From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Swift Second

As far as Will was concerned, the regular Levi’s 501 jeans were not cool enough to wear to school. He wanted to wear the dirty stonewashed pair in the laundry. He argued with me when I insisted he wear the clean 501s, and he ran out the door to catch the school bus in a huff. We did not have our usual good-bye hug. I felt a little upset we had angrily parted ways, yet I felt proud of my 10-year-old son for being strong-willed.

I was running late; it was already 7:20 A.M., and I needed to be at the office early for a meeting. I showered and was drying off when I heard the doorbell ring. I threw on the sweat clothes I’d just taken off, and with dripping wet hair hesitantly opened the front door. I felt something was wrong.

A frightened, wide-eyed little girl breathlessly announced that Will had just been hit by a truck. My heart sank. I stood there petrified until something deep inside made me run toward the bus stop. I was only halfway there when I spotted him lying lifeless in the street. Sheer fear of what I might encounter momentarily slowed my pace. Then I heard him crying for me and his voice made me run faster than I ever have in my life. He was lying face down, trumpet case nearby, with a blanket thrown over him—a thoughtful neighbor’s way of helping.

There was a chill in the air on that school day in September, and the sun was glaring upon the scene. It was the blinding sun that contributed to the accident, and a 16-year-old boy in a small truck. It took only one split second, a level motion, and Will was hit by the truck at a speed of around 20 miles an hour. Apparently, upon impact he was thrown at least 10 feet up in the air and landed some distance away, falling on his knees and trumpet case. Thank goodness for all those Saturday afternoons at soccer games, where he learned how to fall to minimize injury, and for the trumpet case, which prevented him from hitting his head.

Will was coherent, talking to me and making little jokes—his way of reassuring me of the outcome. I felt terrified inside, but I knew I needed to stay positive and strong. I realized I could have lost him in the blink of an eye; instead, for some unknown reason, he was lying here, sweetly, telling me anecdotes.

I heard sirens, and the fire department emergency crew arrived first, with an ambulance not far behind. Their initial exam showed no evidence of injuries to his head, back or arms. The fireman was gently cutting the legs of his 501 jeans to make certain no bones were broken when Will said, lightheartedly, “Mommy, it looks like I won’t ever have to wear these anymore.” I laughed and knew instinctively as we were getting into the ambulance that he was going to be just fine.

Will was very lucky—I was very lucky. According to the police officer, it was a miracle he was not severely injured or dead. Staying home that day, we talked and cried about many things; being more careful, never leaving a person you love when you are mad, and how important it is to live in the “now” and appreciate your life.

While he was resting, I washed the stonewashed jeans and clung to the 501s, sobbing. I had an overwhelming awareness of how your life can change, without notice, in a swift second. This happened seven years ago, and when I need a reality check, or a gentle reminder that our time together is a precious gift, I pull out those neatly cut 501s.

Daryl Ott Underhill

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