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Faith in Vermont: Riding in the Death Star

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Posted on February 27, 2018 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



“I bought us a truck,” my husband announced one night as he walked into the house after a day at the office.

My daughters reacted to the news as if we’d just announced a candy-only dinner, a week off of school, and a trip to the beach, combined: a squealing, jumping, hands-in-the-air impromptu dance party. The first two questions they articulated were:

“What color is it?” and, “Can we ride in the back?”

“It’s black,” he answered. “We’ll call it the Death Star.”

Just like that, we became the owners of a pickup truck.

While the speed with which my husband executed his purchase was a tad surprising, I was not blindsided: For the past six months, while he was undergoing a tenure review at Middlebury College, my husband had been saying, “If I get tenure, I think I’ll buy a truck.”

In late January, he was informed that Middlebury College had granted him tenure.

Explaining tenure to someone who doesn’t work in the academic world feels a little bit like trying to explain early American courtship rituals to modern teenagers; tenure can seem outdated and restrictive in this day and age when people change jobs as frequently as they update their smartphones.

The essence of tenure is: job security, for life.

We had an interesting dinnertime conversation when we tried to explain tenure to our daughters.

“Wait, so if you have tenure they can’t ever fire you?” they asked.

“Well, not unless I do something really, really bad,” my husband replied.

This was intriguing. “Like what?” one daughter asked, eyes narrowed.

I jumped in to help: “Like, if Daddy killed a student in the middle of class.”

Overlapping with his own scenario, my husband said, “Like, if I married a student.”

I looked at him skeptically. While I’d certainly like to believe that a professor-student relationship would be a fire-able offense, my gut response was, “Um, I’m not even sure that would get you fired after tenure.”

In any event, receiving tenure was a big relief, especially since being denied tenure is tantamount to saying: You need to find another job.

And after seven years of hard work towards tenure, my husband had certainly earned the right to buy a pickup truck should he so desire.

Truth be told, I bear some responsibility for his desire: The pickup truck itch struck me first. There’s nothing quite like trying to start gardens from scratch to convince a person that a pickup truck would be helpful. The first time I needed a yard of topsoil to create garden beds, I borrowed a kind friend’s small pickup truck for a morning. After two trips back-and-forth to the store’s yard, frantically shoveling out the dirt onto a tarp in between, and trying to hose out the filthy truck bed as best I could, I resigned myself to paying the delivery fee the next year.

But I started dreaming of a pickup truck of our very own. “It might really come in handy,” I told my husband, while cute visions danced in my head of myself dressed in jeans, flannel, and boots, tossing bales of hay into my truck’s spacious bed before hopping nimbly into the cab.

The delivery fees for soil and mulch added up. When animals joined our gardens, I began regularly loading 50-pound bags of feed, gravel, and shavings into the back of our minivan, while my husband cautioned me repeatedly not to overload and break the suspension. Around this same time, my husband started building things – a tree house, basement shelves, a chicken tractor, furniture – that required lots of large lumber. Slowly but surely, he caught on to the logic of my dream.

Add a dash of job security, and the dream became a reality.

The reality is a little larger than I’d expected: While both of us craved the practical utility of a truck bed, my husband also wanted to be able to fit our entire family into the truck cab. For those who’ve lost count, that’s six people. After doing research of both the online and the talking-to-people variety, my husband settled on a Toyota Tundra.

It is huge. There is no hopping nimbly into the truck cab for me; in the absence of a mounting block, I hoist myself up awkwardly by the door handle and seat cushion. It’s only a matter of time before I pull a muscle.

Parking presents a whole other challenge: The truck is just barely able to squeeze into a normal parking space, so attempting to park between two other parked cars becomes a heart-stopping exercise; only once have I managed it in the three weeks that we’ve owned the truck.

None of this bothers our daughters; they want to take the truck everywhere – to preschool, to the store, to church, and even – despite that fact that this vehicle gets about 10 miles to the gallon of gasoline – on our annual summer trip to Maine.

But most of all, they want to ride in the back. And because we have a ¼-mile-long driveway, they occasionally get their wish. While my husband drives about 2 miles an hour, all four of them stand in the bed of the truck whooping and hollering up and down our driveway, as if to say, “We’re home, we have job security, and we’re here to stay!”

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, four daughters, assorted chickens and ducks, and one anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her "free time," she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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