The A & W Rootbeer Factor

We drove up to the A & W Rootbeer restaurant with that goofy caramel colored bear raising a mug of foamy rootbeer float to us. Silence in the car, except Geraldine, our trust worthy white stationwagon with the crusty blue vinyl seats, who whirred, waiting for us. I was so excited I could hardly wait. Dinner at A & W meant rootbeer floats.

How my father and I loved those A & W rootbeer floats! And how my sister hated to ask for things in unfamiliar situations. Every time it seemed as if my older sister Alison had to muster every ounce of human will and pumped up courage to walk up to the door, enter A & W, and order our dinner. It was no small event to anyone in our family, now; even at seven years of age I felt an overwhelming sense of doom the moment we pulled into the parking lot.

Geraldine was now faced head in to a parking space just outside the door. Dad slowly turned his head around. “Ok Alison, it’s your turn. Order 2 cheeseburgers, 2 cheese BLTs, 2 large fries, 2 rootbeer floats, 1 coke and whatever you want to drink.” Silence in the car. I was waiting, Alison was waiting, we were all waiting. We all felt the fear in her inaction.

I stole a peak at Alison. The toes of her shoes faced each other, the tips of her tennies rising one over the other, gently rubbing the end of one, then the other, then over the other again.

Dad didn’t turn around now. “Alison, it’s your turn.” I couldn’t stand it. “I’ll do it!” I piped up. I, too, had that yucky tummy feeling; but I also really wanted that rootbeer float. But I knew deep in my heart I would not be allowed to substitute for my sister. We sat there waiting. We were waiting on her fear.

“I really don’t want to do it do I really have to Pamela said she would why do I have to go I don’t want to.” There. She had said it. It was her scrunched up steady stream of what I’m really trying to say is ‘I can’t do this. It goes against my nature. How can you do this to me, Daddy?’ It was not rebellion, defiance, anger; it was as if going in and ordering from A & W was against the very depths of her soul.

If Dad had turned around at that moment he would have been in big trouble. How can you force a beautiful angel, with sorrowful deep brown eyes and celestial blond hair, to do anything against her will? But Dad was too smart; he stayed turned to the front. Calmly, casually, he eased his arm up along the length of the front seat, as if the whole Hawley family would be just overjoyed to wait a couple hours, perhaps three, for dinner: “Fine. We will wait here until you order. It is your turn. We’ll just wait.” She would slowly open the door, while looking at her feet, chin down. Dad explained in a normal but this-is-not-a-time-to-challenge-Daddy-tone we needed to learn something or other about “being independent, taking initiative” which Alison and I both understood as this was going to happen, like it, or not. My father lovingly pushed us to accept all challenges.

I remember waiting with all my breath sucked in, trying to flatten up against the seat, as if this would save us all, just as Alison and I held our breaths when we went through tunnels in order to save the inhabitants of the car from some unknown, never to be experienced disaster. We all watched her go in there, and somehow, by some miracle, I knew we’d be back at the kitchen table, Dad and I sipping our rootbeer floats, Alison putting mayonnaise on her french fries, and Mom eating her chicken livers on the side.

Alison came out with 2 big white bags with brown and orange lines curling into the A & W insignia. The A & W ordertakers had spared my sister. I was so grateful I could finally relax my lille tensed body into the backseat. And I could have that rootbeer float! Alison didn’t look overjoyed, but I was somewhat relieved.

The restaurant is no longer there, taken over by “Pete’s place.” But I can still vividly picture that goofy bear with his foamy rootbeer float. That rootbeer float symbolizes to me any challenge we may face and the overcoming of fear. It made me realize we don’t need to “wait” or rely on human action, or inaction as a result of destabilizing fear. As I face some of the challenges in my life now, and get that ‘yucky tummy feeling,’ I realize that it’s really the same situation I faced when growing up, just in a different forms. Perhaps I can guess God’s thoughts: “Nope. You still didn’t learn what I wanted you to from this experience. So later on you’re going to be faced with the same challenge, only in a different situation. Because I love you, and I want you to grow. I want you to wait on Me, not on fear.” We don’t escape the situation by refusing to deal with it. Fear is fear, no matter how inconsequential a situation may seem. Fear needs to be faced and replaced with a wholehearted reliance upon God.

Sometimes the human situations we face and the actions we may need to take seem “against the very depths of our soul.” But whether it is a rootbeer float you are seeking or perhaps a more substantial goal, we know that “through God, all things are possible.” If our action is truly something that needs to be accomplished, it can be achieved swiftly and smoothly through understanding based upon God, not fear. We aren’t just relying on human courage to pull us through. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

I think my sister and I feel pretty capable walking into an A & W Rootbeer chain and ordering our food. However, I am still faced with challenges that create that same feeling of fear or inadequacy to meet the task. When I’m faced with challenges now, I like to reflect upon those creamy rootbeer floats. “This A & W rootbeer factor” serves as a reminder to me to rely on God and not be beset by human fear or inaction in reaching the goals in which we are spiritually led. If they are goals and accomplishments in which we are truly guided, then we must strive to replace our fear of a deeper understanding of why we face the situation we are currently in.

(2/93 for Mom’s 50th birthday, we all met in Arizona!)

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