Nonfiction | Adopted

Polishing the Limo


On Sunday, April 17, 1960, Ray MacGee was spending the afternoon polishing the company limousine for the big funeral the next day. It was a warm day, finally. No more washing and polishing the cars in the freezing cold weather. Years later a doctor would explain to him the link between his spinal arthritis and those cold nights and early mornings when the limos and hearses had to be washed and polished. But this particular Sunday, the weather was warm, and it felt good to be outside and warm while working. Soon would come the days when he suffered in the opposite direction. The black funeral director’s suit and tie would become unbearable in a few months. But today was a perfect day. His business was doing well, as always, and yet he was concerned. Ray wasn’t sure how much longer all that would last. Broad Street was changing. Temple Hospital was getting bigger, but the incomes in the neighborhood were getting smaller. Folks were selling out and moving on. The color of the faces was definitely changing. Here he was, though, polishing the limo, making everything perfect for his customers. He was wearing black and white, even today. A white v-neck cotton t-shirt and a pair of baggy Bermuda shorts. Black and gray plaid. Bermuda. He and Sally had gone there on their honeymoon. They were so sure that their family was beginning that first night, that first time together. They had waited so long, they were sure it would happen. And yet, it hadn’t. She still wasn’t pregnant. And he was still wearing black and white. It was so simple to choose the colors of his wardrobe, dictated by his profession. Not so simple to arrange his life.

Ray looked up at his large stone house. It had three bedrooms on the second floor and three on the third. As yet, all the rooms were empty except for the master bedroom. They had enough house to have a dozen kids, and enough money to keep them all fed. The basement was finished, a great playroom for a large brood. He’d probably have to expand the kitchen, if there ever was a reason to expand it, if they were to become blessed, like he was praying.

It was a good home, the largest in this West Oak Lane neighborhood. He and his brother and sister had grown up here, so he knew it was a good family home. But as yet, no kids. Four years of trying. It was time for Sallie to see a doctor, he supposed.

The sun was shining, the blue of the sky reflected back to him from the shine he had just put on the hood of the limo, and at that moment, unbeknownst to him, Ray’s youngest daughter was being born. She would not become his youngest daughter for another two years. At that moment, he was completely unaware of anything monumental happening. He was only aware of the fact that here, after a long cold, difficult winter, was a perfectly beautiful day.