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A Stitch in Time Saves a '59
Story by Lois Grace

There are three men in my life: my husband, Rob, my first born, Vernon (my '59 single cab), and then there is Bogart, the baby of the family. Bogie is my 1969 VW Bug.

Rob knows I love him. Bogart knows I depend on him. Vernon just knows that he is about as close to human as one can get and still be a Volkswagen. After beginning his restoration, he is almost completed. I took one of the last big steps left and had him upholstered. Yes, he is now stitched. He wasn't really that bad in there, not really. He still had the old brown vinyl seats. He still sported the mahogany door panels and kick panels my dad had installed almost 20 years before. The original door handles, steering wheel, gearshift and knob, and interior light were still in place. Not bad when you consider what Vern had been through on the OUTSIDE. Major reconstructive surgery would be a mild way of putting it. So, why not spruce up the interior to match? He was, after all, a show vehicle now, and must look like one, inside and out. I had planned to do this eventually anyway, but never figured I'd ever get to this point. I'd dreamed about what I'd do, if give the choice of anything under the sun. Bone stock? Full custom? Graphics? Killer stereo? Actually, none of the above seemed to fit the bill.

Bone stock just seemed too sterile for the handsome devil now living in my garage. Full custom was silly too, because of Vern's classic stock exterior. Ditto for the graphics idea. A killer stereo was out of the question, what with the killer decibels that accompany a 36-horse engine: I wouldn't be able to hear the thing anyway, so why bother?  So, I ended up opting for what I consider to be a sort of Volkswagen-Type-II-Deluxe-Single-Cab-Option look, if they had had such a things back in 1959. I selected my craftsman for this job carefully, picked out some vinyl and fabric, and turned Vernon over to him for a week so he could make it happen. I got exactly what I had planned. What I hadn't counted on was an odd,  terrible sense of loss, an awful let-down, after the work was done. I know someone who calls this feeling 'buyer's remorse'. This is the same person who goes out, and, on a whim one Sunday afternoon, buys a new Mercedes 300SL and writes a check for it. His is Buyer's Remorse. Mine I call PTSD or Post Traumatic Stitch Disorder.

What was wrong with me?  Why couldn't I be thrilled?  It wasn't Glenn's fault - he had done exactly what I wanted. His work was superior in every way and flawless. He was even German. I had been right to choose him. So, what the heck was going on? There was only one answer to that question - my affliction could only be Post Traumatic Stitch Disorder. Yes, PTSD is what happens when one is faced with the almost impossible challenge of restoring a truck like mine, and being able to have almost anything one desires done to the inside, chooses something one has had their heart set on for years. Once chosen and completed, this same person sees the finished product and says something truly brilliant, like, OH. It's so.......so......VINYL.

Yes, I did this. I still can't believe it was me. Poor Glenn, he just looked at me as if I were a total stranger. It wasn't that I didn't LIKE it. Vernon looked great, he just looked DIFFERENT. I wasn't expecting a grand transformation - not really. At least not one this profound. After all, this was the same truck that had just barely recovered from having both sides chopped out and replaced with new ones. He had also survived other extensive indignities to his entire person, so nothing done to him now could surprise me, right? Well, I was surprised. Gone was the tacky unpleated brown vinyl seat. Gone were the mahogany door panels. Gone too were the matching mahogany panels on the roof and around the rear window that my dad had labored so long and hard to get to fit so right. In their place now is the black and gray tweed seat, with three-inch pleats. On the doors are matching gray vinyl door panels, with the same tweed inserts. The front kickpanel is now gray vinyl. There is even gray AutoTex headliner on the roof. He is truly beautiful. I should have been ecstatic, really. Well?  I was, sort of. I was glad Vernon now looked as good on the inside as he did on the outside. I was glad Glenn had been able to visualize this as I had planned it. But I sort of missed the familiar brown look of the wood in there. Sure, the wing windows had leaked and the panels below that had started to separate and looked stained. But I missed (sort of) the SMELL of Vernon - the years of old oil and grease, rotting rubber, damp floorboards, and best of all, the peculiar Volkswagen-only smell. You know of this? Bogart has it too, although he is only 20 years old. Vernon now smells a little like a toy store - all fresh paint and new vinyl. Will that old familiar smell EVER come back? Do I want it to?

There is a happy ending to this story. I now love Vern's new look. I finally came to the realization that when you change something you've lived with for over 20 years, it is bound to be a little bit of a shock at first, no matter how anticipated. I lived with it for a bit, and am now totally satisfied. I took Vern out for the first time since his stitching to drive him in the Los Gatos Christmas Parade last December. All of Vern's club buddies got their first glimpse of him then. Their enthusiasm was contagious. So much so that when we got home I even took the old interior door panels and hung them on a nail above his spot in the garage. I still can't bear to throw them away, but at least they are out of the way and not right where they will remind me of what Vern used to be - a sad old wrecked truck, waiting to die. No, that's not Vernon anymore. He now looks like who he is - a distinguished older gentleman, all dressed up in his Sunday best. He looks clean and shiny and loved. I think I can live with that.

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