But take a closer look. Notice the hood ornament. Clawing her way toward the Mini symbol was a mini-voluptuous nude with flaming red hair flying back from her head as if blown by the wind. Rebecca sculpted the nude from clay and had it cast in black metal, then bolted it to the hood. The nude’s arm is raised, and her fist is threaded so Rebecca can screw in different items for her to hold. This weekend it was a winged dragon.
“Nice car,” I said to Doug.
“This one’s mine,” he said. “Rebecca drives the Meow Mobile.” He whipped out his phone and showed me a picture.
The Meow Mobile is a Saab Rebecca bought new sixteen years ago and almost immediately began gluing things to it—all sorts of things. Toys, Homer Simpson, Frankenstein, and Einstein figurines. Zombies, pterodactyls, and a Mr. Potato Head dressed as Darth Vader. Nemo, Simba, Barney, Bugs Bunny, Princess Leia, and a rubber ducky. In fact, if it weren’t for the windows, one might not recognize the vehicle as a Saab. There’s barely an inch of original paint exposed.
“Helps me find my car in a crowded parking lot,” Rebecca says joyfully.
A cop once stopped her just to take a picture of the car to show to his young son. In New Hampshire an officer detained her for 45 minutes trying to find an infraction to charge her with. But the Saab is perfectly legal and had just passed inspection in Massachusetts, where Rebecca and Doug live.
Sounds like a perfect ride for a weekend in a treehouse. Doug, however, not sure how Vermonters would respond to Rebecca’s adornments, decided they’d come incognito this time—except for the Mini's hood ornament, which Doug admits he likes. He’s an attorney who after two decades of marriage still seems astonished by his wife’s creativity—and still seems deeply in love with her.
The cars, however, are small projects compared with their house outside Boston. It’s a lovely Victorian that Rebecca had painted a boysenberry color (she doesn’t like white). Doug told me that the Boston Globe had done a story on the house, and I found the article online. Inside, the walls are emblazoned with characters from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and lots of red and gold patterns influenced by the paintings of Gustave Klimt. The toilet tank in her sons’ bathroom is a glass fish tank swimming with live fish. A screen keeps the fish from getting flushed.
The guest room walls are painted with murals to look like a jungle, and a life-size stuffed toy lion perches on the canopy bed. There are stained glass designs on windows and doors, trompe l’oeil paintings, and hand-painted leopard spots on the wall of a small office. There’s even a whimsical tree house out back. All of it was fashioned by Rebecca, usually in the middle of the night.
Obviously she doesn’t sleep much.
Doug is a laid-back fellow who just shrugs when asked about his home and auto decoration.
“We met on a blind date,” Rebecca says, grinning at her husband. “Things clicked.”
They bought the house together, had a son, got married, and had another son. They left the teenage sons at home this weekend for a romantic retreat.
“We don’t do things in the normal order,” Doug says quietly. It didn’t look to me like they did much in the normal order. They’re the type of folks who’ll choose a treehouse for a weekend getaway. And we loved having these bright, creative folks spend some time with us.
Most of the time they hung out in the treehouse reading or resting, only boarding the mini to go out to dinner. Rebecca said she couldn’t remember when she’d slept so well. Being surrounded by nature does that to folks.
H and I were both sad to see Sunday arrive when we had to say goodbye to this vibrant couple. But they left us a couple of important lessons. One is that people are going to judge you no matter what you do, so why not do whatever calls to you—like glue toys to your car and paint your house any darn way you want. The second lesson, even more important, is that life is short—we might as well make it fun.