We were driving home after picking Sean up from a late night at the office. The streets were dark, the slick, wet pavement reflecting blinding swaths from the streetlights. There was a sinister element to the night, the headlights of passing cars more intense than normal, the splashes from puddles struck the outsides of the car like violent tears. I turned quickly down a side street, “Let’s drive past Briar’s school,” I chirped.
The girls sat in back, kicking and chattering to Fin’s amusement. Sean was beside me, burned out from a day of too many deadlines and too few hours. I turned down another street, driving absentmindedly, pulled by something. I wondered for a moment if something dangerous lay in store on the main road. Sean asked the girls about their day.
“Did you do a project with mom?” he asked turning to look at them.
“Uh-huh,” Briar nodded with her eyes squeezed shut and smiled.
I stopped at an intersection and then continued, the front of the car slicing through the night.
“And we did a holiday project. We did it and you can do it too!” Avery exclaimed.
“I can? Is that ok, mom?” Sean asked with a glimmer in his eye.
I’d been rushing lately, my mind unable to settle on anything for more than a moment. The accumulation of worries— money, time and responsibility coupled with the exhaustion of tending to three different little people in the night were catching up. Facing the mirror each morning revealed a more hollow face, dark circles and fatigue that take more than one night to shoo.
“Mom?” Briar asked. “Can we do that at home?”
I nodded. “Of course we can.” They began to clamor about the how’s, what’s and where’s of the things we’d do. I smiled. The sounds of my family gently tapping and twirling my worries away. We moved through the night, the familiar road ahead and the markers of home on either side of the car. I rolled toward a stop sign, braking early to prevent the backseat directives. I was nearing the sign when a pick-up truck came from the other direction.
The large tires threw a huge wake as they turned, I braced for a skid or large splash, but before I knew it the truck had raced through the intersection at a speed easily twice the speed limit. The brake lights never flashed as the truck sped into the night. My foot pressed hard on the brake, my heart slammed against my chest and I felt the sensation of losing all strength in my legs.I began to gasp as my eyes tracked back to where the truck had come from. It was to my right.
It was their side of the car. My mind raced, I struggled to understand what had happened. The truck would have hit us. It would have hit them.
“Are you ok?” Sean asked, his eyes shifting from me to the disappearing truck.
“I…that truck, I just…it would have hit us. Killed us.” I stammered.
He paused, looked around and said softly, “Three of us. It would have killed three of us.”
I was angry. Angry at the truck and angry at myself. Why on earth did I go a different route? What made me think that I had turned off the main road in some prescient act of protecting my family? I began to shake and the image of the truck sailing through the stop sign played over and over again in my head. Sean touched my hand, which pulled me out of it.
I started again toward home. The sounds of my life began again, the girls squealing and giggling as Sean talked to them.
“Ya gotta be silly in the house, ok daddy?” Avery commanded.
“And ya gotta turn me upside down like you dooded last night, ok?” Briar countered.
Pulling into the driveway it occurred to me that I was meant to turn down that road. I was meant to be at that intersection at that precise moment in time. It was a hell of a wake up call, a forcible Are you listening? I have been going too fast, too concerned with all there is to worry about and not nearly aware enough about the blessings.
I have three precious daughters. They wake me in the night and demand more of me than anyone or anything ever has. I have a husband who worships me and is a partner in this sprinting marathon of parenting. I have a life and routine, that though challenging, are beautiful. I am tired, but I am tired from loving and being loved. I just need to slow down.
Thanks to a blur of truck and rainwater on a dark November night, I am slowing down. I am slurping hot cocoa and ice cubes through a straw and smooshing peanut butter and honey through wheat bread on my lunch hour. I am dancing and cuddling, giggling and conspiring.
I am living.