74: The Garage

74: The Garage

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

The Garage

Some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had
occurred at my family’s dinner table.

~Bob Ehrlich

As we sat and ate dinner in the garage, it occurred to me that we were not like most families. Surrounding this dinner table were baseball hats, war memorabilia and beer steins. We sat in a garage heated by an old woodstove, and cooled by a sliding window above the countertop where my father sat in his favorite barstool. This was the kind of place that was warm, inviting and where every stray dog, cat and person could easily find a warm place to sit and a cold beer to drink.

Dinners here were special. They often, but not always, had a purpose. A big promotion, new job, new house or new friend would be reason enough to put out a big spread of cheese and crackers, coleslaw and meat of some kind on the handmade table. Tonight, we would gather to remind each other that we were family. Tonight, we would talk and laugh, all to avoid a more serious issue that was looming over us. As a family, we were facing Dad’s cancer surgery, and as a family, we gathered in our meeting place to enjoy each other’s company.

The garage was special. If walls could talk, I wondered what secrets they would share. They had definitely heard of hard times, worries and shortcomings. They had had their share of good news as well. All sorts of events were celebrated in the garage, and even a perfect summer day or magnificent snowstorm would be cause for celebration. On one night, an unexpected blizzard blew through town and we laughed, telling stories until the snow piled up so high outside we were all stranded at Mom and Dad’s house. The wood-stove popped, the window frosted up and we enjoyed the magic of family and the solace of the garage.

Part of its magic was that it did not discriminate. The garage had held us together during the most trying of times. Together, we sat in silence at the loss of those closest to us, and wonderment as to the reasons that must exist for sudden passing. We watched the Red Sox do the unthinkable, and then only days later we gathered to deal with a personal crisis. We watched in silence as our nation was attacked, and prayed even when praying was not what we were best at. What most people did individually, we did as a family, in the garage.

By looking at it, it was certainly nothing special. No fancy decorations adorned its walls and the furniture was either handmade or handed down. It was special, though. The garage was a safe place. It was a place to share secrets, problems and great stories. It was in the garage that I learned how to heal from a broken heart, how to ask for help, and how to listen with both ears. It was there that I learned the secret of life.

As we sat around, laughing and sharing stories of long ago moments, I caught my father’s eye. I saw something I had never seen before. He was sitting back in his tall bar chair admiring his family. (My father’s family extended well beyond blood relations. He welcomed friends and neighbors into his family and never let anyone forget how lucky he felt to have such wonderful people in his life.) As he sat quietly, listening to us jokingly discuss what it was like to grow up in a Polish, English and Irish household, his eyes glistened. It was then that I knew that he, too, had learned the secret of life.

The garage had given us a place to grow up, grow old and grow together. Although an outsider may think it odd that we ate in the garage, anyone who knew us would see something different. It was in that garage that we were most ourselves. We were family.

~Christine A. Brooks

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