The Not Really So Horrible Very Bad Day

This is an old post about a day we had about seven years ago. I’ve made a couple changes and polished it up a bit for reposting.

We lived 45 minutes from town, so I always tried to combine doctor and dental appointments and any other ‘in town’ activities with every errand we might need to run for the week. This is the account of one of those days.

Three kids had dental exams, so it was also library day, and grocery store day, and thrift shop day, and this time it was also birthday shopping day and bank day. We should have known it was not a safe day for us to be out when our first errand, the dentist, resulted in one child needing a baby tooth pulled because it had wedged itself solidly against the permanent tooth and wouldn’t move. Very bloody. There was a great deal of trauma, distress, and squealing.

I think the child was also pretty unhappy about it all.

We didn’t get all our errands done, which I hate, and I couldn’t find what I wanted for our Cherub’s birthday (which would be the following day) which is a pain because it’s very, very, very hard to find presents for her.

She plays with nothing and likes nothing but eating and pestering her sisters and coloring. Okay, she likes music, too, and turning pages in a book (it does not matter what the book is, because she won’t look at it. She just turns the pages). Do you know how many crayons and coloring books she’s had in her life? All I wanted was a jack in the box, but every store I went to was sold out.

She soaked, and I mean soaked, herself to the point that I had to just buy her a new outfit, which is never easy because she’s such a funny shape. Imagine a child’s pair of pants, size 8, stretchy material, and an adult woman’s medium t-shirt. Almost a
perfect fit- the only place it’s not perfect is the shoulders, which are just a teeny bit too wide for her. But otherwise, an adorable outfit. Fortunately we were in the Big Lots parking lot, so pants, shirt, and underwear were 13.00. I was so grateful that she did not have her little episode outside of Nordstroms or something. Of course, we’d have to BE outside of Norstroms for that to happen, and that’s a highly unlikely event.

Then a stranger stopped to tell me we were losing our tail pipe, and the then 11 year old Pip said, “Oh, that’s the noise I heard!” I pulled into a parking lot to fix it and had nothing but the flowery sash to a child’s drawstring purse, so I tried to tie it up and thought I did fine, when a man from the business which owned the parking lot I used came out with a clothes hanger, shaking his head and saying, “That’s never gonna hold,” and he fixed it- which was lovely. I was so grateful (the next day) to that stranger and business owner who were such a blessing on a very frustrating day.

We went into the natural foods store to eat at the salad bar, and a sad young punk fascinated us all by walking in holding a very bloody t-shirt to his face. He had been wearing the t-shirt, but the fact that he was in our salad bar area naked from the waist up (and did I mention he was a punk? Because we could see most of his boxers, too) wasn’t that significant because he was a bloody mess. And I am not swearing in British.

He wanted ice for a gash just above his eye and through his eye brow, at least three inches long and very deep. It was a skate boarding accident. I was not thinking clearly, and didn’t do anything but sit and look at him and think, “oh, his poor mother.” I’m still regretting not walking up to him and gently telling him, “Son, this eye really needs stitches, bad.” I was too stunned, and then he left. I looked for him a few minutes later, but he wasn’t in sight, and I heard two friends of his talking, and it sounded like he wasn’t planning on getting treatment. I wish I had thought quicker and offered to take him myself. He really _needed_ stitches. I still regret that I did not think or act quickly enough to help himold. I prayed for him, but I wish I had helped more. That was an opportunity lost.

At one of our last stops only the firstborn needed to go in so the rest of us sat in the van and I read aloud The Owl and the Pussycat, twice, and the sixth child cried because she was cranky, and the seventh child whined because he was cranky, (they were, I think, about 4 and 2 at the time) and the children were all so tightly packed in with groceries and books that nobody could move, and I started soothing them with words of understanding and sympathy, “Poor babies, they need to be hugged, and cuddled, and read to and sung to and played with and they need-”
“-to be hit on the heads with a mallet” my saucy, but really tender hearted Equuschick broke in.

We let the little ones take off their shoes and socks and we sang “If you’re happy and you know it wiggle your toes” and they were happy for a few minutes, but then their feet were cold (we told them this would happen), and we sang fisherman songs at the Boy’s request and then we started home. Finally.

And on the way home, late at night (we left home at 10:30 a.m. and it was now 8:30 p.m.), The Cherub was getting a rare treat of riding in the front seat for the last time ever for the rest of my life and hers, although we did not then know it was such a momentous occasion.

The reason why this was her last chance to ride in the front seat, ever, for the rest of her life or mine, is because suddenly the dome light came on and we realized that she had opened the door (something she has never been able to do before) of our moving van.

Did I mention we were on the highway? Did I mention that we were on a highway going 70 mph? Well, we were. Yes. It was all that you are imagining and then some.

So, I pulled over instantly, with great presence of mind (if I do say so myself, and look! I just did) putting on the emergency blinkers, grabbing the Cherub’s arm so she couldn’t go anywhere (although she was well buckled in and I didn’t *think* she could unbuckle it, five minutes previously I would have bet money that she could not open the car door), gently applying the brakes so we came to a safe stop while carefully steering so that we parked in a safe place at the side of the road- and I took these calm, correct, emergency measures all at the same time- but while my body was acting rationally and calmly, my mouth was in full panic mode and I could hear a disembodied voice that, oddly, belonged to me, and that voice was wildly screaming something about “never, never, never, never, never, no never, not ever, never, do you hear me?? never, never, never do that!”

Why is it that parents tend to ask “Do you hear me?” in tones that could be heard across three counties and picked up in outer space by a minor satellite?  Asking for a friend.

As we came to a complete and final stop, I reached across and slammed the door shut and turned the van key off in one fluid motion. Do not ask me how (and I think I was still yelling ‘never, never, never, never, never’).

I then began the emergency attempt to get her out of the front seat and over the groceries between us and into the backseat, because I was not driving so much as a city block with her in the front seat again. The oldest two girls were helping me try to get the Cherub to shift- and she looks small and weak and frail, but when she doesn’t want to move, she goes all floppy and does the civil disobedience thing. She would NOT lift her feet to step over the groceries and we did not want her feet in them (picky of us, I know, but there were eggs in the bags, and no, it did not occur to anybody to move them), and I am still talking, well, rather LOUDLY about what she just did, and that same 11 year old from before quietly and curiously inquired from the back of the van “Why don’t you just open the door and take her out the usual way, since we’re not moving anymore?”

And I and my two oldest children looked at each other in astonishment that we did not think of this. So we quietly shifted the Cherub from front to back in a civilized fashion, by opening the door like civilized people and having her climb out the front door and into the van through the side door.

It dawned on me that Cherub was looking at me like I’d lost my mind (because….. yes. I had), and she looked a little afraid. I am sorry. I do not want her to be afraid of me, but I do want her to be afraid to open the door in a moving vehicle. I was feeling very embarrassed and ashamed of myself, but when we put her in the back seat and her oldest sister got in front and we started driving, she started giggling, and giggling some more, and cracking up- the way you do when something ridiculous has just happened, or you’ve just put something over on your family and you can’t stop thinking about the hilarious looks on their faces, and she laughed harder and merrier pretty much all the way home- she was _very_ pleased with herself. And utterly out of my reach (and yes, years later, parts of this are really very funny).

But this is now. That was then. And I wasn’t having any fun. At all. I’d hurt my knee somehow and it was throbbing. My back has been nearly a lifelong enemy of mine, and it was cripplingly painful at that moment, and I wasn’t done driving home. And another old problem was troubling me so I could hardly lift one foot to the gas pedal without pain.

Okay, I exaggerate by understating the issue. I could not even come close to moving my leg without agony. I would learn- a few minutes after we arrived home- that I could, in fact, hardly walk.

When we did arrive home and I got out of the van, I could only move by shuffling like a little old lady from the van to the couch- I could not actually lift my feet.

Meanwhile, we had another 20 minutes of driving, and I had a dark, dark moment where I thought of The Cherub opening car doors in moving vehicles when I’m 60, and even more despairingly I suddenly thought,

“I don’t think I can do this for the rest of my life.”

Immediately after that dark thought, we saw Orion’s belt glowing in the sky, and I thought again, “God doesn’t ask me to do this the rest of my life. HE just asks me to do it right now.”
And then, if the Lord tarries, a little bit more after that.

Thank-you God, that life is really only one day at a time.

You know what else I notice about this story? At the time I first wrote it, it all was still fresh on my mind- the pain, the trauma, the stress- and that’s what I thought I was writing about. But every time I read this again I notice how blessed we were. The Cherub’s accident was in front of the organic grocery- which shared the parking lot with Big Lots where I could replace all her clothes for 13.00. It wasn’t in the commissary or at the library, bank, or dentist’s. There was a stranger who told me about my tail pipe. And the first parking lot I turned into? It was an Auto Zone or some such place. I didn’t even notice. The man with the coat hanger worked there, and he didn’t even try to sell me anything (the HM went back there to buy the parts he needed to fix it later) The Cherub did open a door on a moving van- but nobody was around us, she did it at a place we could pull over safely, nothing fell out, and NOBODY fell out. We got a tooth pulled without having to make another appointment with the dentist (unheard of)- I never noticed any of these things as blessings the day they occurred. I only saw the bad stuff. It was five years later, when I first reposted this that I looked it over again and saw each of those things in relief- standing out against the backdrop of a day I thought was horrible (I had no idea how much worse a day could be)- blessings it took me five years to notice and thank a kind Providence for providing.

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