65 Mustang GT
A story about a 24-year old classic car restorer, who is given the responsibility of looking after a neighbor's kid, Rachel. They eventually become the best of friends, working together to rebuild a '65 Mustang GT Coupe. But time stops for no man, and those nostalgic days simply can't last forever.
The 8 Year-old Girl Next Door Just Broke My Heart
I'm a 24 year old postgrad guy living in a small house in a low/middle income neighborhood. It's just me, I do well enough that my pop was glad to help put in to get a house rather than an apartment because in my spare time I love tooling around on old cars, something we've done together since I was a kid, he was all too happy to have me carry it on.
So I work your typical 8 to 4-5 schedule, and quite often I'm in the garage after work fixing up this old mustang I've been on for the last two years or so. (A completely unrestored '65 mustang that my dad got me for graduation, to take on now that I'm out in the world, that was a special moment).
So one day, I started leaving the garage door open, and its to the front so pretty much everyone can see what I'm doing, people stop by, chat, say hello, its great, I always love to chat it up, especially older folks that are happy to see a young guy getting his hands dirty working hard on a classic.
So about a year ago during the summer, the neighbors mom asked if I could look after their little girl Rachel, a quiet little girl that always seemed well behaved. I didn't mind, but I said I'm really committed to working on this car, if you feel good enough to let her over here while I'm working on the car, not a problem.
Turns out they're going through a divorce, the dad works the 3rd shift, the mom's got a part time gig, evening hours just aren't good for em. Ok, so this starts, and it goes fine. She's quiet, usually reading books or watching the TV I brought out so she would be around me. I always made sure to be courteous, firm, and try out dad humor every now and then. Well, she starts to come out of her shell after a while and it was a joy.
I still remember when she first asked about why I was working on the car:
"Why are you working on that car when you have one thats newer and works?"
"Well, this car is about 45 years older than the other one, its a classic. She'll be much prettier when I'm done with her. I've been sitting in the garage helping my pop since I was younger than you! I always wanted to be like him and so I'd sit and learn and eventually he let me help."
"Oh. Whenever I see dad he's always sleeping."
"Well, he's working hard to provide for you, he's working a tough job."
She just kind of was quiet after that. But after two or three months, she started being cheerful when she came over, always asking questions about what I was doing specifically. This part and that, why it needed to be done, what made it work. I was glad to impart knowledge, I think everyone likes teaching a bit, especially something you're passionate about.
I started teaching her about tools, how to recognize which ones you need, what they can do on a car or around the house. She started to light up, I got the sense that besides school.. she didn't have much of a parental figure. Or anyone to teach her anything about life, or anything.
One time my dad visited in his '66 GT convertible, and I took her for a ride in it.
I'll always remember how she smiled, saying, "Is this what yours is going to be like?"
"Should be, but mines a coupe so it won't be quite as nice."
"Nooo, yours will be much better! Cause we've been doing it!"
My chin started to wobble and I just smiled and said you're right, it will be.
She'd really started to grow on me, I mean, it would be impossible not to let her into your heart. A bright eyed smart little girl that just soaks up everything you teach her, wants to learn, and looks up to you like that.
It made me sad, because the times I saw her parents interact they were always snide or yelling at each other, when they were around that is. This spring I started noticing the mother leaving without a uniform, sometimes dressed to go out. I came to the conclusion she quit or wasn't working, but still taking advantage of me babysitting. Which I didn't mind in the slightest.
Sometimes Rachel would be quiet more when she came over, but I always waited until she would open up. She'd let out tidbits like, "Mommy woke me up late at night, she was acting funny." Or, "She came home with someone that wasn't daddy" or the like. It would pierce my heart, but I didn't know what to do except keep being a safe harbor for her of sorts. She started hugging me more often, squeezing me as hard as she could. I'd always get a lump in my throat.
She's just wormed her way into my heart, how when I take a break and sit down, she'll climb all over me until I give her the proper attention, every now and then when she does some mannerism or phrase she picked up from me.. even just when I ask her to hand me a tool and she picks the proper one no problem.
We had some of the best times I can remember, just tinkering under my car, her with a raggedy old sweater of mine on with safety glasses so old dirt wouldn't fall in her eyes, watching me work, asking away. One time she nicked herself on the edge of the radiator support and I picked her up and went to bandage it up.
I told her, "Most girls your age would cry if they got that little cut."
She said brightly, "Now my hands are gonna get all beat up like yours!"
I didn't even know what to say so I burst out laughing (plus another lump in the throat) and hugged her and said, "You're the best little girl in the world you know that?"
Then a few weeks ago, her mom came over and said they were going to get a divorce, and if I could still keep watching her during the week. I told her I was sorry and absolutely, she's a delight to have around.
Yesterday she was morose, and quiet unlike she had been in a long time. Turns out her parents will be separating and they'll have to move soon. She started crying and hugged me, asking if it meant she won't be able to come over anymore. I started tearing up a bit and choked out, I don't know Rachel, I don't know. I hope you can. I love you, you know that? You're the smartest, cutest, best little girl in the world and I love you."
She just cried all the harder and said I love you too.
She even asked if she could stay with me. Again I said I don't know, but I don't think it's in the cards.
When she left yesterday I just sat down with a bottle of jack and started crying. I just can't take it. That sweet beautiful little girl that wants to be just like me, giggles when she gets grease on her, tosses on my old dirty sweater when she comes over cause she wants to help. I just want to take her up in my arms and take away that pain. She doesn't deserve to have a shitty childhood growing up with a nonexistant father or a shitty mother. Fuck I just can't deal with it. It fucking tears my heart apart.
TL;DR : Start babysitting a little neighbor girl with shitty parents, we have the best time together over the past year, parents are divorcing, will move away soon. Fuckin hell
Thank you all for your comments and just taking the time to read. I feel better about, knowing that I probably had an impact on her life for the better. I don't know who will have custody or where there'll go, but hopefully she will remain in town. I apologize for not commenting more, I'm trying to drown my feelings I guess. But reading all of this has given me heart and more resolve to be there for Rachel. She deserves as much. I will be making every effort. - AaronRodgersMustache
You could ask if you could still babysit... If the parents aren't moving far away, I'm sure they wouldn't mind free babysitting forever. Have you talked to the mom or dad?
This. It might be easiest to stay in her life if you can keep in touch with her parents. **Friend Mom on Facebook before she moves** and keep in touch. You'll probably have to put in most of the legwork to do it, but do what you can to stay visible in Mom's life -- she trusts you, clearly, and if you can stick around in her life it'll make it that much easier to stay in touch with Rachel.
Make sure you ask both parents where you can send her details on the progress on the car. No matter how shitty of a parent one can be, I cannot imagine they would refuse that. If worst comes to worse, you could make a blog dedicated to her and both of you guys' project. Everyday or every week, you take meaningful pictures of the car or parts and tools with your dirty hands. Have the date. Include the outside of the garage with the sun or lack of sun, the rain, or whatever she would see on that day. Try to keep it natural, like she was already there and you didn't have to emphasis much, because she would already understand your jokes, and you can be instructive as if she was there. Teach her a tool she hasn't learned yet. Car parts. Try not to be obsessive about loving her, though.
Just be yourself.
One of these days, she'll look online to learn more about this passion of cars, or whatever, and she will most likely find your blog. Maybe not for a decade, but then she'll email you and you can be a slab of solid ground again. The earlier she gets in contact with you the better. I feel probably what you feel: neither parent of hers is competent. You have to be like that awesome uncle, that will probably be hard to see because her parents won't let her go and see you. Tough situation. Beyond me. Good luck, bro.
This is a fantastic idea. So unintrusive but let's her know she's still part of something.