What if I'd Said...Just Drive

“Wudge you, Momma.”  Too much responsibility for one so small.  It was so hard.  Paying for daycare.  Keeping the lights on, which I didn’t always.  Keeping the heat going. 

And the loneliness. 

A cavernous loneliness from working and earning never enough; from returning bottles and cans from my dad’s office for their 5-cent deposit to buy bread and milk and eggs to feed my little girl; from raiding his change jar for quarters to go to the Laundromat to wash our clothes. 

There were boyfriends on occasion. We both had our hearts broken more than once before we met the man she would eventually call daddy, who would walk her down the aisle and cry at her wedding and dance with her under a spotlight into her husband’s waiting arms, and give her an equally impish and delightful step-sister to grow up with and for us to love and be the only person who could possibly send her off to her new life with the perfect Maid of Honor RAP.

The man who would, after six years of failure, finally give us all a dinosaur-loving little boy to add to our family and to love and fuss over and who provided an excellent source of birth control for his teenage sisters.

So, what if…?

What if the recurring nightmare that I’d remember years later while driving my toddler around that same curve in my 1981 Dodge Omni with no radio; sucking her binky and clutching her soft yellow blankie…what if instead of putting on the breaks and slowing down and taking that curve cautiously during a blazing snow-storm and thinking time and again through my tears that long winter that I couldn’t possibly do it without her—to leave her with a lifetime of thinking it was her fault—what if I’d closed my eyes, took my hands off the wheel and decided to just drive into that icy lake?

But I couldn’t do it with her either.  She was too precious.  Too beautiful.  Too full of life and personality and hugs and Wudge You Mommas.  Too full of marigolds to call miracles.  And I needed her, and she needed me, and she saved my life in more ways than I can count.  But it was all so much more than one tiny girl should have been asked to carry on her tiny shoulders. 

We made it through that winter, and another, and another after that.  We made it through me losing a job, and not being able to pay rent for a winter before we met her daddy and her sister.  We made it to the day we moved into a new place with them and I vividly saw the weight of more than two thousand days before float off her shoulders with the imagination of two little girls with the same birthday two years apart, who were both for once, just being kids; playing with the dollhouse my grandfather had made her on the floor in her new bedroom…which had more than enough room for two small girls to sprawl out on their bellies.

Thank God I didn’t…Just Drive.


[Author's Note:  This started as a sort of "combat writing" exercise--which I highly recommend--through Rebecca T. Dickson's & Laura Howard's brilliant writing prompt for JustWrite Week #4, "What if I just kept driving?"  In the spirit of the exercise, I'm resisting the compulsion to go back and edit things {it has since been lightly edited in consideration for BlogHer's Voices of the Year '13} like missing subjects, etc., etc., etc.,..., which is hard, but the deeply emotional stuff that happens when you do combat writing like that, I'm now totally convinced, is pretty magical stuff, so it's worth it.  Editors take note, however, I can do better!]



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