From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Fate and Hindsight

It was a Monday morning in the middle of winter. Snow had fallen a few days earlier, and although much of it had melted, the temperature outside was still below freezing. Not wanting to get my kids out in the icy muck, I wondered if school would be canceled. Yet I also fretted about the pile of work that would accumulate on my desk if I didn’t make it to the office. When the television news anchor announced schools would be open, I took one last sip of coffee and walked back to my bedroom to decide what to wear.

Dressed, but sans makeup, I walked into my son Adam’s room. He opened his dark brown eyes and smiled from his crib. “Hi, Mama.” There was nothing sweeter than my baby’s first smile of the morning.

My weekday morning dance carried me to my four-year-old daughter’s room. Andi beamed like sunshine in the morning, her blue-green eyes clear and bright. “Time to wake up, sugar,” I said softly.

I returned to my son’s room to dress him. He jumped up and down when I approached his crib. This was always the best time of my day. No matter what struggles we encountered the night before—midnight cries, diaper changes, trips to the bathroom, or my tossing and turning with a little visitor in our bed—seeing my kids first thing each morning wiped the slate clean and started each day with a smile. My only question was how could days that had begun so sweetly turn so tense by the time we walked out the door?

“Andi! Come eat; we’re going to be late!” I raised my voice again.

Adam was in his high chair, Cheerios dotting his face. I made lunches, while constantly monitoring the time. We were running behind, and I knew the process of getting coats, hats, gloves, lunches, backpacks, and diaper bag would add more delay to our departure.

My independent daughter struggled to get her coat on, and I bundled up Adam. They waited in the kitchen like little stuffed animals while I went to the garage to start the car. I returned to gather my little brood. With backpacks and lunches in one hand, and Adam on my opposite hip, we paraded to the car. I put Adam into his car seat and snapped him in, while Andi waited patiently in her booster seat, ready to be strapped in.

After shutting their door, I stood up, took a deep breath, and got into the car. My mind ticked down the daily list of what to bring with us. Got it all. Next, the day’s to-do list. And first on my list: apologize to my captive audience for my loss of temper. I so wanted to be the perfect mom— like Mrs. Cleaver or Carol Brady—never losing my patience. But I’d failed again.

“I’m sorry I got mad at you,” I said as calmly as my frazzled self could muster. “Mommy has to be at work on time, just like you have to be at school on time. You don’t like to be late, do you?”

“No, Mommy,” Andi answered. Adam mimicked his big sister.

“Well, neither do I.” Did they understand?

The road was still slick in places. Seeing cars in ditches, I cautiously maneuvered the hills and curves of my neighborhood. The snow wasn’t pretty now, just muddy and gray, with patches of brown grass showing through.

When we reached the freeway, I knew to be watchful of the black ice. Cars zipped past, driving at or above the speed limit. Tension weighed heavily on my shoulders, and my white-knuckled hands clutched the steering wheel. Oblivious to it all, Andi hummed a tune in the backseat, while Adam looked out the window and carried on his own conversation.

Squeeeeal . . . Hnnnk! Squealing tires followed by a loud thud shuddered through my bones. Rubber on asphalt and metal against metal. Looking in my rearview mirror, I was horrified to see a monster semitruck behind me, its huge grille pressed against the back window. The truck had pulled into my lane and hit the left rear bumper of my little Escort, knocking us in front of him.

Hot adrenaline surged through my body, while desperate thoughts flooded my mind. My babies—God protect my babies. He’s going to broadside us!

Finally, we spun out of the path of the truck, but my car still whirled out of control across four lanes of oncoming traffic. Do I turn the wheel in the direction of the car’s spin or against the spin? Black ice. Cars rushing to get somewhere on time. Tires screeched all around us, and I dreaded the inevitable bangs and crashes. I could only wait as the drama unfolded—spinning, spinning.

At last my car came to an abrupt stop on the other side of the freeway. Instinctively, I jerked my head around to the backseat, afraid of what I would see. Relief washed over me like a cooling stream. The precious sight of my babies’ untouched bodies is forever etched in my mind’s eye.

“Mommy, what was that?” Andi’s eyes searched mine for assurance that everything was okay.

Then Adam smiled and said, “Do that again!”

I took a deep breath and laid my head on the steering wheel, my body trembling.

Fate sent us a miracle that morning, and for me it was a reality shift. Fate, like hindsight, can change how we see our lives, bringing what’s important into clearer focus. Life is not perfect and neither are mothers. I’d spent too much time trying to live up to perfection and too little time appreciating the simple joys of my motherhood. I saw it clearly after that morning.

Jan Morrill

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