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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Highway Hazards: Stopped in Our Tracks

Long day. Speeding along the Interstate before the crack of dawn, I hear a fluttering noise under the hood.

“Check the oil,” I suggest to Benedetto.

I should have been an auto mechanic. How I can hear every ping, ding, and dong is beyond me. I grew up with my father filling the tank with gas (that was after “Full Service” went the way of all flesh), and then my husband. Apparently, they deemed that putting gas in my car was beyond my abilities. I could easily be voted “Least Likely to Succeed” in terms of auto care and maintenance. But mechanical matters….

“I don’t hear anything,” he shakes his head and goes back to driving.

“Like fluttering leaves,” I explain. “Check the oil.”

“Oil pressure seems fine,” he insists.

“It looks low to me,” I mutter.

Suddenly, I am an expert. Any gauge that is south of the middle line is suspect—be it gas, oil, or a bass clef on the piano. You were always safest if you were middle of the road… as long as you were not… in the middle of any road.

Within thirty minutes, mark my word, we were on the side of the road, in the rain, with some alarm sounding. Petya passes up a quart of oil that we keep in the back, just in case.

“Oil, Papa?” he asks.

“Thanks, Big Guy.”

Benedetto steps out in the steady rain shower and pours in the oil.

“See?” he tells me, “all better.”

Uh-huh. I still hear the flutter.

Five minutes later, we’ve checked the oil again as the alarm sounds and the family pulls into a Firestone Repair Shop.

“We don’t deal with oil pumps,” the guy says, “but there’s a dealership about a quarter of a mile away,” he reveals.

On the way, we stop at an el cheapo store and I grab a $4 pair of hoop earrings. For some reason, for the first time in one hundred years, give or take a few decades, I left the house in the wee hours without my earrings. If we are going to enter into a major auto repair situation, I might as well be looking presentable for the part.

“Tell them that we have the entire tribe with us,” the car repair queen, sporting big, floozy hoops, tells her husband.

“Got it,” he says, patient under pressure. “Four children, two dogs, two adults,” he ticks off for the customer service rep.

“No problem—they can all come into our waiting room,” she says pleasantly.

I believe we have met an angel.

In we go at 9:00 a.m. They’ve been open since 7:30, and it’s not noisy or oily, a pleasant surprise. The kids gather books, we have laptops, the dogs whine and cry, spyng bits of crackers under the table in the waiting room. They pull our arms out of their sockets every single second trying to get to the crumbs.

“Misha! Grisha!” I whisper their way, the waiting room filling up. “You want me to hold you like a baby?” I offer.

Flipping the Scotties over on their backs and cradling them in my arms, they struggle to get free. My babies want to be on the discolored linoleum floor, straining on their bellies to slide under the round table of magazines and get… the… saltine… crumbs.

Everyone smiles at our entourage. Turns out we have landed smack in the countryside, among friendly farm folk. We are the most dashing images to have graced this garage in some time.

“Would y’all like some popcorn?” the owner of the dealership offers.

My kids are dumbstruck, trying valiantly to finish their geography, science and history lessons while Dr. Phil helps muddled mistresses regain control of their lives, daytime TV dramas unfolding.

“Would you like some popcorn?” Benedetto echoes in their direction.

“Yes, please,” they finally stammer, unsure of whether or not they could say yes to a stranger/pusher proffering popcorn.

“It’ll be ready in ‘bout five minutes,” the man lets them know, pouring oil in the top of the old-fashioned pushcart, the kernels going in as things start heating up.

The kids get their greasy snack and are happy as clams. We thank the man profusely.

The Wi-Fi signal in the dealership is too weak for my purposes, or for Benedetto’s, yet we accomplish a good bit of work. My two oldest guys take the two youngest guys out for a walk in the rain, simply to move them away from the saltine crumbs and from chirping like canaries.

The customer service rep enters while they’re out, glancing around for my husband.

“They just went out to walk the dogs.” I say.

“Well, the car is done,” she smiles. “They changed the oil pressure sensor and then drove it for six miles and the pressure stayed steady.”

“Why, thank you!” I enthuse, happy that a disaster was averted.

Once again, we collect our books, belongings, and bodies. Older male customers greet and shake each other’s hands, wearing jeans and work shoes. They look over our entourage like they might review the hogs and cattle at a local livestock auction, with me leading the parade in predictable black and heels, and Benedetto closing ranks in a dark sports jacket and khakis.

The dogs perform their best stubborn-donkey show, for the spectators, putting on their brake-paws, and requiring us to depart with our own bit of drama, dragging them from the waiting room, and acting as the dealership’s two extra dust mops.

Thankful that we were not stranded by the side of the road, we congratulate the dealership and the “dyeti” (children) as we reach the car. They rolled with the punches, and did not mope about the setback in time which would definitely cause them to miss a sporting event later in the day.

I listen as we drive away a couple of hours later: no pings, pongs, dings or dongs, thanks to the help of friendly folks in Smalltown, USA.


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7 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Phyllis says:

    I am having problems with our internet connections, I think, so I will try this again for the 3rd time.

    Thanks for the laughs this morning! You have such a way with words.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oh, I’m sorry… Tell me about internet connections! At that car dealership/garage, I think I could have gotten a stronger signal with a coat hanger on my head. I finally took to writing thank-you notes for my b-day…. Thanks for the encouragement! Stay tuned for a fun group project I may be posting tonight….

  2. avatar Winnie says:

    Hey, that’s what it’s like in Smalltown, U.S.A. (as long as your not in my former Kornfield, IL town) we are nice – especially in the upper midwest. I know you’ve heard of “MN nice” and all that.

    • avatar admin says:

      Okay, Winnie, there will be no name-calling, or you’ll be sent to the principal’s office-! I must be Smalltown at heart- I like nice people. Ahh… refreshing….

  3. avatar Theresa says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. It is an encouragement. We homeschool and have adopted from Russia, although our son was 2 when we brought him home. We are praying about and planning to adopt two older children and are looking for general counsel about parenting children adopted at an older age as well as homeschooling them. How do you help them make progress academically while they are learning a new language and adapting to a new culture and family? Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • avatar admin says:

      That is a great question, Theresa, thanks for asking it. Everyone can keep on submitting questions and I’ll be happy to answer them in later blogs–I haven’t forgotten about any–some shoes just got in the way-!

      Right or wrong, we did not push the English very much in the beginning. I taught them in Russian-English, so that may be a little unusual. A lot depends on how old they are and how much schooling they’ve had. Of ours, 3 out of 4 went to the orphanage boarding school (internat) and not to a village school with others (where they would have received a more normal education). Our oldest, now 14.5, never went to school in Russia. He was 7.5 when he came home. The others were older and could read, for instance, in Russian, but they had little retention. So the particulars will determine a lot of your direction.

      For us, education is a biggie, and I had to let some of that go. The most important thing was the bonding with and understanding of family. Then we presented schooling in a more playful way at first in order to give them a love for education. It may have backfired, lol. (There are fun ESL DVDs like the “Standard Deviants” series, etc., that would be appropriate for pre-teens and teens.) They don’t always understand that school can be boring and they still have to do it-! I’ll write more in an upcoming blog.

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