Raining this morning, I pushed open the garage for a simple task of taking out the trash. The big metal door rolled up and in came the soft damp air, rushing into the garage and enveloping everything inside, bringing smells alive and into my nose – the dusty cement floor, shovels and hoes hanging against the wall, some with a little dirt still clinging to them. As the door rose and the outside rushed in, blending with inside smells, what I saw was a picture nearly 50 years old.
I saw not what was outside my own house, but outside the garage door of my youth, back in Virginia where my father would sit with me in the rain on days like this. We didn’t have a covered front porch where we could sit and watch the storms – inside – nice and dry, smelling the earthy wetness of a soft spring or summer storm. Instead, we had our garage and a big black and white 4-door Nash. It was a massive car with lovely deep red leather interior. It was a heavy, big car that was so much more than a car – it made into a full size bed when my parents argued, it was a magic chariot when my father drove us to Wyoming across the states in the nighttime, as I rode in the back, safe in the red leather haven. On rainy days, we’d sit on the back of the car. It had a little shelf-like area on either side of the big spare tire mounted in the middle, big enough for sitting. We each took a side, and we’d sit there on the rear of that car and watch the rain together.
The storms came down and our yard and driveway and rose bushes would sit out there in plain view, getting doused and soaked and the thunder would roar. Sometimes, my big tomcat, Jerry, sprinted across and dove in through the garage window when the clap startled him. We’d sit there smelling the sawdust and sheets of plywood, and heaps of wood shavings that he’d planed and tins of varnish and I could smell the dampness of his old wicker fishing creel that hung up on a nail up high in the rafters. I imagine it now, lined with soft grass, holding slippery rainbow trout he caught along the creek in the Big Horn Mountains out there in Wyoming. We would just sit there together, listening to the crack of thunder and watch the enormous flashes of lightening as they lit up the sky over the row of pine trees that divided our place from the property next door. Trees that my brother always aimed to fling rocks over with his slingshot, trees that formed a private green wall along our property line. Trees that were mowed down to build the truck plaza years later.
Not much conversation between us, we just sat there on our old Nash and listened as the warm Virginia rain soaked into our lawn and rolled off big fat rose petals, making puddles to ride my bike through later, trailing my feet down in the warm water, watching the pine needles hold the shiny rain that would glisten soon when the sun hit – breathing deeply the heavenly smell of earth and rain, safe inside together in the best place I knew. One we shared; one full of special things.
No one else ever came out to the garage on those days, no one seemed to want what we had, to feel the air heavy with sweet rain and grass and clover, dirt and sawdust. Magic.