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As a kid, nothing got me out of the house and into the car faster than the prospect of going Healey-ing. This could be as simple as a ride to school or as elaborate as a family drive on a Sunday afternoon in hill country with a picnic and a stop at the drive-in ice cream shop. It could be 5-below and snowing, and my sisters were at my heels as we would race to pile into the car and try to claim the lone real seat. If the top was off, it was a good fight, but if the top was on, I always got it. I was just too big to fit in those little jump seats in back. The five minutes it took to get to school were like a magic carpet ride on the loudest carpet ever woven. A whole afternoon was like a trip to the moon. Especially if we hit some bumps.
To get my kids out of the house and into the car, it only takes two words: Rabbit Run.
This summer, it took me a little bit longer to get the Rabbit road-worthy than I had planned. I’d been talking about getting it out for a solid month, and then found myself besieged with electrical problems and Michigan weather. I was in the final steps of repairing the wiring harness when my six-year-old son wandered into the garage and asked if we were going to be able to drive the Rabbit at all this summer.
I had to step back from my work to answer him. I’d been on my back under the dash with a soldering iron and most of what was coming out of my mouth wasn’t suitable for children’s ears. I stopped what I was doing, sat up in the floor pan, looked him in the eye, and said, “yes, honey, we will drive the Rabbit. Hopefully soon.”
I wasn’t prepared for the wistful sound in his voice. I wasn’t prepared for the hopeful look in his eyes. I wasn’t prepared to see myself as a little kid, hoping that Dad had the Healey going again after yet another problem, hoping that school wouldn’t be there and we would have to just keep driving.
Bernard is my oldest son. Earlier this year, he helped me to bleed out the braking system on the Rabbit, sitting on the edge of the driver’s seat and pumping the brake pedal on command. He jiggled the shifter for me as I installed a new shift linkage. He seems to enjoy being around when I am working on the car and I admit that I love it. When he asks questions and wants to see how things work, I am in heaven. The idea of sharing with my kids what my dad shared with me is pure car nut joy.
Once I had the harness done and the rest of the problems sorted, we got a week of rain.
The first sunny day, I had already arrived at work when my husband called. Apparently Bernard wanted to know where I was as my Passat was still in the driveway. When my husband told him that I was already at work, he ran to the garage. Finding the Rabbit gone, he called back into the house: “Mommy’s on a Rabbit Run!”
When I picked him up after school, he came running out to me grinning from ear to ear. I belted him into the front seat and started the car. He put his arm up on the door and leaned back. We motored off into the proverbial sunset on a Rabbit Run – my son and me, myself and me.
We will repeat this ritual every sunny day for the rest of summer.
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