A Mother’s Run

When the going gets tough, I’d just as soon flee. Yesterday was about as bad as days can be, and I was looking for my ticket out. I thought of the gully on my land in Mississippi—20 acres of backwoods, adjoining my sister’s 20—old family land since 1850. There’s a gully with cliff-like sides that go straight down about 40 feet. I played there as a child, and the only way to enter it was to follow the farm’s trickling stream to its head. I’d be safe there. No one, nothing could touch me. Yesterday, I wanted to get in that great big hole and stay.

This morning as I drove over South Berry’s Chapel Road taking the dog for grooming, I was still looking for an escape. The road curved into a tunnel of low-hanging branches in autumn orange and yellow, and I found myself wishing I could enter it and not come out the other side. I topped the hill on Lynnwood Way and saw that traffic was backed up at the light at Franklin Road. In fact, traffic was not moving at all. I inched into the left lane to head toward Brentwood and waited 15 minutes for my turn on a green arrow. The light turned yellow and quickly red, but I went anyway and scooted up beside the car in front of me. I’d be late for my appointment. Why do these things always happen to me? I snaked up Franklin Road at 1 mph in a long line of cars, and as I neared Holly Tree Gap Road, I saw the lights. Three police cars. A fire truck. A wreck. An ambulance backed up to a victim on the ground.

The bashed-in SUV was still in the southbound lane. I proceeded northbound, then stopped while a policeman let traffic in the other lane go. To my left I saw a van park on the shoulder. A woman got out and began to run. She moved quickly, evenly, never faltered, never slowed, and it was a steep uphill run. She kept up her speed. I don’t think she was a runner, but it was obvious that whatever it took, she was going to get to the accident site, to where someone was lying on the side of the road with paramedics busy at work. It hit me that this was a mother’s run. It wasn’t a wife’s run, or a friend’s run. It was a mother’s run. Given the time of day, I just knew a high school student was involved, injured. I immediately began to run with the woman in my mind. I cried, said a prayer for her, her child. Then I thought about my husband who accuses me of “writing fiction” when things happen. He says I always think I know what’s going on. I’m usually right.

I called my groomer and told her I’d be a few minutes late. Laurie has a friend on the police force and after she bathed and styled my spaniel, she called him. He’d actually worked the accident. There were two high school kids involved—a brother driving himself and his sister to school. Their tire blew out, they swerved, and another car smashed into them. They were both injured, taken to the hospital, but would be released. They’d be okay. And I was right. It was a mother’s run.

She was running headlong to encounter what was laid out before her. I was able to put my own problems in perspective then. Regardless of whatever insignificant stuff was cropping up in my life to give me grief, I knew my two were safe, for the moment. And that’s really all in this world that matters.

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