Monday, March 4, 2013

My Grease Monkey (personal essay)

I promised yesterday to tell you about what happened on Saturday. When I wrote it down, I realized that the back story is longer than the actual story and I hate when authors do that! How could I do that to you?

Well....Like this, I guess.

I've been wanting to start posting some essays to break up the bookish posts. Some will be re-posts of things I wrote long ago on my personal blog, and some will be brand new. This is a new one and, after you read it, the story about Saturday will make more sense.

My Grease Monkey
by Alison Jakel

I used to wonder if we were over-indulging him.

People would smile with pity and shake their heads when I told them I was taking my 8 (or 9, 10, etc.) year old to another RV show. That we were paying admission, again, to tromp through dozens of RVs, simply because Evan loved them, like he loved all vehicles, that much. 

"It's actually kind of fun," I would admit sheepishly—because seeing the lit-up face of a child you love is fun. Unexpectedly watching him show his expertise while others look on, bemused, is also fun. And, to be honest, I find the idea of tiny houses on wheels charming. I don't ever want to drive one, much to Evan's chagrin, but will I explore model after model with him until my legs can't make it up another rickety set of fold-out steps? Yes, I will.

Evan dwarfed by a giant Dodge Ram, 2013 Portland Auto Show
Last year he added the Portland Auto Show to his rotation—it's more exciting for him, but only comes once a year. The RV shows are three times per year, March, June, and November.  Not often enough for the boy, and a bit too often for his parents. We take turns.

Next year, he wants to travel over 2,386 miles to Detroit, in January, to see the biggest auto show in the country. We're considering it, even though we can't really afford it. Maybe we are over-indulging him.

If we are, it's only because we want to make up for the times this boy wonders if he got born into the wrong family. He points out vehicles in his MotorTrend magazine, researches details online, and gives us the sales pitch. Wouldn't this be a cooler car than our utilitarian 2008 Kia Rondo, while still fitting our criteria for good gas mileage, ample seating, and a reasonably priced car? Isn't it time, yet, to make a change?

Our boring Kia
And if not, couldn't we put more effort into the car we're so inexplicably determined to keep? Why don't we ever wax it? What would be the harm in at least investing in some fancier wheels for the thing? When we travel, couldn't we try renting a Jeep?

The 2012 dune buggy
When a dad in our homeschooling community offered a class for 11-18 year olds to build a dune buggy from scratch last year, signing Evan up was a no-brainer. Every Sunday afternoon he gets his hands greasy with a dad and a group of kids who know the lug nuts and bolts of putting together a vehicle. He has found his peeps. This year, they've added a couple of other projects—a family's Ford Explorer that needs some work. A fixer-upper '68 Impala one of the older students bought. 

"Why don't we change our own oil?" Evan asked me after class one day. It's easy, he told me. He could do it all by himself, if I'd just get him a pan to drain the oil into.

"I'd love to have you change our oil," I told him. "When you're a little older."

"But I know how to do it," he assured me. 

He is twelve. Old enough, perhaps, to know how to do it. Young enough to not know quite how to do it completely, but to think he does. No problem, if I only knew how to double check to make sure he got it right. The time will come when I won't need to.

It feels like forever away, to him. In my heart I know that the time will be here sooner than either of us think is possible.

The story continues, here


  1. I love this! And I bet Jim (who has done every oil change on every car we've ever owned) would be happy to hang out while he does it and check to make sure it's done right.

    1. Thanks a ton, Molly, on both counts.

  2. Evan sounds like he could be related to my husband! When Carl was a kid, he took the family lawn mower apart so he could see how it worked.

  3. I'm with Molly! This is great. I love that you keeping Evan's interests in mind and helping him explore them as much as you can.

  4. We have a drain pan if you want it. We will never use it again.

    1. Yes, Stephanie! Thank you. No rush, we just got our oil changed a week ago so we're good for a few months.

  5. This post made me smile! How lucky Evan is to have parents who encourage and facilitate a passion of his. My philosophy, as a Scout leader and parent, has been to let the children find an interest that they were enthusiastic about and help them explore it!

  6. I once worked in vocational ed and can tell you which town you want to break down in because the teachers and students were awesome award-winning mechanics. Fun. Best to Evan and working his mind to take things apart and put 'em back together. We will always need this talent.