When tail lights started lighting up in front of my car and traffic came to a stand still, I got annoyed. “STOP GAWKING, and GET MOVING!” I said, to no one. It had been one of those- “re-entry” days. You know, when you’re catapulted from the fun of vacation back into the orbit of your life and things get heated up, FAST. Friction + speed (always) = HEAT. My heat just happened to be in the form of attitude.
My husband had left for a quick business trip- and before he had landed at his destination, we’d already blown a fuse (of course the one with the freezer and camper- which I was TRYING to clean out at the time..) and had several games of “How many neighbor kids can my kid bring in the house” claiming “rain” because someone had spit into the wind.
When traffic had slowed to a stand still then crawl, I had escaped the heat and the kids by declaring an emergency trip to the grocery store. (A mom’s way of spitting into the wind and claiming rain, I suppose…)
I saw the empty infant car seat on the embankment, first. ( Funny how that caught my eye before the police cars and ambulance lights, did. I am a hard core mom. ) My heart skipped a beat. Then I noticed a mom holding the tiny one in her arms, with a preschooler sitting along side her, wrapped in blanket to ward off the drizzle that had started to fall. A toddler held onto the leg of her shorts, somehow, knowing that now wasn’t a time to wander. Their crushed minivan had become a modern art installment, in the foreground of the scene.
The good news is; it looked like everyone was alright.
Suddenly, my annoying day didn’t seem so bad. I had once been a mom with kids at the side of the road after a wreck, it’s not something you forget. Seeing her there- caused a moment of Post Traumatic Mommy Stress Disorder- a disorder that makes you re-experience those panicked moments of mothering as if they are happening RIGHT NOW.
Being that mom, feels a little like this: You don’t want to cry and scare the kids.. but you desperately WANT to cry because YOU are scared. You are glad everyone seems ok.. but wonder if they really are. You feel the stares of gawkers and worry if the auto pay for your insurance went through without bouncing that month. You wish the insurance and other information wasn’t stuck to the bottom of your diaper bag with dried applejuice, but are glad it holds it in place like a post it note. You hope it wasn’t your fault- even if you know it wasn’t. You desperately try to comfort and keep your kids happy and busy while standing surrounded by more EMT’s, fire trucks, tow trucks and more police officers than you’ve ever seen in your life. Part of you wants to go give the other driver a smackdown and scream- “I HAD KIDS IN THAT MINIVAN! YOU COULD HAVE KILLED US! ” Another part reminds you that assault could get you tossed in jail.
As my car crawled by, I wished I could help. “Why can’t I?” I wondered..”Because you’re not a Police officer or insurance agent” I argued with myself: “Better yet, I’m a mom, I know moms. What would I need if that was me???” I immediately had a list. I ran into Target and grabbed a cute dinosaur tote and stuffed it with finds from the bargain spot.. some crayons and paper a few board books and plastic sea creatures, goldfish crackers and milano cookies, glow bracelets an umbrella and a few bottles of water. Things I’d wished I’d had, while I was standing on the side of the road waiting. It wouldn’t fix the minivan.. but maybe it could help them cope.
I felt the crangsty (new work- cranky and angsty) attitude I’d had all day melting away as I gathered things to try and help. Maybe it was stepping outside of my own day and considering how someone else felt that did it..I’m not sure…But, I felt like a rescue worker of the mom-sort. Maybe I couldn’t catch up my laundry or fix a blown fuse.. but I could do this!
I navigated my car back to where the accident had happened- but the mom and kids were gone. Just a few police officers with brooms remained, along with DTE workers who were fixing a pole that one of the cars involved had collided with. “What a waste” I thought to myself, eyeballing the green tote on the passenger seat.
“Was it?’ said that still small voice in my head, that may sound like mine, but is wiser. I thought about how I had felt when I’d escaped to the car. I’d felt overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated. Now, I felt… well… better. I had a broader perspective on my day. It wasn’t THAT bad. Besides- I had TRIED to help. I did what I could, I tried.
Sometimes, that makes all the difference.. if only, IN ME.
Today- if you get a chance to try and help… I hope you take it– even if the only one helped is YOU– it’s worth it!
(PS I’m keeping that goodie bag in my truck.. I’m sure I’ll have a chance to use it, maybe just as goodies for a cranky preschooler at the park!)
Dear Lord- I pray that you’d be with those people in the accident yesterday.. They are most likely sore and tired today- at least- I pray that you’d work out the details of insurance and transportation and health for them all.. I love you Lord and thank you for the opportunity to TRY to help!