I originally wrote this story almost 22 year ago for one of my first college English classes. I like to think I’m at least a little better writer now, and I even considered re-writing this to make it better but decided to share it mostly as it was written then. It sounds closer to the voice of my 4 year old self than I feel my current writing style does, and hers is the story I want to share today.
I’m sharing this now for several reasons. One, because I believe we should all be blessing each other by sharing the miracles in our lives more often.
Also, because sometimes people mistakenly assume that I’m able to make bold choices, to live the lifestyle of my dreams because I’m not afraid, and that’s so far from the truth. I have plenty of fear. I suffered PTSD for years after this day, and still I mostly sit just at the edge of panic when riding in vehicles. Despite all that, I chose a lifestyle that has me facing this exact, specific fear all. the. time. I don’t lack fear, I’m just willing to face my fear head-on and live my dreams in spite of it. I love the adventure of life on the road too much to let fear hold me back.
Don’t let fear keep you from living the life of your dreams.
The original story from 16 November 1994
“Who should I ride with?” – one of those life changing questions every four year old must face. Well, on this day, for me, it was. My oldest sister was driving her own car and leaving early. This meant that if I rode with her, I would get to my Aunt Kay’s house early, maybe only by an hour or so, but that was enough for me. I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks. I loved going on road trips, and I had never been to Pennsylvania before. I wondered if my aunt would remember me, or if she would be nice to me. Maybe she would even have a present for me!
My sister, my brother and I left early that morning, about an hour ahead of my parents. I was situated comfortably in the rear of my sister’s hatchback Honda, with the seat folded down, so I had room to play. I had my doll, Baby Fatso, and my Brand-New-Never-Been-Used-Box-Of-64-Crayons-With-A-Built-In-Sharpener. I had wanted this box of crayons for as long as I could remember, and I finally had one. I was so excited that I had not even used them. I just sat and looked at all the pretty colors, trying to decide which one to use first.
We were driving at the top of a hill above a four lane highway, when my sister blacked out. Before my brother could even think of grabbing the wheel and gaining control of the car, we were tumbling down the hill toward the highway below us. We kept tumbling across all four lanes of traffic and by some miracle of God, no other cars were involved in the accident. Finally, stopped by a guard rail, the car ended up on its roof.
I’ll fill in some details here that 18 year old me left out: The rear window of the hatchback had completely blown out on our way down the hill. I had no seatbelt on, I wasn’t even in a seat – I was in the back of the hatchback with the seat folded down. The fact that I didn’t go flying out of this car as it flipped, not rolled, flipped down the hill is a complete miracle. (I’ve always pictured a giant God hand covering the open window holding me in.) Also, if we wouldn’t have hit the guardrail, we would have continued tumbling down another hill, right into an old church sitting at the bottom. I’ve always loved that imagery, a visual reminder of where miracles come from.
The next thing I remember is this woman holding me and trying to get me to stop crying. I kept screaming for my mommy; I didn’t want this strange woman holding me, I wanted my mommy. In all the fuss, I had completely forgotten about my brother and sister, who, I then realized, were gone. Once again, I became terrified, because in my four year old mind, I figured they were dead, and my mom and dad were so far away, that I was never going to get home. Finally, the paramedics came and took me to the ambulance that my sister was in; I was so happy to see her alive, even though she looked terrible. My sister was crying and calling me to her, but the paramedics would not let me touch her. I looked out the window and saw the ambulance that my brother was in drive away. I wondered why he was in a different ambulance and where he was going. I was pretty certain he was dead. I felt so scared and alone; I just wanted to find my mommy and go home.
While I was in my hospital room, a man with huge curly hair, like Richard Simmons, came in and tried to cheer me up. I asked him if he knew where my things were; he said that he didn’t know but he would look for them. I described my toys to him, being careful to mention my crayons numerous times. He left to look for my things. The man with Richard Simmons Hair returned a while later with Baby Fatso, her suitcase and my crayon box. To my despair, all but four of my crayons were missing. I did not care about Baby Fatso or her belongings; all I wanted was my Brand-New-Never-Been-Used-Box-Of-64-Crayons-With-A-Built-In-Sharpener. They never found my crayons, and I never got another box. I will never forget how good it felt to have my very own, Brand-New-Never-Been-Used-Box-Of-64-Crayons-With-A-Built-In-Sharpener.
Richard Simmons Hair drove to the junk yard and dug through the wreckage to find my toys. It’s a chilling thought that he was only able to recover 4 crayons. Before the accident they were all tucked safely away in the box. I imagine the scene, the inside of the car looking like the inside of a clothes dryer, my crayons flying out of the box and out that shattered window, all but 4 of them, and still, somehow, I walked away with barely a scratch. God’s hand.
My sister and brother, who were not wearing seat belts either, also walked away with only minor injuries. God’s hand.
My poor mom and dad drove up to the scene just in time to see the wrecker pulling away. My mom says she didn’t really recognize the completely mangled car, she just “knew” it was my sister’s car, the car carrying 3 of their 4 children, so they followed it all the way to the junk yard to try to figure where we had been taken. I can only image how absolutely awful my parents must have felt from the moment that they saw my sister’s car until they finally made it to the hospital to find out we were all okay.
We didn’t make it to Pennsylvania that day. We went back home to Ohio. I spent years suffering from terrifying nightmares. This is not one of those stories where I tell you I’m now somehow grateful this happened to me, I’m not. But I am grateful for the miracle that we were all relatively unharmed, and I’m grateful for the angels who blessed me with their love that day, and I’m grateful I’ve learned to overcome my fear and live my life however I choose to live it.
To the (angel) man with Richard Simmons Hair, who went out of his way to retrieve what was left of my favorite possessions from the wreckage to comfort a scared little girl, thank you.
To the (angel) woman who stopped her car and held a complete stranger’s child in her arms and comfort her in that way only a mommy can do, thank you.
Face your fears head on.
Talk about the miracles in your life as often as you can.
Be someone’s angel.