The Bitch of it All

I once had a boyfriend who dumped me for getting an $800 loan from my mother when I was laid-off. He sneered at me for filing for unemployment, which I collected for three soul-crushing months of job searching. In the late ‘80s, three months of looking for a job was nothing compared to how it is now, but I have seen that sneer again, this time among members of the GOP who think helping out the long term unemployed is an undeserved luxury. They seem to delight in treating the unfortunate with game dog cruelty, as if families deserve to suffer harder and starve more just because they are already suffering and starving. They already know how.

What I don’t understand is how a country this rich can be so poor in kindness? Why are we so mean and stingy when we have so much?

The political stage is a great place for Schadenfreude. In fact, a 2009 (Coombs et al.) study suggests that Schadenfreude lurks among those who identify closely with their political party. Schadenfreude shows up more when misfortune happens to those who are disliked or are considered to “deserve” their fate. To many Republicans, that’s obviously the poor – to start with.

This may explain some of the unsavory fervor exhibited by some of the GOP who want to deny help to those who have suffered the most from the recession instead of helping them to recover. Their propensity to not want to help reminds me of the Michael Moore film Sicko.  Moore goes to Canada looking for their ghettos, only to find none. Apparently Canadians take care of each other. They don’t let each other starve or get thrown onto the street.

The night the lights went on at Wrigley Field in 1988 I moved into a small street-level apartment on Pine Grove. It was the end of a gentler era for the Friendly Confines as the park reluctantly entered the artificially-lit future of baseball. Unaware of the history unfolding just a few blocks away, I was unpacking clothes and swatting 4-inch centipedes off the walls with a shoe. Despite having no bed and no furniture, I did have the one thing necessary to survive my own future: a job.

Calling on Michigan Avenue ad agencies was not an intimidating prospect to me after being a media buyer and planner in Los Angeles. The typical agency media department back then was a thankless place. I was expected to sit at my desk for 12 hours a day like Bob Cratchit, muffled under a pile of demographic data, extracting meaningful nuggets and writing meaty recommendations for our clients.

Every day in my cube I met with well-dressed sales people and placed orders for hundreds of ads in hundreds of magazines and newspapers that totaled millions of dollars each year. This made the reps thousands in commissions and the agency millions in fees. I was nice when I could be nice and ruthless when I was forced to be. Once (and only once) I missed a deadline for an important ad. My supervisors made it very clear that mistakes were never my fault, they were the magazines’ fault or the newspapers’ fault. Media planners never make mistakes. We were infallible.

After LA, where it was considered a privilege to walk on the eggshells dropped by media supervisors and managers, my new job in advertising sales in Chicago was a comparative dream. Positioning myself on the other side of the media desk finally got me out of the office and in control of my own income. I was an account executive for a magazine rep firm, selling space in a sports magazine based in the Midwest.

Every industry has its own culture and in advertising you need to look polished and perfect or you might as well sell ads for the back of cash register tapes. My power outfit was a black wool Ann Taylor pencil skirt paired with a blinding white shirt and topped with an exquisite black leather jacket. It was my “LA Ad Girl Meets Chicago” outfit, good for lunches and cocktail parties.  For once in my life I stood out in a crowd. For once my average frame and not-quite-blonde-enough-for-LA hair was enough to get me noticed. I had confidence – even if I was only wearing it from 9-6pm. One day I came out of an important sales call to find three women trying on my leather coat which I had hung in the hallway closet.

They were giggling like high-schoolers and I realized that was me just six months before.

All was good for a while. I watched summer brown into fall from my office in a drafty River North loft. It faced Cabrini Green, a crumble of violent gang-run projects at the edge of the gallery district. Despite the scary neighborhood that I walked through every day nothing bad ever happened to me. I was more fearful of the people I encountered at the office than anyone on the street.

For weeks that fall I was nurturing a big account- one that required feats of persuasion to maneuver around the flimsy audience research I had to sell with.  It was an account that demanded all the forces of my intuition and media experience to know how to handle. This account could open doors for even bigger advertisers. It would let me breathe easier- if only for a month at a time.

I hit the mother-lode right after the holidays when a contract for this account, a liquor company, finally came through. Immediately the manager decided the account was “too big” for me to handle. The rules changed when he saw the potential for real money. Instead of thanking me for the business I brought him, he took it for himself and kept the commission.

 A few weeks later I got a phone call at home that I was “laid-off.”  Not even my boss had the guts to tell me to my face. It was my boyfriend who reminded me that getting “laid-off” really meant I was fired. Thanks for that. I had no idea.

And then it was deep winter. The Illinois unemployment office lost my file before I got a single check. I was forced to call my mom for the second time in my life and ask for money. After a soul deflating lecture about taking a good long look at the decisions I’m making in my life I got the money and paid the rent for two more months.

I was looking forward to a night out when we headed to a place my boyfriend liked but I despised. It was RJ Grunts, the kind of bar that always has sticky tables.  An obnoxious place filled with young business people, many of them in advertising. To me it was a place that requires hand washing as soon as you walk in the door. In other words, it was an appropriately awful place to get dumped.

 He told me I was weak and lazy and self-entitled for getting unemployment and especially for getting a loan from my mom. He had no respect for me and was embarrassed to have an unemployed girlfriend.

I looked into his eyes, staring dispassionately back at me through his square-framed accountant glasses. I finally saw him as the enormous jerk my subconscious had been telling me he was. I was so furious it was tempting to leave him sitting at the table while I snuck out and got a cab, but I had him drive me home instead to save the fare. He jabbered the whole way home, filling the air with his excuses for dumping me.

“I wouldn’t have married you anyway,” he assured me as he dropped me off into the slush on the wrong side of the street.  As if he was doing me a favor by telling me. I was puzzled.  Did the M-word ever cross my lips?  Did I ever want anything more than an occasional date? Was I dying to marry a cold-hearted money-monger? Did I lose my mind and say I wanted short-legged, far-sighted children with him? No, no, no and god help me, no.

 “I hope you find your marriage material,” I said as I slammed the door of his dented grey Bui-k with the missing ‘c’.

It was a door slam as hard as my weak, lazy arms could muster after one Miller Lite and no dinner. I was swinging that slab of Midwest steel for wronged women everywhere.  It was a slam for every woman dumped by a hard-hearted idiot. It was a slam for all women dumped at RJ Grunts when clearly it’s punishment enough just to enter a place with a name like a hillbilly bowel movement. It was the Mother of All Door Slams barreling through infinite space for every woman who ever got screwed out of an account, a commission or her job by corner office weenies who hire them to do their work, and make money for them, only to steal it back later. It was a beautifully executed, estrogen-invigorating slam for all womankind.

As I think back on those bruising days that started my career and my current joblessness that could be the end of it, I hope that door slam is still vibrating out into the Universe somewhere, rattling the bones of corporate jerks, GOP tightwads and terrible boyfriends everywhere, unsettling them, forcing them to look over their shoulders.

There is only so much you can pilfer from others before there’s pushback. And I hear karma is a bitch.

 

Posted in Fearless Living, Happiness, Intuition, Women | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Coming Clean

DSCN0039My name is Mimi and I am a spiritual/personal/self-development addict. I have been clean of online seminars and books by Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss and dozens of other spiritual improvement gurus for two weeks. In other words, I am in the frantic throes of withdrawal.

My addiction started over ten years ago with a harmless book by M. Scott Peck called A Road Less Traveled. It was OK, but I didn’t even make it all the way through that one.  Too boring. I moved on to The Celestine Vision by James Redfield because who doesn’t like a good story? Only, stupid me! I thought the trip to Peru and the ancient manuscripts were real.  My mom had to tell me it wasn’t. Then I had to pretend I knew that all along. What a dork.

Despite that embarrassing start, I was hooked on all things deliciously different.

This was a whole new weird world and I knew I belonged in it somewhere. And for some strange reason it seemed my mother was pushing me toward it also. Why else would she give me Gary Zukav and Wabi-Sabi books and silver bracelets that say “Be in the moment”? Why would she loan me her copy of Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality if she wasn’t interested in alternate multiple universes and realities herself? (although she will never admit it).

Soon I was hitting all the library book sales for new material because that’s where everyone dumps the books they don’t want anyone to see in their homes. I picked up The Emerging DreamHealer by Adam at a library sale, plus  The Purpose of Your Life by Carol Adrienne and The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  These were OK. They fed me, but being the pig I am, I wanted more. I needed something stronger. Weirder. More sciencey.  Messages From Your Angels by Doreen Virtue wasn’t going to cut it, although it’s a fun read in the bathtub.

It was on to The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart and Miracles of Mind by Russel Targ. Finally some real science to make me feel less flakey. Then I got mixed up with some weirdo self-published stuff and found The Infinite Concept of Cosmic Creation by Ernest L. Norman (waaaayyyy out there).  I traded up for The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. Over my head at the time, but the title drew me in.

Finally, I moved forward to tackle a Deepak book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire and at last I realized what abundance really means. In fact, I am abundant with his books, especially The Book of Secrets since I inadvertently bought two of them. Things were definitely shifting in my head.

By this time I started a list of all the books I had accumulated, read, loved, or threw under the bed out of sheer disgust.  I am at about 75 books. I figure I could have written my own spiritual and self-improvement book by now.

After all, isn’t that what addicts do? Write their memoirs?  

It’s two steps forward, one back in this cosmic world of never-ending publications. There are a thousand ways to shift your consciousness and for some reason, I crave every single one of them.

My life coach (yes, I had one) encouraged me to just stop cold-turkey and come clean. Admit this is all just an obsession with fear and procrastination. Is that what I am doing? So fearful and weak-willed I am putting off my life? What if this is my life? Somehow I feel comfortable here.  Like these are my peeps.

Ever since I was a child I felt called to all things alternative, never feeling like I quite fit in anywhere else. I kept quiet about it of course.  Ideas of multiple levels of being and consciousness are still not accepted in many places. Am I procrastinating? Am I fearful? Am I hiding behind my new copy of The Untethered Soul?

The cravings come and go now. Maybe I’m not a self-development junkie. For a few weeks I’ll be happy with reading The New  Yorker and the latest David Sedaris book. But then,  along comes a cool evening and I can’t wait to be done with the dishes so I can snuggle up with Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements or peek into The Science of Miracles by Gregg Braden.

Maybe this is my world and I just have to come out of my cosmic closet. And maybe I am just waiting for the right moment to come clean.

Posted in Addiction, Body, mind and spirit, Fearless Living, Happiness, Intuition, Psychic, The Universe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Training a Rose

The bulk of the main root hid beneath the rotting wood deck, waiting to be discovered.  It was big and dark as a beef bone. For years someone chopped it off at soil level to keep it from crowding out the vegetable garden, so for years the energy of the plant burrowed back into the root. Last spring, spying a few red leaves poking up next to the chives plant, I recognized a rose bush trying to live.

iStock_000004257765SmallWhat a find I thought!  At first I tried to move it, but the root was too big and deep, so I marked the spot with a stick:  Rose bush. Do not cut!

Getting to know our new garden has been like excavating the gardens of Babylon.  A long time ago someone with expert gardening knowledge set the bones and structure in place.  Large willows anchor the soggy back corners, soaking up extra water in the spring. Red twig dogwoods border the back and sides with a flush of color in the winter. Crabapple trees lean over the lawn to show off their colors and pines trees provide crunch underfoot with needles and cones. In the shadows wild ginger and sweet woodruff  sit quietly while the peonies and iris bend to the sun.

Although the garden clearly started out well, over time and across multiple owners, it suffered from the disastrous effects of an over zealous lawn service. All the shrubs had bad haircuts, wearing stubby branches that sprouted out at the ends with witches brooms. I figured the most humane thing to do was just let the whole thing grow.

Almost immediately the knotted forsythia threw out its wiry arms in a sun salute. The stunted privets poured forth graceful boughs that make them the beauties of the backyard despite their lowly reputation.  The burning bush shot up and out like the flamethrower it wants to be.

All in all it is a happy garden now, especially in the pink flush of late spring.

The school year is almost over for my daughter, a bud of a woman herself, waiting for her opportunity to burst out and claim her own life. Being fifteen she wobbles on the stepping stones between adolescence and young adulthood, calling me Mama one moment and snapping at me the next. There are thorns beneath that flower, too.

We play this game back and forth. I say something I think is helpful and she lashes out. I am hurt and she tiptoes back.  Our voices rise a few notes in apology and life continues. All is soon forgotten.

I remember myself at her age, excited and scared at the same time, looking for some sort of guidance, but not asking for any.

Last summer the rose root revealed its true self.  It is not a dainty tea, a tough rugosa, or even a rangy rambler.  It is a climber. In its second year of freedom it grew ten feet. Over winter it did not lose one single cane. Its flowers are blood red.

This is the year the garden will shine, I think to myself.  This is the summer I have waited  and worked for, moving plants to better spots, dividing up unruly ones, allowing others to stay where they are, like the rose.

The bulk of the work  is done and I wait for the heavy pink rose  buds to ferment to red. Its strong canes wave like  thorny tentacles in the wind,  as if searching for something sturdy to lean onto, although it doesn’t seem to need anything.

Posted in Body, mind and spirit, Happiness, Parenting, The Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 79 Comments

The Big Reveal About ME!

award-1Just when I thought the day would end with the soft thud of nothing-new-is- going-on-here, there’s JT Weaver in my comment section nominating my little blog for A Very Inspiring Blogger Award!  Thank you for thinking of me JT! You do me an honor.

The deal with this award is you must follow the rules, which includes publicly stating (in my case admitting) 7 things about yourself. So, in the name of playing along, I can tell you that:

1) I just ate four Baker’s Chocolate brownies that my daughter made for me for Mother’s Day and am feeling a little sick now.

2) I can’t stop watching reruns of Frasier. Help me.

3) I got a Master’s degree and have done absolutely nothing with it.  I finished it after 7 years because someone said I never finish things. At the time they were correct.  Annoying, but correct. Mean, but correct. Haughty, holier-than-thou and made me cry nasty, but correct. Damn her.

4) Every day I come up with another idea for a reality TV show.  Not the gross sad ones like Hoarders, but interesting ones like “What the Heck is that Airplane Doing In Your Garage? This spurt of ideas usually happens on my walks around the neighborhood when my blood has an abnormally high level of oxygen in it.

5) I am a feminist. Sometimes I rant and rave about it all. Just warning you who are afraid of feminists, like we all want something we’re not entitled to.

6) My 20th wedding anniversary is coming up this year. Oy.

7) My dream is to become a successful writer so I can buy some decent clothes and actually have some places to wear them. I used to own 30 pairs of shoes.  Now I have clogs. Old, worn-out clogs.  They just will not die.

Now, check out the blogs I am nominating to pay it forward. Most of them are about writing:

A Wilderness of Words,

Yangsze Choo

http://kissingthemadhattergoodbye.com/

http://bottledworder.com/

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/

http://ofmindormatter.com/

http://mindfitnessnews.wordpress.com/

http://middlepane.com/

http://dreamlenz.com/

http://chrissyadventures.wordpress.com/

http://martinwiegand47.com/

http://365daysofdivesting.com/

http://joeberhardt.com/

http://thepowerofthestory.wordpress.com/

http://failureextraordinaire.wordpress.com/

Now get reading!!!!

Posted in Happiness, Very Inspiring Blogger Award, Women, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

The Growing Season

The doctor held out my test results, two 3×3 inch black and white Rorschach blobs.

“You won’t be having any of your own children.” She tilted her head a bit to the side in what I took to be her effort at doctor – patient empathy.  After years of trying to get pregnant, I was not surprised at the diagnosis.

I scanned the obscure pictures hoping to understand this medical verification of my infertility. Apparently she expected me to see what she could see: the puddled dye from the failed dye test, the blocked tubes, the scar tissue and rogue endometrial cells. I saw amorphous shapes that looked more like an abstract watercolor than a clinical message to start contacting adoption agencies.

I asked her to explain the pictures, again. She sighed.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. It is very clear. Nothing can get through. I’m sorry.”

She didn’t sound sorry.  She sounded bothered.

I pushed. “I don’t see the blockage.  I don’t see the dye.”  I don’t feel blocked either, I wanted to say.

I left the medical center and called my husband from the parking lot. He was calm, understanding and plainly factual. “Well, we knew this might happen. Let’s go forward.”

In the coming weeks and months I called several adoption agencies, sent for information and started a new sales job. It was winter and I was selling garden supplies. My schedule was full, having to run around to ten or fifteen garden centers in a single day as they prepared and bought for the upcoming growing season. My car carried samples of fancy pruners, planting boxes and bags of fertilizer instead of the baby seats, diapers and spit-up that I hoped for. I was fine though. I was on auto-pilot. Just get through the day.

April was a wet month with record flooding in Chicago. Water filled up the basement of our home, dribbling in from the eighty year old walls as we desperately tried to fill the holes with our fingers and hydraulic cement.  Two days later there was the dross of pictures, extra furniture and high school mementos that had to be trashed. Physical ideas of what life used to be were let go in a day.

The Illinois countryside was my sales territory. From mom and pop garden stores to chains of big box stores I peddled hundreds of lines of potting soils and hoses, grass seed and bird seed.  I was determined to find my future in the green industry, a gentle, quiet business of beauty.

One day, out near Oswego, south and west of nowhere special, I stopped into Taco Bell and got my usual two hard shells and a diet Pepsi. Then I went next door to Walgreen’s and bought a pregnancy test. I was killing time until my next appointment. It was a moment of fantasy, like trying on a wedding dress before you’ve even met the guy. It’s just fun to shop.

That night, as I lay in bed watching my husband criss-cross the room as he arranged his things for the next day, I quietly waited for the moment that would change his life forever.   The test I took in the bathroom at Taco Bell was positive. He stopped and smiled.

“Is that why you waited to send in the big check to the adoption agency?”  I had no idea why I waited, but I think it had something to do with a mother’s intuition.

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Posted in Children, Intuition, Mother's Day, Parenting, Women | 19 Comments

The Drive. Part Four: The Bittersweet End.

The little brown car was laid to rest under a tree at the tow truck driver’s house.  It joined several other cars in various stages of dying.  I gathered the insurance papers and Dad’s Frank Sinatra tapes from the glove compartment, and at the last minute, took a couple pictures of the damage for the insurance company. No amount of money would make up for how much Dad was going to miss his car. This was likely the end of his foreign car love affair.  I imagined the introductions at the wedding the next day: “This is my daughter Mimi and her boyfriend, the ones who wrecked my favorite car yesterday.”

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Only in northern Michigan,(or maybe Butcher Holler), would it happen that the tow truck driver’s brother is a demolition derby driver. Of course he is. Gasoline was in the family blood and the brothers had the perfect business partnership– one rescued cars and the other smashed them up.  This arrangement probably happens a lot more often than we think.

Steve and I stood around in the driveway for a few minutes wondering what to do with ourselves when the demolition derby driver, the younger of the brothers, mentioned they were leaving for a race that night at the county fairgrounds in Midland. We could ride along if we wanted.  It was excellent news. I had a friend in Midland and anywhere east of the car cemetery got us closer to Detroit. The sun was heavy in the sky when we set off with the brothers, another smashed up car trailing behind us. We were a strange group, and on that day only one thing separated us:  they ruined cars on purpose, whereas we preferred the element of surprise.

Ten miles later Steve and I are sitting on our suitcases on the dirt midway at the Midland County fairgrounds. Somehow I didn’t think we’d just be dropped in the middle of nowhere, but for the last two hours the kind people of northern Michigan did everything for us and now we must fend for ourselves.

The situation got ugly as whiplash settled in. We looked like a couple of puppets as we argued over where to find a pay phone.  I dragged myself to my feet and staggered around for a phone.

Brenda. Dear, sweet, Brenda, please be home. Brenda was still single, living at home and of an indeterminate age. At my very first job as a DJ at a tiny 1000-watt station, Brenda, the office manager became my friend. At first I was afraid of her.  She was stern, kept the books and paid the bills. Did she ever smile? Hers was serious work compared to playing music and mispronouncing baseball players’ names for a living.  One day I asked Brenda to help me out at the board by punching the commercial buttons for me so I could take a bathroom break. I think she liked hanging out in the studio and I showed her how things worked. Soon after that I started writing copy too, so we shared the front office for a few hours every day after my shift. Next thing I know I’m her shopping buddy at the Saginaw Mall. She had money, so I watched her buy things.

Within an hour of my call Brenda picks us up from the fairgrounds and informs me there is no place in Midland to rent a car.  Of  course there isn’t. We have to go to Saginaw. Of course we do. So dear Brenda drives us all the way to Saginaw where another hour later we finally get a car and start driving to Detroit.  The sun is turning orange. We should be at the hotel already getting ready for dinner, so I gun the big Buick as fast as I dared down I-75. It is such a relief to be in a car again. We feel rejuvenated and giddy as we speed south into the lavender summer night.

Once at the hotel, I throw on my wrinkled dress. Steve is completely wiped out and refuses to accompany me to the dinner. I refuse to let him off the hook. This is when he points out that he has already gone the distance by getting his hair trimmed for the trip, which he really didn’t appreciate doing. My latest request is too much for him.  But then, a second later, he realizes he’s hungry.

God only knows where the rehearsal dinner was that night, but we couldn’t find it. Neither of us had been to Detroit before, much less the suburbs of Detroit.  (Well I had, but I can’t share any information about that misguided trip since I didn’t know where I was then either.) We did eventually find it, and strolled in around 10 o’clock at night, feeling as sheepish as a flock.  All my Mom said was “I’m glad you made the effort to show up.”  Then she adjusted my shoulder pads for me which were facing backward like wings.

All in all, my entire family was pretty understanding about the whole debacle.  I got my older sister Michelle to tell my Dad about the car before we even got there. I was scared out of my mind, but Dad was a class act. He never once mentioned it, and in addition to paying for the hotel room, he paid for the rental car too. The only thing I could offer him in return was my eternal gratitude and a couple pictures of the smashed up car. Looking at them later he said, “It doesn’t look that bad!”

About a week before the wedding there was a big plane crash there and over a hundred and fifty people died. As we lifted off the runway, headed back to LA, we flew right over the hull of the plane still lying there in pieces, half sunk into the earth, yellow tape flapping around.  It was a quiet flight back to LA.

Within a month I moved out of the guest house, found my own place, and made a vow to move back to the Midwest. I missed the lake. I missed my family. I missed rain. I missed it all. Eight months later I quit my job, rigged up a cap for my Mazda pickup, held a garage sale, and said goodbye to all my California friends.

The last thing I did was buy two souvenirs of LA: an exquisite leather jacket and a crystal from the Bodhi Tree bookstore.. And then I headed east. It was going to be a long drive.

Posted in Dad, Fearless Living, Happiness, Vacation | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Drive. Part Three: How Could it Get Any Worse Than This?

The trip has been good for us. It is a peaceful respite from the noise, heat and pressure of big city living. On vacation there is no rent due, there are no arguments about why I am working until eleven at night. It doesn’t matter if dinner doesn’t get cooked or the place is a mess. All that ugliness slithers away and for two days we just are. We hike Sleeping Bear Dunes, we stroll small art fairs, and we dream of  living forever in this hazy, slow, blue world.

The night before we leave for Detroit we hunker down in the local bar. It is filled with swollen wood booths that are sticky with beer and lake air. We choose one by the window, under a stuffed fish. The dark wood walls sponge up our words as we bend our heads together, devising a plan to live in Leelanau forever, selling pizza.  In the winter we would deliver it by snowmobile, in the summer by bicycle. We are food marketing geniuses!  At midnight we slosh our way along the narrow road through town, following the porch light to our B&B, and hit the pillows, sinking into a deep, wooded slumber.

The next morning is a Michigan classic: deep blue skies and a polite wind mingling with the birches.  Everything alive lets out its belt to breathe.  Steve got up at 6am and went for a walk on the beach.  He came back a few hours later exuberant, high on the pinky-orange sunrise rolling over water and woods. We finally share something other than the same address.

We zip down the peninsula and into the flat part of the state.  M-115 is a two lane nightmare that slices diagonally through the heart of Michigan.  Normally I avoid two lane highways for safety reasons, but this day was going to be a long one, so we go with it and head for Cadillac.

In a car designed for slender, fine-boned Italians, not sturdy, wide Americans, I slip the tight seat belt off and tilt back, letting Steve drive while I contemplate why my brother had to get married in Detroit when he and his beloved both live in Seattle.

Zip zip went the flat farm land out the window and we switch to the small highway. Ten seconds later someone in my head yells at me to put on my seatbelt. It was an insistent no-nonsense voice that was neither male, nor female. Never having heard this voice before, I buckled up and briefly wondered who was giving the orders upstairs.

Up ahead someone had the gall to make a left turn on a two lane highway on a Friday afternoon. A whole line of cars came to a screeching halt.  Steve slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid  the outboard motor of the fishing boat being towed in front of us.  Composing myself I glanced in the rear-view mirror. An older couple in a huge Buick  loomed in the reflection.  “Hold on” I said in a calm tone meant to alert, but not scare poor Steve whose chest was still heaving from the shock of near decapitation by outboard propeller.  “This guy behind us is not stopping.”

Never having been in a big accident I didn’t know what to do.  I had one second to prepare. I sat back, made sure my head was against the leather headrest and grabbed the doorhandle as if leaping out was an option.  One quick sharp crunch later the gear shift flew out of Steve’s hand and wobbled helplessly between us.  The Buick pushed its way through the trunk, rearranged the back seats, and stopped just short of the front seats, forcing us to do the crash-test dummy hurl.

The little brown car whimpered like a lame greyhound.  I thought the worst was over, but a sick feeling roiled in my gut when I realized we were still moving into on-coming traffic. What a crappy way to die I think as we careen into the gaping mouth of a huge old green truck, the kind that eats little sports cars for lunch.  There was nothing else we could do but pray to the laws of Newtonian physics (as they apply to spinning brown Italian sportscars).

As we got closer and closer to the truck I could see the driver, a young woman, mouth those tell-tale words, like what parents do when they want to swear out loud but can’t.  She tries to swerve but we all end up like Disney teacups in the middle of the highway. Dad’s poor little car, the car of his middle-aged dreams is flying apart in front of my eyes.

Car-wreck triage is immediately in action and people came running toward us.  Within a minute a young man stops and directs traffic in the middle of the highway with the skill of an unflappable Chicago cop.  Someone else scurries off for the fire department and we are led by kind strangers to sit in shock at the side of the highway, waiting for the police.

These people knew what to do. They had to clear this road and they had to do it now.  After all, it was a beautiful Friday afternoon and they have to get to their cabins, boats and pontoons.  VFW halls across the state are heating up vats of oil for Friday fish fries.  Frog legs are being severed, dipped and battered as we wait around for tow trucks. Coolers of beer are chilling.  Ski-Doos are weighing down trailers heading in both directions. Looking over the mayhem I  swear I heard a collective sigh of disappointment as cars a mile down the road slowed, put it in park, and waited for us to move off the road.

This accident, so overwhelming to Steve and me appeared to be small potatoes to these tough, northern folk.  Strangers moved the accident debris (i.e. Dad’s car) to the side of the road and within twenty minutes, traffic moves around the remains in steady, determined fashion.  Life for these Michiganders resumes as normal. Friday is saved.

Steve and I sit in the tall grass and wild blue cornflowers and watch it all.  Outside of a gash on Steve’s leg, we are basically uninjured, but in shock and can barely move.

“Your Dad is going to freak out,” says Steve.  I nod, wondering who I could get to tell him the car is gone.  I know we’ll be late to the rehearsal dinner, but I just sit there in the sun, not moving, not thinking, but feeling very alive.

The policeman radios for the tow truck and cancels the third fire truck. I remark to him on everyone’s efficiency.  He turns and looks at me. “You folks aren’t from around here are you? This happens almost every Friday at this same spot.  You were lucky today.”

But now comes the tricky part of getting to the wedding…

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