Monday, September 26, 2011

Split Seconds Count

So I haven't slept much these past few nights. Keep replaying the early evening of Friday, September 23rd over and over in my head. I was on my way home from a day out with my daughter and her two friends. We'd stopped at the grocery store. I was following a path I follow several times a week - nothing out of the norm. Until a silver SUV came rushing at me from the lane to my left. And everything

from the first time I met Lucy's friend Lauren at a pre-school play group

she still has that same pretty, baby-faced expression at age 13

to the time I realized her friend Sabrina was the daughter of my high school friend Tina

and if you think Tina's gorgeous you have to see this exotic beauty of a baby she had

to the time I laid a little baby Lucy down on a blue towel and realized her eyes reflected color

I started calling her 'Blue' after that, even though her eyes are green most of the time

to the dreams I have for all three of these babies

maybe they'll be roommates in college, maybe they'll be in each other's weddings, maybe they'll visit me in their 30s and give me hugs and treat me like family because we've known each other so long and I wonder if everyone else dreams about other people's children the way I do

all of that and I think every memory or wish I've ever had came screaming into my head all at once. That and the notion that I had zero time to decide how to keep all of us, and whoever was in that SUV, safe.

As I've replayed the flash of those few seconds over and over and over I'm exhausted by the sheer number of thoughts that raced into and out of my consciousness in such a short time. I remember clearly measuring whether I had enough time and space to turn the car into a driveway on my right. I remember deciding it was too dangerous to risk driving across the sidewalk on the off chance someone might be walking by - I had no time to avert my eyes to look. I remember trying to calculate whether it was better to get hit or possibly hit a light pole if I couldn't stop in time. I remember sensing that Lucy was lifting off of her front passenger seat and containing the panic that the babies in the backseat might be lifting too and I couldn't reach them. I remember wondering whether I've done enough good in my life to balance out whatever bad thing was coming my way. And I remember thinking - however irrationally - as I plunged my foot into the brake with all my might that if that fire hydrant didn't stop me dead center it might crush Lucy's feet and she wouldn't be able to dance at her prom.

The hydrant did stop us and all the babies, bumped and shaken, walked away just fine. The young girl - maybe 16 or 17 years old - who'd been driving the SUV was fine too. Now the dull of insurance forms and liability claims plays in parallel to my going through the motions of regular life, interrupted by brief bouts of uncontrollable tears or moments of total numb. I feel I'm actually getting worse, not better, as the days pass. I'm trying every bit I can to be 'normal' while I feel anything but. (No wisecracks please; I still have my sense of humor, however beaten.)

If I regret a million things, and I do, among them it's that I didn't tell Sabrina and Lauren that I love them, adore them, dream for them - even in the tightest of time spaces - I didn't clutch them and apologize fiercely for scaring them or putting them in danger, even though I know it really wasn't my fault. The truth is, that's what's keeping me awake. For all my worrying and fussing and attempts to protect, there I was at the heart of a dangerous situation with these babies in my hands and I had no way to keep them from it. I could only neutralize the danger, as best I could, and hope for the best. And pray for the best. And really, really, know that we weren't in my hands, but in God's.

Knowing that you believe in God and having your beliefs tested are two very different things, in case you didn't know.

Earlier in our day, a woman in the mall parking lot had called my attention - pointing at me and at her eye - indicating I should watch where I was going. I was watching, but she kept doing it even though I acknowledged her, and after she kept at it, I gave her a few choice words to let her know I'd seen her. Nonetheless, for the rest of the day I was somehow heightened in my awareness.

Split seconds I shared with that woman and her admonition. Split seconds I had to veer to the right, slam on the brakes, center the car and call to God to help me save those babies. And man, do those split seconds count.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's a Special-With-An-E Kinda Thing

I have my mom's family picnic today. The Speciale Family. That's actually our name. Special, with an 'e'.

We don't see each other enough any more for reasons too many to share here, and most of them completely innocent at this point. (That's right, I said innocent. They never proved anything.) So once a year we pull ourselves together for a little picnic and enjoy the closeness that you just don't get anywhere else but with your family, no matter how often you do or don't see one another. I particularly enjoy it because it's the one day out of the year when I'm still considered young enough to be a whippersnapper!

It's also predictable. Too much food, lots of trips to the bathroom. And talking. We'll be talking about three things, invariably: how big all the kids have gotten, the Bears and the weather. Since you won't be there and I have to tell someone - allow me to share a little of what I expect on just one of these topics.

It's my luck that it's going to rain on the one day a year we have a family picnic. As such, at least 5 paunchy Italians will be spending the afternoon having this conversation: 'Well, Jo, remember when we were kids it never rained like this here?' 'Oh I know. We never had this rain. We had rain. But not like this.' 'Yeah - Russ - you remember that time it rained at Vicki-boy's party? That was a good rain.' 'No, I don't remember.' 'Yes, you do. You were there. Aunt Gray was wearing an orange blouse.' 'I don't remember.' Yes you do, Russ. You were there. You were five. Or was it Charlene?' ((Char)) 'It wasn't me.' The conversation will loop from there and will include at least 20 minutes on how modern rain is a pox on society and is probably owed to television or the crap we eat.

It'll go along swimmingly unless someone from one of the generations beneath them complains about the rain. Then the conversation will take on an entirely different tone. 'You're complaining about the rain? Hah! In our day, this woulda been nothin'!' 'Yeah. In our day we had picnics in the snow!' 'We didn't care about a little rain. Ma coulda baked a cake in the rain. Without an oven! And we'da had a great time!' 'Yeah, Char, you remember that time we made mud pies and Dad got mad that we tracked mud in the house?' 'No, I don't remember.' 'Yes you do, you were there.' 'No, I don't think so.' 'Of course you do. We made mud pies. Then Dad got mad. You remember?' 'No.' 'You had lost a tooth! If ma hadn't a come out Dad was gonna give it to us... or was it Connie?' 'It wasn't Connie.' This part of the conversation will loop incessantly around Connie, her brother Henry, and how children today are so flimsy even the slightest breeze could knock them over.

I can't wait.