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Green Dinosaurs

by Erin Lucas 11 months ago in Fable
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Brontosaurus or Apatosaurus?

My mom and I chased down Sinclair gas stations like an orgastic beacon of light.

Not sure if you’ve ever been to one, so allow me to paint you a slight word picture. Their company colors are the kind of classic Christmas you see on the Tabasco sauce and Hormel chili logos. Their company mascot is a green Brontosaurus named DINO - and all of these facts are some of Mama’s favorite things in life.

Sinclairs come in various styles of convenience, depending where you are in the country. Some of them are trucker delights, places with enormous, smoothly paved lots where the long-haul folk can get a decent rest. Some of them are more for memorabilia than anything else; remnants of the past with analog pumps that still function and create congenial tourist traps.

The kind of Sinclairs we frequented were off the beaten path of the Route 66 nostalgia pilgrims. We found ones with gravel parking lots. We found the Sinclairs with a single stall bathroom on the outside of the building, somewhere on the periphery of the gas station.

Fair warning for those who’ve never visited an outside-restroom-Sinclairs: You need to go inside to get a key for entrance. The gatekeeper behind the counter will be an amalgamation of apathetic individuals with names like Jed. They’ll ask if you’re going to buy something. I suggest you respond by gesturing to your mom who’s hitting on the man by the pumps, in hopes he’ll fund the next leg of your voyage. It’s a trick of the trade. Jed won’t make you buy anything. Instead, he'll hand you a giant block of wood with a frayed string and a Schlage key dangling from its end as your ticket to enter.

I loved nothing more than seeing that green dinosaur reflecting the beauty of sanctuary from the side of a shoulderless farm-to-market stretch of road. Mama and I liked seeing that shining green DINO for different reasons.

I knew I’d have a chance to stop, piss, wash my face and hands, brush my teeth, have a moment of humanity, a moment of quiet. I savored the moments she found one and pulled over. It was an opportunity to mosey about my way, even just for a bit. A moment of reprieve, of my own presence. One where I found trees I could lay and stretch my legs and lungs at the roots of - grand, living things that have survived so much more than this, than me, than moment.

Mama had a knack for finding a Sinclairs during what I like to call vanilla-sky time. It’s the same time that’s absolutely perfect for lying under trees as the sun sets. I was able to find a routine there, then. A routine of watching the leaves dance, various forms of green dinosaurs, of ancestors, of things before, filtering the light of the sun and moon at once with a green lens of love.

I performed my Sinclairs ritual while she satisfied her needs, and our need for money. Mama loved nothing more than finding that green dinosaur, that beacon, and savored the moments she found one and could pull over.

She loved a Sinclairs. Every time we would pull out of the rocky lot, she would repeat her mantra “great signage.”

Some may not understand the simple pleasure, privilege of the opportunity to wash your face and stretch your limbs under the vanilla-sky time leaves. But I promise you, when you're a kid like me, with a mama like mine, these moments of thriving are more than what you now see as mere surviving. As a poor kid, you survive all the things, all the time. You survive all the moves, new schools, moments, hunger, shame and shuffling around because that’s what it is to be poor. But, if you’re smart, like me and Mama, you'll always find a green light.

Mama managed to find Sinclairs during what I like to call vanilla-sky time, the same divine time where you can experience heaven on earth as you lie underneath trees, the sun sets, you watch the leaves perform their ballet, various forms of green Jurassic, of the ancient, creating the gel of the sun and moon at once, filling the stage lights with a color correction of emerald green love.

I was always grateful for those moments. I hustled for those moments and I learned hustle from her. I learned the importance of a cold call, while looking for the beacon of that green dinosaur, for the colors of Christmas.

As I grew older, up, away from Mama, I wanted a tree, a vanilla-sky sunset, and the beams of light that shine through leaves at that particular moment when the moon rises and the sun is still up and everything all at once peers through the pastoral for myself, for me.

I found ways to use my skills, learned from Mama, and the resourceful hope of the green light to make a different way for myself. Mama didn’t really like that. I think it took some of the magic of the Sinclairs away from her. I couldn’t tell you what it was that changed in me or changed with us. One day it just happened, I knew my green light was different. I didn’t want to chase dinosaurs anymore. I wanted to plant trees.

Many years, lives later, I find myself lying in my backyard, looking up through the green beams of vanilla-sky leaves and giggling with childlike love at the question: “Is that the beacon of a Sinclair, or is it the light from the sun and moon hitting the leaves of my tree making a green DINO?”

I finish my giggling, give a deep stretch to my legs and lungs while lying on the roots of the grand, living thing in my backyard. The one that has survived so much more than this, than me, than moment.

I have another thought: “Congratulations on finding your green dinosaur, my love.”

Fable

About the author

Erin Lucas

she/her

Multimedia Creator, Writer, Educator, Nonprofit Organizer

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