The Golder women, being from sunny, tropical Florida have little fear of serpents. Snakes we can handle.
Ditches, on the other hand, are another story. Until this morning, my fair daughter held the family prize for best ditch story. Seems she was driving the family 4-Runner down our mountain when she attempted a three-point turn in the road in an effort to go back up the street to get gas. We will leave aside for the moment the legality of that little maneuver in favor of a description of its aftermath: her rear wheels stuck on the mud of one of the smaller culverts that are a regular feature on the mountain. She tried to free herself, and succeeded only in digging the rear wheels deeper into the clay.
This little adventure occurred in broad daylight on one of the two main access roads to the mountain. She had no more than stopped the spinning of her rear wheels than a courtly gentleman on his way back from the golf course stopped to aid this damsel in distress. He tried to direct her in springing the recalcitrant SUV to no avail, He then gallantly offered to; nay, insisted that he take her to the headquarters of the local constabulary for assistance.
Which is why, some twenty minutes later, there were five cars, several of them with flashing lights, and ten men all regarding the SUV in its miry predicament. At length, one of them regarded my offspring and asked whether she had tried the vehicle’s 4-wheel drive.
Mind you, this child has driven this particular car since she got her learner’s permit, and lives in a family that regularly takes its vacations down muddy, rocky, impassable-to-the-sensible man roads. Of course she answered in the negative, big, blue eyes wide with surprise. I don’t really know what that is.
Where, oh where, is a lightning bolt when you need one? (In her defense, it turns out she really didn’t. She thought 4-wheel drive made the wheels go sideways....kind of like the little diagram on the dash....)
Whereupon, one of the gallant deposited himself in the driver’s seat, wrested the vehicle into the appropriate gears, and turned the car back over to my daughter...who got into it, stepped lightly on the accelerator and drove off to applause (not hoots or catcalls--she got those at home) waving her thanks to the men who had hastened to her side.
One friend explained the abundance of official assistance as the result of the innate need for those of the male persuasion to get out their toys and play with them from time to time. When they can do that and show of to a pretty girl, I suppose it is so much the better.
What it taught me is that if you’re going to run into a ditch, be driving a 4-Runner, make sure the ditch is shallow and do it in broad daylight. Unlike me, this morning.
On my way to pick up my daughter from Atlanta, I made a turn I have made at least a thousand times before, at a corner where the side of the pavement ends abruptly in a deep, long ditch. No berm, no shoulder and in my case--no excuse. Dark, yes, but no fog, no rain and not even the seasonal excuse of a slick layer of leaves--but somehow the off front tire slid off the pavement (of its own volition, surely), and the rest of the car followed it spectacularly into the ditch, ending up canted at an impossible angle on its side. The headlights of a car on the other side of the road swept across but apparently the gallant men of the day were off-duty as the car continued its journey without even slowing down. I did have the presence of mind to cast a few imprecations at the lights I saw retreating in the mirror, and the general populace of the mountain for good measure.
The shock of my predicament only lasted a moment, I took personal inventory (no injuries) and burst into tears as I dialed my husband, whom I had left only a few moments before with a cup of coffee in the dining nook.
Naturally,there was no answer. Pleased that I had finally identified a slight flaw in our cell-only family policy, I none the less still faced the problem of disentangling myself from my car--and getting to Atlanta. My difficulty was not abated at all by a fresh flood of tears, nor by the fact that the angle of the car made getting the door open--and me out of it--very nearly impossible without outside help.
I finally managed to clamber out of the offending vehicle, and started the short walk home. When my husband opened the front door in response to the impatient buzzing of the bell, I fell into his arms, ever so slightly hysterical. I don’t remember much of what I said, but I hate that car figured prominently amid the sobs.
The gallant men-on-call may have been off duty, but my own Prince Charming threw on some clothes to assess the situation and one of Lookout Mountain’s finest stopped in his patrol to help us out. (Note to self: 911 is probably the best first number to call...) Between the two of them, they brought me back to earth long enough to return to the house and collect my son’s 4-Runner (here for a visit) and et me on my way. Let me assure you that it is not necessary to back a car out of a driveway. Given sufficient time, and enough three-point turns, one can, in fact, get it headed in the right direction even in the narrowest of lanes, especially if one is fresh from a close encounter with a ditch and the driveway falls off ten feet on one side.
When later recounting the story with considerable amusement to a friend, my daughter in tow, my friend offered the observation that the reason for my annoyance was feeling just plain stupid. My daughter, hearing my invective about my trusty chariot took that opportunity to hurl back at me some of my sage maternal advice from her childhood, to wit: It ain’t the arrow, it’s the Indian....How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a child with a good memory and a tongue like her mother...
It is such an ingrained human tendency to find somewhere else to place blame. Anyone who doesn’t believe in original sin or concupiscence had only to listen to my railings this morning. Not because of the mishap, of course--that was just plain bad luck or stupidity, not sin. Because of the almost instantaneous excuse, even in the absence of guilt. Imagine what I am capable of when there really is something to be ashamed of.
Of course, she is right. It really ain’t the arrow. It really is the Indian. And hours and hours of ruminating on the events of the day convinced me of several crystalline truths:
I am, indeed, not perfect. Not exactly news to me, but it certainly blows my well-developed cover. Rats! Never the less, I am loved, in this world and the next, and my escapades are worth a good laugh now and then.
I am truly not perfect. Sometimes not even terribly competent. Not exactly news to God, either. Apparently, He has a fondness for people who bollox things up, even on a fairly grand scale (think Moses, David, Paul). He manages to bring some amazing things out of some incredible messes. I imagine He’ll end up creating something interesting and ultimately astonishing (at least to me) out of me.
Ultimately, the worst thing that happened today was that I spent several hours--off and on--so distressed by a truly insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things event that I missed out on the sheer joy of a bright fall day. Not the best use of finite time. Still, St. Francis of Rome (whom I had asked for intercession as I left the garage) and my Guardian Angel were looking after me, and all things considered, it wasn’t much of a bruise except to my ego. A near miss is a good way to remember to be more attentive, You can be sure I’ll be making that turn wide for a good long while.
On the other hand, I remembered something that just might be worth the embarrassment and frustration: As long as I set my will and open my heart to the grace of God, no matter where I find myself--whatever the circumstances--there He is.
Even in ditch. And I am equally certain that He has a sense of humor. I do think I heard a distant voice intoning this morning as I extricated myself from my car...It ain’t the arrow....