Traditions by Kendra Beauchesne

Kendra Beauchesne's touching flash about a ten year old bonding with her mother while fixing a car.

I remember sitting and listening to my mom talk about that car. Her eyes would light up as she spoke. Her father was a television repairman, but he had an addiction to fixing cars. He bought it used. More like very damaged. She would talk about how she would spend hours in the yard with him. He taught her everything he knew about cars, and the proper tools to use. She also learned about life. They would talk for hours as he worked.

After she found my grandfather dead in his home, the car and house was given to her. She doted on that car. I think perhaps because it was her fondest memory of him. We didn't have much money, but when something would need fixing on that car she did everything she could to fix it. One summer afternoon we were headed home from the grocery store, and smoke began to come from under the dark blue hood. Trying to shift gears, it sputtered. A loud grinding sound emanated from under the car. She turned to me and said, "Want a pound while I'm grinding?" She laughed so hard. I was only ten at the time so I didn't get the joke.

We made it home and she put the car in neutral. She put me in the driver's seat and said to keep the wheel straight. She pushed it onto the big metal car ramps. I held tight to the wheel, which was hard to do. I remember the feel of the cracked hard plastic in my hands. The car had a smell like an old car shop and Bruit cologne. That is what he wore. She kept a small bottle of it in the glove compartment. I felt so grown up that day. I sat with her as she crawled under the car cursing. The transmission was shot.

She called an old family friend for help. Dewayne showed up in his black Oldsmobile. He climbed under the car and agreed. It took a few days for them to locate a transmission for the car. He brought it to the house in the back of his old red Ford truck. She asked him how much she owed him. He refused to take her money. I always thought he was sweet on her. He stayed for a cup of coffee and a smoke.

After he left she called me over to the car where she had me hold the flashlight. And occasionally her tools. I had never felt closer to her than in the weeks it took to fix that car. Just her and I working together; we were under that car for most of the summer. We lay under that car. The transmission on blocks and jack, we had to run a chain through the hood and around it. It was suspended on a branch of the old tree in the yard.

She kicked and pushed it. I pushed too. A few damn-its and mother fuckers later it finally shifted. A loud clunk and we had it in place. She quickly bolted it in and we were finally finished. She clambered out from under the car. I slunk out on my belly, feeling accomplished. In that moment I finally felt how she did with her father. I had never felt more important.

She put me in through the window and handed me the keys. She had me turn it over. The car purred beneath me. A broad smile dusted her lips as she told me to scoot a cheek. I shifted over and smiled at her. She shifted it into reverse. It slowly went backward back down the ramps. Once on the street she shifted it into first gear, and slowly worked through all of the gears, telling me that you have to let the transmission fluid lubricate all of the gears properly before driving. She shifted it back into first and we drove off. The car rumbling under our feet, we drove until sunset. She stopped at Grandpa's Burger Heaven and treated me to ice cream. It was the best summer ever.


  1. this is a first class story, bonding and memories, so very well told. i´m sure you can write more like this!

    Michael McCarthy

  2. You've really captured the child's voice in this. Great little story!

    Charlotte Hayden

  3. Evocative storytelling. Captured the memories of simple things that make a connection over generations. Well told. Well done.

    James Shaffer

  4. Lovely vignette, it works at so many levels. The uncomplicated, mundane things that form the warp and weft of our most important relationships and recollections - in fact the tapestry of our lives. Thank you,

    Ceinwen Haydon

  5. This slice of life was entertaining. I enjoyed the perspective of two females fixing a car rather than a male. It made the story stand out. The bonding between mother and daughter was charming. Dialogue flowed.

  6. Thank you all for your kind words in reviewing my story.