Sunday, February 22, 2009


Sabbath mornings are always demonstrations in opportunistic heck. One always begins these undertakings with the greatest of intentions: everyone dressed in the outfits as they were meant to be worn (unaltered by the creative interpretation of color-blind garden gnomes), clean, smiling, fed, and on time. Something you should know about me? For many, many years, I was rarely late to a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. In fact, I was often the first one to arrive, with my four little uber-prepared children in tow. People were known to comment upon this, most of them parents of less kids than I, most of them floored that this was the case. I found it pretty funny (most of those people were exceptionally busy and I often wondered how they managed to remember their own names, much less appointments and stuff). Acheiving this was sometimes a struggle, but more often just a thing to be planned out effectively and executed. Period. Enter Q. If I'm up and mostly ready before he is, it shaves easily 45 minutes off our collective prep time. Otherwise, well, we've all been in the midst of good intentions gone awry, yes? Indeed.

This morning was okay. The boy was up before I wanted him to be, but was bought off with a glass of water and a Veggie Tales video. Unfortunately, V.T. slows my other children to a near stop. So I got ready and fed him whilst continuing to issue directives. We were planning to head north after church to see birds with my aunt, enjoying a last-minute jaunt before she undergoes a double knee replacement on Monday. Boy fed, children clothed (don't look too closely or you might question the omission of tights in February, brilliant sunshine notwithstanding), equipment, food, and miscellany collected and loaded up, we're off. We'll get there just in time for church and choir practice. Too bad that we'll be missing other fun stuff, but we'll make that commitment part, and, and? Mommy's head is not spinning around and everyone is still being quite kind to each other, so we're golden.

Navigate the freeways (at perhaps a slightly increased rate of speed -- shhh!), loving the music, Q hasn't thrown up, not even a little bit, still golden. It occurs to me that perhaps this was in fact the day that major repairs were planned for one particular part of our route, taking three of the five lanes out. This occurs to me mere seconds before I spot the sea of brake lights over the next rise. Shoot. Music is still good, though. Q's happy. We'll just take this opportunity to review memory verses and the list of the books of the Bible (we're all working on this). Breathing deeply. Patience, grasshopper. Pay no attention to the crazy man trying to block merging traffic with his car. All is well.

I took the exit that would allow us to use an alternate route, noting that about a third of my fellow travellers were doing the same, making this choice perhaps less speedy than it might have been, but we were moving well as opposed to sitting still, so whatever. As we came around the big corner of the long off-ramp, slowing, I pointed out to G a license plate on a car travelling over in the far left of four wide lanes: EPH 2 8. We mused about what Ephesians 2:8 might say. I checked lanes and merged far right to make the next turn, slowing to stop at the end of the line of perhaps 9 cars waiting at the light. As I braked to a stop I heard a low rumbling. I'd seen a pickup in my mirror as I was signaling. As I looked again, the sound changed from very low, almost inaudible, to a higher clanking noise. The pickup was still coming down the angle of the ramp, about fifty feet back and closing, merging from the right, where we had come in from the left. As the driver braked sharply at the unexpected amount of traffic sitting at the red light, several dozen 10-12 foot lengths of 2" metal pipe shot up over the rack that had held them in place, resting in the back at an angle when he'd been driving on a flat surface. When I saw what was happening, they looked like someone had just released a handful of pick-up sticks. No time. I looked back to the front. Traffic was just beginning to creep forward at the light, but there was a tiny bit of shoulder there. I turned the wheel a little, and tapped the gas, only as much as I had room to, not much. I looked back again and the pipes were just about done flying through the air, most of them coming to rest now, some still rolling in front of the truck.

And then it was done. I'd barely had time to think, "OhGod" and just react, such as my reaction was. There was pipe in front of us, on either side, and resting against our back tires. When I drove over it, it did not collapse, but held it's shape. I should probably have stayed, but I was just... stunned. I knew it hadn't hit anywhere on the van because I hadn't heard any metal on metal, and I didn't care about anything else, as long as the vehicle was intact, we were too. G had seen it coming, looking for the sound, and was shaken. The girls looked back in time to see the pipes clattering on the pavement, rolling toward us, but that was pretty much it. With the lovely properties of safety glass, we would more than likely have been fine, really, even if some of it had hit us. But the truck was going around 40 when they hit the brakes, and I'm glad we didn't have test that out.

I was rattled enough that I took the wrong turn for the next piece of highway and we spent a few minutes on surface streets, getting all reoriented. Just before we got to the church, there was an Explorer waiting for EMS -- having just hit a pole, pretty directly head-on. So by the time we got there, the sermon was in full swing and the kids' choir practice was starting. G took Q to walk in the foyer -- the boys needed to stretch their legs. I sat and listened, as best I could. I kept welling up and shivering, then sort of being able to pay attention again. Which is such a shame, really, because when does one get to hear the sermon? Never. And it was so good. What I heard. The title: Subject, Verb, Object. And he tied French philosophy, grammar, and Spooky Action at a Distance together with how conventional wisdom fails us (subject) when things (object) aren't working (verb) conventionally. (Hint: the answer lies in fidelity.) It was just so good; an example of why I love this church so much. Maybe I'll get to listen later.

We went on and had other excitement. Pulling onto the freeway after church, the tow truck removing the sad Explorer passed in front of us. Ouch. Then Q got huffy at lunch time because he could smell the food and I wasn't feeding him. I had thought that his breakfast had been so big that he was likely to still be pretty full and then puke (on me) if I tried to get him to eat anything at that point. So I gave him a taste of G's tomato soup in a bread bowl, figuring that he'd hate it and I could eat quickly and get him a drink and we could get moving again, on down the road toward the birds. He ate the whole thing. The whole thing! And it was tomato soup, so acidic, something I've never dared try before. I sort of fed him with one eye open, braced, waiting. But he ate like a champ. He was completely upright in his chair and managed his head fairly well and just chowed down, barely spilling. And? He never did have any tummy upset. He's sleeping happily right now, having had a monster supper -- 6+ ounces of sweet potatoes and coconut milk plus his extra-special Boost supplement. Can you believe this? Me either.

We were hoping to see Snow Geese and Whistler Swans. We did. The swans practically lined up in fields flanking the freeway for us, if you can believe it. They were huge. We saw the horns of an owl perched in his nest. We walked and saw an eagle's nest and the tenants, Goldens, hunting. Did you know that those nests can be up to fifteen feet across? The Red-winged Blackbirds sang for us. Sandpipers ran. The little brown Winter Wrens hopped and flitted charmingly. Thanks to the observant among us, we saw the clouds of Snow Geese, thousands and thousands of them, about a mile and a half away, like fog, flying over to the nearby island and to a field. After our walk, we drove on a little further -- my aunt knows where to look and what to look for. And suddenly, there was a field full of Snow Geese. Two hundred? Three hundred? More? We sat, windows down, just breathing. (Well. I was still periodically welling up, what with the adrenaline still wearing off and all.) Suddenly, they rose. A cloud of white and black, black and white, alternating as their wings beat. They turned and wheeled for a few minutes, an exercise in precision teamwork, before heading off to rejoin the thousands who had flown earlier.

As we came back on to the freeway, a pair of swans climbed up, flying huge and low, right over us. Right over us. They were incredible. As the kids watched out the back window, more pairs crossed over, faithfully in twos, those birds who mate for life.

The sunset was gorgeous. The kids were funny and helpful and sweet and kind. And now they're asleep (exhausted) and I'm going to head off too.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...
Ephesians 2:8

What a day.


Anonymous said...

Wow.......what a morning.

As a morbid aside. Hubby's aunt, uncle, grandpa and grandma on his dad's side were killed by either pipes or logs (I forgt which)coming through their vehicle many, many years ago.

Cara said...

I love you. In a completely appropriate, one-mother-to-another sort of way. Someday, somewhere, we will meet in real life . . . and we will marvel at the wonder of it all.