own insecurity. These people seemed so certain of their life plans. Meanwhile, I felt as if I had been barreling through life relying on luck and confidence to land me any place I could feasibly believe I was “meant to be.” Even my decision to go to business school abroad, which people found so impressive, could feel like an act of procrastination (“—and then I’ll figure out what I’m doing with my life.”) It didn’t always feel like I really had a plan, so much as I was acting on ideas that made it seem like I did.
The plan that night was to drive back to Kaylie’s house, though we weren’t long on the 405 before I could sense something was very wrong with my car. I couldn’t say what it was now–maybe it was a smell or the rumble of my seat–but I was suddenly certain I needed to get off the freeway. As soon as I did, my car shut off.
The radio played and the heater was still on, but the ignition was silent when I turned the key. I couldn’t take the key out of the ignition either, or automatically lock and unlock the doors. The reservoir tank, I found when I looked under the hood, was empty, meaning, I figured, my engine had overheated. So we were stuck in a dark neighborhood off the freeway at three in the morning, stopped in front of a driveway Kaylie was presently peeing in.
But it was alright. I was an adult in control of a situation, so I left Kaylie with the car while I took an Uber to buy water from a 7/11 nearby. As my lecturing Uber driver had predicted, however, refilling the tank did nothing. And that was that. My only plan was a dud. There was no use calling my father, who was no doubt asleep somewhere in Palm Springs. A call to my university friend proved unhelpful (“Aw, man! Text me when you get home,”) and I turned down Kaylie’s offers to call her mother, mostly out of embarrassment.
It was soon clear that I would not miraculously develop the skill to fix my car, nor would anyone else would be swooping in to solve my problem. So I called my already over-charging insurance company to ask them to send me a tow truck to take me, Kaylie, and my car to my dad’s house. I would then call another Uber to Kaylie’s place where we would sleep briefly before she’d drive me to work in the morning.
I remember while waiting for the Uber to Kaylie’s, that there was the strangest thick fog floating down my street. The night was totally quiet and crisp. Kaylie and I hugged for warmth and, hugging her, I was desolate. I knew already I had really screwed up. In my effort to feel like a grown up, in cosplaying my mother in the 80’s, I had ruined my only real plan at the moment: save up money for business school. Now, much of what I saved would be going to car repairs. Meanwhile, at my age, my mother was actually an adult, with two kids and a real job.
Though, I actually never really knew much about my mother’s youth, the Paulette in her twenties. There was the early motherhood, her move to California that was so sudden, she packed bags of groceries she’d just bought for the week in the backseat with my brother and sister. There were years they lived in Vienna while she modeled, her return stateside with Vito, the handsome, younger man that would be my father.
I only really knew an older version of my mother. Sneaking me off to Vegas on school days, telling Kaylie and me to close our eyes for drives down winding roads, driving her last hooptie the twelve hours back to Texas until it shut off and she, my sisters, and my father pushed it up the hill to her new home where it sits unused today. And her listening to me cry over the phone when I felt overwhelmed, like I had been barreling forward and finally tripped, then saying, “Now, how are you going to handle it?”
The next few months waiting on a possibly unfixable car were hard. I didn’t want to quit my job, where I stood to make a killing that summer, but taking the bus to Malibu from the Valley takes closer to two and a half hours than forty minutes, so I was often off to a station in the early mornings and standing on the side of highways waiting for a bus. I cried all the time—at bus stations, in the break area at work, in a Starbucks parking lot—but I also experienced unbelievable kindness from my father, his girlfriend, my friends, and my co-workers whom I didn’t even know that well until I had no choice but to ask them for a ride out of Malibu.
And I had the most magical spring. Quiet, crisp, and close to the blooming highway flowers I wore in my hair, the glittering ocean whipped past on an empty bus, the morning air warming more every day. Perhaps that was actually the thing about me that reminded me of my mother. It wasn’t the car problems that made me womanly, it was the handling of them, of my mistakes, and the occasional faltering of luck and confidence. It was barreling through life and grabbing hold of the fun and the beauty of it, not always with a solid plan.
Running down a hill toward the ocean because the bus broke down. My first swim of the year on an empty beach in my underwear. Hugging my oldest friend in the uncannily thick fog before dawn, these perfect moments I would have never had if things had gone to plan. It was almost like it was meant to be.
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Zoe Banoža is a writer, reader, and list-maker. She has recently earned a Master’s in Management at a business school in Spain and will be returning to her home in California this year.