The sun is shining in slanting rays that break through the trees in golden shoots of light. The trees shimmer in shafts of glowing translucence . The day is bright with promise. The moment I open the door, I see it all, the sun, the trees with their trembling bright leaves, and something else. Something that is not normally there at all.
What is this pretty thing? Someone has given me a turquoise Vespa as a surprise gift. The moment I opened my front door this morning, it was right there in front of me. A huge pink bow surrounded it. Wrapped around it, with a great big card saying, “Happy Birthday.” I am just turned thirty and unmarried. My handsome young son is just about to be ten years old. My life is good, organized, predictable.
Happy Birthday to Me!!! How did it get here? Who has done this? I do have a suspicion about who it could be. After all, how many people give you a VESPA!!??
it certainly IS a surprise! It is a summer Wednesday and my son is sleeping peacefully in the house. My sweet sister stayed over for my birthday. She will be there when young Chas wakes up. So, I can leave! I can go and speed along the Virginia back roads, and I can drive up to Monticello or explore anywhere I wish. The whole state is open to me. Where shall I go?
I rush back to my room and take off my silk robe and filmy nightgown. I jump in the shower and skim water over my body quickly, Just a rinse. Did not get my hair wet, which is good. It is thick and long and takes a while to dry. I touch up my lips with lipstick. My mother never let me go out of the house without lipstick. When the paramedics came to take her to the hospital when she had a heart attack at 55, she asked for her lipstick to be brought so she could apply it before being put on a gurney. She arrived at the hospital, dead, but her lipstick was in place.
This morning I missed her so much. If only she were here to tell her about the wonderful gift in my driveway. If only she were here to tell anything to. Sometimes, she drove me crazy and other times she was my telephone buddy for hours- long conversations. And all the time, she loved me. I never doubted that for a moment. She always put us girls first. Wherever she was and whatever she was doing, she was thinking of us. Thank God for my sister, Diana. What would we do without each other. Our lives are stretching out in front of us, and we have no mother and no father to guide us. We only have each other.
So, ruminating on these things made me oblivious to my surroundings or even the clothes that my hands reached for in a drawer. Blue jeans, soft and worn and comfortable, and a pale lavender tank top over skimpy underwear. It was hot, after all. DO you have to wear a helmet with a Vespa? Probably, yes. With soft short boots on my feet, I was ready to go. My hair was tied in a ponytail and my hands encased in smooth leather riding gloves. Should I leave a note? Yes, that would be best.
“Diana, someone has given me a present! It is a pale aqua Vespa!! I am off to explore the countryside. See you later, around lunchtime, I think.”
As I was leaving, I made sure my puppies, Angus and MacAlister, were able to go out the doggie door to the back garden. I did not want them following me from the front of the house. They wagged their beautiful tails and jumped up to kiss me, always thrilled to do anything with me, even to say, goodbye. I scooted out without too much fuss from their little dachshund minds. They do love to follow. One, black and tan, and one, red, long- hair; medium- sized Dachshunds keep us company here at the cottage. They have plenty of space to roam about. But today they are going to be confined to the back garden, which is fully fenced.
And as it got nearer to my view, I saw a silver helmet was hung on the machine. And keys were dangling from the helmet. Fantastic! Freedom. After figuring out how to put on the helmet and goggles, thoughtfully provided, I sat astride the little machine and started her up. Oh, yes…I can do this. More sturdy than a bike and not heavy like a real Motor Cycle, the Vespa was just my size. And the color made me happy just to look at. People do not understand how a color can produce an emotion. But, for me, there is no question about it. I love color, but certain ones really make me happy while others make me acutely unhappy.
When I moved into this cottage, the master bedroom was painted a color that was probably once described as “dusty rose,” but over the years it had turned just plain DIRTY brownish pinkish. Yuck!! I painted the room “robin’s egg blue” and transformed my life. Now my room makes me happy even when I just glance at it through a half- open door. I took equal care to make sure my son’s room was painted a color he liked. He was quite emphatic that he wanted it to be red. RED!!! Oh, and did I say, I indulged him? He has a bedroom painted bright red, shiny, and deep, with curtains made of tan burlap and a jute rug, handwoven in a geometric pattern. He has lamps of various types. One, Staffordshire china, a Scot in a kilt, and one of driftwood and one made from a brass fire extinguisher, which sits tall, so it is a reading lamp. This stands by a padded leather chair whose brown hides are worn to a patina impossible to fake.
Outside my house, the morning is quiet. My cottage is private, on a gravel driveway that was once part of a large farm. It is only a couple of hundred yards to a paved road. The helmet fits fine, the key turns easily in the starter, and my bike springs to life. I must figure out how the brakes work, and how much to accelerate, and how to stop.
Practicing this is fun. Vroom, Vroom, Vroom!!! I have always loved Vespas. Now I have my own and it is going to be a lovely day. The road runs out beneath the wheels as the gravel drive turns into Rt# 20 where I turn left (south)towards town. This is a busy road with almost no place to pull over or stop. The edges of the road go into a ditch, sometimes more of a gully. It is a dangerous road for those who do not know its blind curves and those places where driveways come unexpectedly out onto the road. There are school bus stops and the places where rain “runoff” can make the surface treacherous without warning. I know this road like the back of my hand.
It is early summer, and the trees are green with that freshness that newly leafed- out trees have. The air smells good. There are scents floating through the air, confused and confusing, such as the sharp scent of cattle and their manure, fresh cut grass and fresh mown hay. Gasoline from my Vespa and oil and rubber on the road. Could that be honeysuckle? Is it too soon? My hair is flying out behind me and reaching around me in the breeze. That breeze feels good because the day is going to be a scorcher. The motor hums, the wheels turn effortlessly, the scenery speeds by almost before I can register it. Riding a motor scooter is more intense than driving a car that practically drives itself. This is more like riding a horse. The power in the engine makes me feel invincible. But of course, I am not.
It is about four- and- a- half miles to the main road, which is a large highway. Route #250 East. I take the left hand turn that sends me up the hill at Pantops. Traffic is light, and I have no trouble nor any wait time at the light. The Vespa ascends the hill without a problem. I am glad I am not on a plain bicycle, powered by me. After a couple more lights, I turn off on the Keswick Road. This is just as full of curves as my earlier route, but the road is quite empty of traffic. I can speed up and slow down at my own discretion. My sense of power is amazing! So fun! I push the little Vespa a bit more and it responds with enthusiasm (it seems). My smile, which has been on my face since I started the motor, widens! It is such freedom to feel the wind and yet have lots of horsepower at a single touch. I love to watch the passing fields and be “one ” with the animals and the countryside, and there is power here besides my own to ease the trip.
Farther and farther I ride, north, in a curvy direction. Suddenly, Gordonsville looms up in front of me. Well, Gordonsville is a bit small for “looming,” but it appears unexpectedly, just the same. So, I have been riding longer than I imagined and it is time for breakfast. I find a cute coffee shop and park my Vespa easily in front, in a space too small for any car. Feeling smug as the door to the shop opens in front of me, I look around for a familiar face.
Oh! There he is! His back is to me as he is just paying for his coffee. I have a moment to appreciate his tall, lanky frame. He is dark- haired and hirsute. He is wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, and work boots, but they are Frye brand. Though worn, they are in good shape. All of him is in good shape. As he turns around, he beams at me. I think he must have seen me enter in the reflected glass. He was expecting me. I see he has two coffees and a bagel and a croissant on a cardboard tray. He comes towards me but beckons with his smiling face towards a table to the right. I meet him there. As he puts down the coffee and breads, he turns to me and folds me into his arms. His hug is all encompassing. It holds me, and it holds love and nurturing and caring and most important, “liking,” all in one bear hug. I am content. No, I am ecstatic.
“Thank you, so much!!!” But before any more words come, he is kissing me, rubbing his lips against mine, smoothly but firmly taking my mouth. He does not linger long enough to make the other patrons uncomfortable, but it got MY attention! The rush of emotion and warmth and desire that engulfed me surprised me. Was it the gift? Was it the wind in my hair, that wonderful sense of freedom? What was making me feel like jelly?
We sat and drank coffee and ate, sharing the bread equally, taking bites from each other’s food. We sat and drank each other in. Though I tried to thank him over and over for my present, he would not hear of it. “Just somethin’ for my girl,” he said. But I knew he was pleased with how much I liked it. “Come on. Let’s get out of here, ” he said when we were done.
“Where shall we go?”, I asked? “We have two vehicles. What shall we do now?” And he took my hand, guiding me out to the curb. His pickup truck was right in front of my Vespa. He put down the back and pulled out a ramp. “Give me your keys,” he said. And he unlocked the Vespa’s wheels and put her up in the bed of the truck with ease.
“All right, now, you come get in my nice truck, little Darling,” he grinned as he handed me up into the cab. “I know just the place for you on a nice summer morning. It is in my bed. And that is where I am heading now, with your permission of course!” Smiling a secret smile, I inclined my head in the affirmative. I could not think of anywhere I would rather be, myself!