Growing up in Columbus, Ohio during the 1980s some things are just seared into my memory.
I suppose everyone has the same scars that I do.
I say scars not because they are bad memories, not at all.
It’s just that, these things, they mark you.
They don’t hurt, they are just there, always there.
They are not memories.
A memory is something we carry with us.
A scar, these scars, make us what we are.
The define us.
We wouldn’t be ourselves without them.
I remember being a “wee” little boy riding the bus with my Grandmother to the grocery store.
She never drove a car in her entire life, not once.
She would get rides from family at times, but that was not going to stop her from doing what she needed to do.
No way was she going to wait around for someone to “chauffeur” her to the store.
She loved to use that word, “chauffeur.” We had a deal actually, that if I ever hit the lottery, I would buy her a red convertible, with a “chauffeur.” She was a special lady to a lot of people.
She was everything to me.
She was simple and she worked hard.
She played cards hard and she slept sitting straight up in her armchair.
Simplicity and hard work were her best friends.
And she scarred me when she left, but she is with me now.
I will never forget playing in my dads big square, white work truck.
It was huge.
At eight, it was a little boys fantasy.
I felt like a prince riding next to my Dad in that beat up old Sherwin Williams white work truck.
He painted this big old newspaper delivery truck with house paint.
Yes, it was exterior paint, guaranteed for at least 30 years, but not if you put it on a truck.
My Dad was thorough in that way.
He wanted everything to be perfect, no other way to say it.
He wanted everything in order, and if it would hold paint, he painted it.
It was a great way to make things, all types of things, look great and save money.
Money was important to him, really important.
He talked about it all the time.
How much he didn’t have.
How much other people had.
How much he wished he did have, so he could retire.
Eventually, he did retire and turned right around and got another job, within a month.
I don’t think he worked less than 60 or 70 hours a week in his entire life.
Because when he left work, he went to work.
He went to work at his church, taking care of the landscaping.
He would work at home.
He was always visiting someone who was sick in the hospital.
For a while, he even came and worked with me when I had a business.
This man worked himself to death, literally.
When he got laid off from the Timken factory, that’s when he bought that big truck.
I don’t think he even missed a beat.
He was back to work painting houses with his friend Vincent.
I was so young at the time, it seemed like no big deal.
I am sure it was a bigger deal than I thought, but he would never be defeated, never.
He could paint masterfully.
Everyone joked because he would paint an entire room, it would look spectacular, and he wouldn’t have a drop of paint on him.
Oh, and no tape, that’s for amateurs.
He was talented at many things and humble to a fault.
Humbleness, hard work, knowing how to do something, these things my father valued.
These are a few of the things I now value.
And he scarred me when he left, but he is with me now.
Saturday mornings, to this day, all I can think about is music.
I don’t think anyone even touched the stereo during the week.
They were too busy working, but on Saturday?
Saturdays began and ended with music.
Almost every weekend we would wake up early and clean the whole house.
Me, my Mom, and my Dad.
We would crank up the music, sing and dance, and clean.
Nothing happened on Saturday until the house was clean, top to bottom, that was the rule.
I’m talking about mirrors, glass, floors, everything.
Usually, we would be done before lunch and could move on to do other things.
The house was almost always clean with this schedule and no one felt overworked.
Even though I was young, I did my part too.
I would clean my room, or take out the trash, it made me feel good.
With the music and the teamwork, it was a great bonding experience for the whole family.
That tradition has stayed with me my entire life.
It scarred me.
When I was a teenager, I did it, and in college I did it.
Just before sitting down to write this, I did it, but with my Wife and my two sons.
Who I believe find it as intoxicating, and scarring, as I did.
Ok, this time I mean scarring in the literal sense because what kid wants to clean?
Oh, you’re gonna clean, and just like my Dad loved to work 70 hours a week, you are going to enjoy cleaning your room, got it?
That’s when it hit me.
I think I was cleaning the toilet when the thought came to me.
I washed my hands, grabbed my notebook, and jotted down some ideas.
Who would have thought my creative buzzer would go off while cleaning a toilet?
When nature calls what are we to do?
I just let the thought travel unguided, unscripted.
I wish I could have 100 cars.
I love cars.
On those Saturday mornings, that I had no idea would be so dear to me, mostly what I was cleaning up were Hotwheels.
Cars in the living room, in the kitchen, cars everywhere, even in the bathtub.
I loved cars, I still do.
The problem is, I am a simple man.
I could never actually have 100 vehicles.
I will tell you a secret though, shhh.
I have more than 100 Hotwheels.
I have almost every car I have ever wanted, at least in Hotwheel form.
I don’t have to change the oil, I don’t have to buy tires, and I don’t have to build a garage that’s too big to clean.
It’s very efficient, slightly less fun, however.
I got a great deal on some shelf space to store my cars though.
I said it once, I will repeat it. I try to be a humble man, I really don’t want very much.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a natural way of being, not these days at least.
It’s just a piece of wisdom I have picked up along my journey.
Having a lot of wants damages your soul.
Worst of all it dilutes our God-given power, any power for that matter.
For what, things?
Things that are transient by nature and do little but add complexity to our lives.
Not me, I find more value in ideas.
My background is in business, far be it from me to forget that wealth begins with knowledge and ideas.
All useless without a moral compass, compassion, work ethic, and a burning desire.
Whether that desire is to transform a business sector or provide sustenance for your family.
Knowledge is power, power is money, and money is the root of all evil.
It also buys dinner, safety, and freedom, so it’s necessary, but it is a dangerous necessity.
Like carbohydrates, MMMMM, we love them.
They are also the enemy.
Damn you banana bread, you are so gooooood, I just want to eat all of you.
No matter how much I eat of you, I just want more, and more, and more.
Just like money, cut your self a nice slice if you can, maybe even a little butter, then step away.
Idealism, as some might call it, faith to others is most certainly a large part of who I am, but at the end of the day realism usually wins.
Having one hundred houses or cars is not realistic.
It just isn’t sustainable.
One would need an army of people to care for such large collections.
I grew up middle class.
We never lived in some stately house and my mom and I had one car.
A 1988 Toyota Camry, which I took my driver’s test in ten years later.
The house my Mother, Father, and I lived in was the biggest house we ever had.
Only because it was an old house in a neighborhood that was heading south.
For most people the house would have been a nightmare, but not for my Father.
That was his second job when we lived there.
He loved to beautify the world around him by cleaning it, organizing it, painting it, whatever he could do to make it perfect.
Eventually, the house was perfect, but the marriage was not.
My father’s constant working and inability to stop and smell the roses was one of the straws that broke the camels back.
My mother and I moved out in 1990 when I was 10 years old.
When things get too big to manage, they fail.
Maybe they don’t disassemble themselves completely the way that my family did, but they don’t thrive either.
Sadly, if something isn’t thriving, it is dying.
As long as I am able to clean up after myself, I know I’m safe.
I know that as soon as my house is too big to clean, I am in danger.
In danger of losing sight of what is essential, or at risk of not hearing my family when they call.
So much s***, and so little substance.
Having a hundred cars won’t improve you, it will diminish you.
Having a hundred homes will only ensure that you have no home.
Responsibilities that overwhelm the senses and poison the body, will not improve you, they will cannibalize you.
Pain and yearning will be your best friends, and repose will be your paramour.
YOU ARE MY SHELTER
May my roof be large enough to keep out the elements but let that space be small enough to feel the warmth of another body.
I don’t want the warmth of my home to be dependent on some contraption.
I want the heat in my house to be fed by the warmness of the hearts.
We keep each other warm, we hold each other safe, we keep each other fed, emotionally, spiritually.
When we warm the stove, it heats the whole house, and when we share a meal, we share life.
When we experience life, we can never feel cold.
Aaron L. Carroll
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Photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot