For some months, I’ve been writing my memories in story form. Writing is my way of processing feelings, experiences, and inspirations. I resolved to write for me alone, but somehow, I feel to share this brief story that flowed out a few days ago. If you’re interested, which you are under no obligation to be, here is a poignant growing up lesson from the ripe age of three (sorry mom, if this brings up painful memories).
Bruised, but not broken…
My earliest memories are cloudy, like most of ours. Softly mixing together with old photographs and the stories wrapped around them, told to me by my mother in moments of nostalgia. I remember my brother, loving and loyal and usually a bit too serious. I remember my mom, hugging me and holding me as moms tend to do. My dad, he was a jokester and the most fun of the bunch.
At age three, memories are really just impressions. Like press marks made from old furniture on a carpet. In this way, I remember walking home from preschool, terrifying nightmares, exotic travel by plane, and the time my mother ran me over with a car. Yeah, that happened. My poor mother; that has got to be my ultimate nightmare at this moment, since I now have a three and five year old of my own.
That was a cool morning in February of 1984, Valentines Day to be exact. I was dolled up in my frilly best and gripping my Strawberry Shortcake lunch box. I was very nervous because I had a substitute preschool teacher for the first time; someone I didn’t know. My mother dropped me at the front door of the classroom and then turned to walk my brother, Kashi, to kindergarten next door. She didn’t know anything was wrong, she didn’t know how terrified I felt.
For me, seeing this strange woman waving through the sliding glass door of my preschool was too much. Infact, upon seeing her, I turned on my heels and bolted for my mom’s old Subaru wagon. I stood behind her car, so small that I couldn’t be seen in the rearview mirror. There I hatched a brilliant plan in my three-year-old brain. “When mom returns from Kashi’s classroom and begins to back up the car, I’ll jump on the bumper, hold onto the rear windshield wiper, and get a ride home. When mom gets out of the car to find me there, she surely won’t make me go back to that scary place, with that strange woman!” Well, you can imagine how grounded in reality my plan was.
In truth, what followed was a miracle of sorts. My mom began backing up the car and I was immediately pulled by its force down to the ground. By the grace of God, I was in the center of the bumper, so my body wasn’t going to be fully crushed by a tire. I was, however, gripping my Strawberry Shortcake lunch box with all my might and that, along with my hand, was in the direct path of a back-right tire.
From inside the car, with the windows rolled up, my mom heard a cry. It sounded to her like it came from the meadow, far far away. But, something within her made her slam the brakes and listen. She heard it again, still far away, but she felt drawn out of the car to look around. She walked around the car, listening for the cry and looked down on the ground.
There I lay, lower body wedged under the bumper with my head and shoulders sticking out, crying in pain. I can only imagine that this remains the very worst moment of my mother’s life. She has had some hard times, she’s lost friends and loved ones, but I cannot imagine anything on planet earth worse than thinking you may have killed or maimed your own child. Really, nothing.
She grabbed a blanket from inside the car and wrapped me in it, gently laying me in the front seat and racing to the local clinic. From there, much of my memory gets clouded again except one moment, a moment that stood out as a revelation. Laying on the patient table in that clinic, watching nurses clean my scraped legs with gauze and seeing my poor mother in a chair next to me crying her eyes out, I remember saying to her, “It’s okay mom, I’m okay.” It felt strange to comfort my own mother. This moment marked the first time my tiny self had considered that my mother might be a vulnerable human and not an infallible Goddess.
A few more memories float past of my brother doting on me as my legs, now fully bandaged from top to bottom, healed. I remember laying on a mattress in the living room and needing help to go to the bathroom because I could barely bend my legs. Little else from that episode remains, but it is one impression that no amount of time will lift away.
Kashi and me in Europe in 1984