When the phone rang in the middle of the night, I was relieved to hear that my son was "alright." It was the kind of "alright" accompanied with a sigh that let his mother and I know that he was on the down side of that assessment. If he had been "alright" with an exclamation point, it would not have taken me another hour to get back to sleep.
This wasn't the phone call about a speeding ticket. It wasn't the phone call asking for us to come and pick him up from fifth grade science camp. This wasn't the cry from his crib when he was so very small. This was the call letting us know that the car that he had bought in high school, the one that had been with him all those years and been the source of numerous other phone calls, had perhaps reached the end of its useful lifespan. This the car that had been resuscitated countless times before, and the machine that helped my son learn mechanics in ways unfathomable to me. Which is why I tended to trust him when he said that it sounded like the last legs.
And as I lay awake in bed, after we had done the parental soothing that we could, I thought this: Transmogrify. This was the word our little boy brought into us, carrying the Calvin and Hobbes book he had received for his sixth birthday. "Mom and dad, what does 'transmogrify' mean?" This was his initiation into a world of reading that would take him in leaps and bounds into a world of reading that made him the darling of his elementary school teachers. Over the years, as a family we became familiar with every single panel of Bill Watterson's comic masterpiece, and my son became our surrogate Calvin. So much so that when it came time to christen his first car, my son went to the only possible nom de auto: Hobbes.
There was more in the phone call, I knew. He had a little trouble with a test and a girl had given him a very polite brushoff, but a brushoff nonetheless. I knew that the death throes of Hobbes were at the core of his pain. His late night cry.
I knew that he would recover. He had been taking steps over the past few months to prepare for a world where owning a more "sensible" car would take him further down the road. He has rebounded from school dips and girl trips. He would be fine, but Hobbes was going to leave a mark. It did for me.