Today was the last day of school and in my mailbox I found a little homemade gift from Kelly Woody who is retiring this year. The tag said, “I will miss you next year. Have a great summer.” It was something in a little ramekin dish that looked like divinity candy, you know that delicious stuff that people make at Christmas time. I thought, “Oh how nice, a little something sweet for a snack later.” Along about 10:30 I thought that I could use a bite of something sweet so I opened the wrapper and grabbed one of the pieces. It was not until I bit into it that I noticed…it smelled of perfume and it tasted terrible! I looked at the tag on the wrapper, turned it over, and on the back it said, “Drop in a warm bath.” Whoops. On a positive note, my breath is now effervescent and smells like Lily of the Valley….Thanks Kelly, I will miss you too.
I was about two years old in this picture. We were in Grey Eagle, Minnesota…population 348. Every summer my entire family rented a row of cottages by Big Birch Lake and spent our vacation there. It was 1960 and color photography was not yet affordable for the average joe, the women wore bathing caps to prevent their hairsprayed bouffants from becoming a sopping rat’s nest and these blow-up rafts were all the rage. After my Dad caught his breath from blowing up assorted rafts and beach balls, he grabbed the old Brownie camera and headed for the dock to get some snapshots of our crew. He caught this one of me in my natural state, which would be ‘dorkiness’ and there’s my mom in her natural state which would be…well…’Virginia,’ as she is her own creature and cannot be labeled. Those of you who know her will understand.
Soon after this photo was snapped. I fell off the raft with my usual flair. What followed is actually my first memory. I remember being under the water, but I wasn’t scared at all. I didn’t try to swim or make my way up for air. I was mesmerized by the feeling of floating and being weightless and it was so tranquil under there…quiet and the water was so clear…the most exquisite color of green. There were shafts of sunlight shining through the water that made the experience even more ethereal. I remember seeing bubbles and little minnow fish. I felt so serene and peaceful. I probably would have just stayed under there and drown because it was like heaven, floating… in this enchanted beautiful place. Fortunately my Dad was able to retrieve me unharmed. I am told he caught me by the heel of my foot as I was sinking and pulled me out. I don’t remember it or being on the raft in the first place, just that captivating celestial underwater world. The memory is still just a vivid today as the day it happened.
I have been trying for years to get back to the state of mind I was in when I was two years old and fell off that raft. I once had a nun tell me that her life was much happier and went much smoother when she didn’t try to ‘fight nature’ as she put it. Because when she did it created turbulence in her mind, pain in her heart and all around misery. I have never forgotten that conversation and still continue to work towards being able to receive with open arms what happens to me, finding the beauty in every experience that comes my way, and accepting ‘what is.’ It sounds so easy, but it’s so hard to do, still it does not stop me from trying….in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
After hearing of the close call with my car the other day my friend Rita reminded me of another ‘adventure’ I had in a vehicle back in ’79.
We all shared an apartment and our roommate Chris was hosting a baby shower on this particular day. At the last minute the realization hit us that we had no ice which was totally unacceptable because a person needs ice when making margaritas and a huge tub of Sangria. The guests were due any minute so I offered to run to Green Hills to fetch the ice. Chris’ car was parked behind mine and she didn’t want waste the time it would take for us to play musical cars. “Just take mine,” she said and threw me the keys. That was the last time she saw her car, shall we say…intact.
I sped off like the wind in the super cute orange Volkswagen Beetle that was my friend’s pride and joy. I zipped through the grocery line without a hitch and left toting three bags of ice. I jumped back in the bug a headed for home. Making good time now, I pulled out onto the Belt Hwy and was maneuvering through the Saturday traffic on my way back to our apartment when I noticed a car load of people my age waving at me. I didn’t recognize them, but waved back smiling. Just a few seconds later another driver honked and waved at me. They were saying something, but I couldn’t hear because I was grooving to the Beach Boys on the radio. I thought, “Boy people sure are friendly today.” It was when yet another car pulled beside me in the turn lane that I started to think something strange was going on. This time a passenger was hanging out the back window frantically waving their arms and pointing at the back of my car yelling something I couldn’t understand. That was about the same time I saw the firetruck. It was pulling up beside me on the opposite side and they were all yelling STOP, STOP!
I stopped the car right in the middle of the road per the firemen’s impassioned commands and only then did I happen to glance in the rear view mirror and see that the entire back end of my friends’ beloved Volkwagen Beetle was ablaze. Big flames, not just a little smoke, but leaping, jumping, roaring flames. Apparently someone in Kmart had seen me driving past and wisely called 911 to report that some totally oblivious donkey was driving down the Belt Hwy with flames shooting out the back of her car and needed to be stopped before she blew herself up along with anyone else in the general vicinity.
The next thing I knew there was a fireman yanking open the driver’s side door and pulling me out of the car. He took me to the side of the road to safety while his fireman brothers tried to salvage what was left of my friend’s car. One moment I’m cruising along singing “I Get Around” and enjoying my popularity, the next I’m sitting on the side of the road sobbing because I incinerated my friend’s car and was pretty sure that she would want to kill me.
The rest is a blur. Somehow I managed to make a phone call to the house to tell Chris that I might be a little late with the ice and….”Oh yeah, your car is sitting in the middle of the Belt Hwy smoldering…burnt to a crisp.”
I felt horrible. Someone came to get me, I don’t remember who, and I was so sure that Chris would hate me, but she was only concerned for my safety and joked that she was glad it happened to me and not to her. The night before before she had driven to a party out in the country somewhere. She said if the engine had caught fire just 12 hours earlier she would have been in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night all alone. So it was lucky that it happened to me instead during the daytime and two blocks from a fire station.
So you see I was doing good deeds even back then, and for this reason I will say; if sometime in the future you need your car reduced to ashes, I’m the gal for the job. Just throw me those keys.
On the way home from work last night I kept hearing a scraping sound under my car. I assumed it was a branch or something that I ran over in the driveway since I do that a lot, and figured it would come loose eventually without my having to intercede and actually get out of the car and look or something.
The sound continued to escalate until it was impossible to ignore so I pulled over and looked. There was some black plastic thing hanging down that I couldn’t make stay back up and I couldn’t pull off, so I got back in the car and continued on towards home dragging this thing on the pavement the whole way.
It made a horrible racket, which was really embarrassing, so I slumped down in my seat and tried to be as inconspicuous as a person can be when they are dragging something under their car that sounds like it could be a dead body. I tried my best to ignore the stares of people on the street who, after hearing the hideous noise, turned to see what the heck was going on, only to see a black Toyota RAV4 dragging what appears to be, half it’s undercarriage, along the road with an anxiety-ridden brunette at the wheel.
There were also the attempts of well meaning fellow drivers that were trying to alert me of my predicament. I just waved and nodded and then slumped down even further in my seat to try and avoid eye contact. It was also very nice of the policeman who followed me home and into my driveway to inform me, like I didn’t already know, that I had a problem.
As it turns out, the plastic thing was the cover over my gas tank which popped off because the metal straps that hold the gas tank onto the car had rusted through and broken. My mechanic said he was amazed that it hadn’t fallen off completely. By the time I got it to him this afternoon, there was only one old rusty strap that was holding my gas tank, quite precariously, to the rest of the car. Apparently I came very close to dragging my gas tank along the pavement at 60 miles an hour and exiting this world in a fiery explosion.
He just called and said it’s fixed and that he would be willing to leave his Lion’s Club coffee klatch a little early tomorrow morning so I could pick it up on my way to school. I really do lead a charmed life sometimes….as many times as I’ve had these kinds of ‘adventures’ I really should be dead. I must still be here for a reason which could be just to serve as a warning to others, but you will have to admit, I do it with gusto.