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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

We Were Corned Beef Rock Stars (Children Mentioned)

It's a strange coincidence--I recently read an article about the term car accident. The writer explained their problem with the word accident. Accident implies that no one was at fault, that the situation couldn't be avoided. The writer preferred the term car crash because there is a reason behind most collisions. The person was distracted and talking on a cell phone; the person was changing the CD while driving; the person drove through a red light, trying to shave a few minutes off their trip; the person went before it was their turn at a 4-way stop because they felt as if everyone else was driving too slowly. Or, just hypothetically, the person was in the right lane, realized they wanted to make a left turn and made it anyway.

Three guesses about what happened to me last Friday.

I noticed the car a few blocks earlier because it had a bumper sticker for Ithaca College. I was thinking about how Ithaca College had the highest suicide rate out of any US college (at least this was true back in 1991 when I was touring colleges). A few blocks later, I would be in the left lane, planning on traveling straight. We were going to Josh's office with a cake for his birthday. The car would be in the right lane and as we approached an intersection, it would turn in front of my slow-moving, stuck-in-traffic-car and hit my right front bumper while I leaned on the horn during the impact. As if a horn could stop another car from moving. The man completed his turn instead of stopping and I changed my direction, turning with him so I could collect his information. It really sucks when someone else crashes into your day.

The man was apologetic but confused. He didn't have his car insurance card. I copied information from his driver's license. He had an empty car seat in his back seat. He didn't really understand why he couldn't make a left from the right lane. We stood outside for 10 minutes as he called someone, trying to get his insurance information. The ChickieNob and Wolvog watched me through the front windshield. My hands couldn't stop shaking even though it had simply been a fender bender. It hits close to home when they're in the car.

When I got in the car, the Wolvog's lip started quivering. He's sensitive to noise. He looked out the window and said, "I thought about it and it's okay to use your horn if it's an emergency."

Was that an emergency? What if he had hit a different part of the car? What if we had been traveling at a higher speed? It's really hard not to drown inside what ifs.

The hardest part, for me, about being a parent is swallowing my own reaction. You can't go lie down when you're exhausted, you can't cry when you're upset, you have to pretend that you're not having a fight, you have to talk about the Washington Monument instead of obsess about a fender bender.

I wanted to place my head down against the wheel and have a long cry of frustration and fear on a side street. Instead, I pulled back onto our road and continued down to Josh's office, talking non-stop about the cake and the people at his workplace and the monument peeking out over the other buildings. It is incredibly hard to pretend that everything is okay, no matter how much practice you get during treatments at smoke-and-mirrors deception. Because that's where it begins. Plastering the smile on your face when you re-enter the room after hearing about your negative beta. Shrugging your shoulders when someone asks you when you're going to have children. Pretending you don't covet your friend's child.

I was still obsessing about the car on the ride home, thinking about the hours of work and appointments this man just created for me in an already packed schedule. But I was keeping up a constant conversation about church bells and Playmobil and what would go down when we got to the kosher butcher. I went over the plan ten times, partly to have something to say and partly because I really did want to get out of there quickly. I wanted to run the errand, get them home, drop them down for a nap, and get two hours to be myself--to be an emotional, shaken, worrisome woman.

We ran through the kosher butcher in under five minutes, grabbing two steaks, a package of chicken strips, and a 1/4 pound of corned beef for the ChickieNob who loves all things salty. We're rock stars, I told them, thinking about how I had held it together for 3 hours by this point as well as ran my errand in the shortest time possible. We went to check out and as I was signing my name across the credit slip, the ChickieNob turned to the rest of the grocery store and started dancing in place, screaming to the other customers, "we are corned beef rock stars, people, which means that I wear sunglasses."

We are most certainly corned beef rock stars.

I was thirteen when my cousin died. It was the first funeral I was allowed to attend. My older cousin wore dark sunglasses during the graveside service and I asked my mother why he wore sunglasses because I thought of them as beach wear. She explained that some boys wear sunglasses at funerals because they don't want people to see them cry. Which seemed a little silly. We were at a funeral. It made sense to be sad. And sunglasses didn't catch tears, they only hid the source.

That's what I thought about the rest of the ride home, corned beef and chicken tucked into their respective packages on the car seat next to me. The ChickieNob and Wolvog in the backseat. Fifteen minutes away from home.


Denise said...

Wow. I have that reaction even when it's just me in the car.

I had a near car crash experience on my way to work this very morning, in fact. Two right hand turn lanes. Me in the left of the two and the woman in the right lane driving THROUGH my lane during the turn (and almost into my car) so she could turn left at the next light. I slammed on my brakes, and the horn for about 30 seconds straight and then my heart was pounding for another 5 minutes.

Maybe another way to look at car "accident" terminology is that although someone may be at fault, it doesn't necessarily mean they caused the accident on purpose. Maybe we should call them "car mistakes."

Lori said...

I had no idea you were dealing with this, O Stoic One.

I think this is one of the biggest challenges for me as a mom: I am always the comforter. Even when everything in me needs to be the comfortee.

(Where was that article? I feel like I read that, too, but i can't remember where).

So glad all three of you CBRSs are OK :-).

Jess said...

"Sunglasses don't catch tears, they just hide the source." That seems profound to me for some reason.

I totally get what you're saying about being a mom, and it scares the crap out of me. I'm such a wussy pansy that I don't know how I'll ever make it with these kids.

You are CERTAINLY a corned beef rockstar for keeping it together!!

Just today Travis and I were talking about car crashes. I was driving and not as adventurously as he might like for that matter, and the kids were in the back. I was like...THE KIDS are in the BACK, ok?

I'm glad you guys are all ok. Scary, scary.

Io said...

This is such a moving post Mel. I'm glad you're at least physically ok after that accident.
You really hit it on the head about concealing emotions.

Rachael said...

I hope you're okay, all of you. Nasty stuff.

My baby cousin died when I was 12 1/2, and I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral. I feel you, I really do.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea where this was going when I read the title. ;) Builder Boy was in the car when we were rear-ended on a very dark, very rainy night. I flew out of the car to hear the old man behind me say, "I'm 69 and this is my first acccient." Gee, buddy, that makes me feel so much better! He continued with, "Calm down, lady" because I was practically hyperventilating. When I yelled, "Calm Down??? My two year old is in the back seat" he shut up fast. So did all the insurance agents. It was awful and thinking about it now makes me want to cry. I'm not a drinker, but damned if I didn't have a glass of wine that night! Sorry you had to go through it, but glad you are all okay. Corned beef rockstars-too funny!!

Tracy said...

I thought this was a moving post, as well. I cried, I laughed. I love the line from the ChickieNob. Well done, I say.

Sorry you went through this. It's the kind of seemingly random incident that shakes you to the core.

ttatic said...

Glad to read you're ok. As a dad I can relate to trying to keep the stiff upper lip and be the tough guy when you're really scared silly inside.

One more thing...

"I was thinking about how Ithaca College had the highest suicide rate out of any US college (at least this was true back in 1991 when I was touring colleges)"

Just for the record, this was never true. Cornell (also in Ithaca, NY) had this reputation, but never Ithaca.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I'm glad you guys were ok! I'm so sorry they had to be in the car when it happened!

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and she was telling me how once I'm a mom I will never be able to just be sick or tired or alone during a trying situation.

I think I'll still call them car accidents because although someone is at fault it usually is unintentional.

Jendeis said...

Totally missing the point of your post with the following comment: I heart the ChickieNob. I would like to be married in a unicorn wedding and be a corned beef rock star who wears sunglasses.

Beagle said...

From a different angle, this really hit me. Lately, whenever I fall apart, for big reasons and small . . . I wonder how will I ever manage to keep it together when my child finally comes. I know I can't fall apart in front of my child. I feel like I need to start practicing now, but I also feel like I need to stop holding it all in. Where is the balancing point?

I'm so glad you are all safe and unharmed. And corned beef rocks stars sounds like a great title for a future book . . .

littleangelkisses said...

Holding it together for others....I could write volumes on this...

I wish I had sunglasses today.

I'm sorry about the accident. It WAS an accident for you.

loribeth said...

Corned Beef Rockstars sounds like a great name for a rock group. I'd put a copyright on it right now, if I were you. ; ) Seriously, glad you are all OK. Even though I don't have kids, I totally understand the stiff upper lip in public thing, & thought your comparison to infertility situations was brilliant.

Tina said...

I am sorry this had to happen... And,I am glad all of you are okay! Gotta say, driving here in NJ is like driving while spinning a roulette wheel - so much traffic with so many "important people with important places to go". It's like an accident waiting to happen every waking second you are on the road!

Glad you got his information - you were WAY more calm than I would have been! ;)

Anyways, in a way, I think always being the stoic one in front of our children is not always the wisest reaction to have. We are teaching them "bad habits" - to be "okay" when we are not, to "suck it up" when we can't. That is not real life - and that is part of the reason all of us hide our own hurts, which then take us so, so long to come to terms with and resolve.

When I went through m/c's #2 and #3, it was very hard to hide the pain - I cried mostly at night or when DS wasn't around. However, I remember one day right after Thanksgiving in 2005 - about 6 days after my d&c and the day of my friend's DD's baptism - I just couldn't handle it anymore. I had spent all of Thanksgiving and the day of the baptism with my "mask of everything's okay" on and I couldn't wear it on any longer. Something set me off that I can't recall now...and I just sobbed in my glider in the living room, in front of DS. He was a whopping 1 1/2 at that time and could never understand what was happening...

But, the empathy and caring he showed me that day was just breathtaking. He came over, tenderly patted my hand again and again (kind of what I would do for him sometimes if he was sad), and let me cry. He hugged me and kissed me...and let me cry until I was all out of tears in that moment. He didn't judge me...he didn't look at me like I had three heads.

It was pure, innocent, natural compassion.

Sure, I feel guilty about heaving that heavy load on him at the time - but, his ability to care for me and love me, "weakness" and all in that moment, floored me. It showed so much natural compassion on his part. It showed me I was doing something right in raising him, that he could be that strong to comfort me, even if he didn't understand what was happening.

Compassion and empathy are qualities the can only really be learned by example...and that sometimes means letting our guard down as parents and showing our children that we, too, hurt sometimes...and it's okay to hurt, be scared or be mad.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mel,

Sorry about the car crash. Scary and unecessary and unfair.

An interesting juxtaposition between the stoicism that you have to have around your kids sometimes and the stoicism that ttc/if/ttp forces upon you.

I'm so glad that your rockstar kiddo gave you a much needed intermission from the stress and difficulty of the day.

PCOSMama said...

I can totally relate to this. My daughter and I were rear-ended the night before we left Nebraska for our move to Texas. We were just running to Target for some last minute add-ons to our road trip. She was 10 months old. The guy who did it actually had the audacity to ask me to not call the police because he didn't have insurance. Sure buddy, my car may only have minor damages, but my little girl started screaming at the moment of impact and pretty much didn't stop for 20 minutes. I'll be damned if I wasn't taking her to the emergency room to get checked out. Got myself checked out to because my back started hurting - turned out she was fine but I had strained my back somehow. Made for a fun road trip!

To make a long story short, it is SO scary when your kids are in the car. Especially since even a minor accident can sometimes cause injuries. So sorry you had to keep it together after that! I only managed to keep it together by letting my rage lose (verbally of course) on the idiot who did it.

Rachel said...

I am glad you are OK.

"Holding it together for the kids" is a conversation that my hubby and I have had several times in the past few days. I am terrified of most creatures and curvy roads. I am trying to learn how I won't teach my son those fears. I haven't figured it out yet, but maybe I will by the time he is old enough to understand.

Southern Comfortable said...

I'm so sorry about the wreck, and glad you and the kids are okay. What is it about people out on the road? It's as if they lose all common sense.

This morning I was driving on 395, about to cross the 14th Street Bridge into D.C. I noticed that the silver Saab in front of me was driving slower than all the other cars. Turns out, she had her visor down and the mirror popped open, and she was PUTTING ON MASCARA as she drove in four lanes of heavy-ish, moving traffic over the bridge.

Last I saw her, she was driving past the exit for the 3rd Street Tunnel, still primping away . . . .

Mel said...

I love this post.
I hate car accidents. It's like the universe stops for a moment and your ability to focus is left somewhere in the place between where the two cars meet.

Elizabeth said...

WOW - glad you are all ok, if shaken. The way you convey the multifold meaning of the event, connecting to feelings about infertility, grief, and your child's exuberance is simply brilliantly done.

The Dunn Family said...

The image of your daughter makes me laugh out loud.

Sorry about the crash. It's scary and crappy and it's a crazy irrational fear I have almost every time I get in the car with the kids.

I have to say that for the first time since my kids were born I really had the "I want to turn off being a mommy" moment this week. Being sick as a dog is not a fun time to be a parent. My mom laughed at me when I told her this. She said "My dear, it has only just begun". Woohoo.

Isabel said...

Sorry, Mel. Glad you guys are okay.

Bea said...

Glad everyone is ok and that the accident was relatively minor. And glad you held it together on the way home, even if it was an act of supreme self-control. I would have been profoundly shaken. Hope you had time for a mini-breakdown later on.


ms. c said...

I'm glad that no one was hurt physically.
As always, the connections that you make in your post are outstanding.
I have been thinking so much lately how my life will change when the baby is finally here. One of the things that I realized is that I won't be able to be a baby anymore (cry in frustration, lie down for a nap...), even when I really will need to be.
And: I am in love with ChickieNob for her glorious exclamation!

Julia said...

I learned to focus on the people in the car after the accident. A car is just a car. A good one can save your life (as ours did nearly three years ago). I also took a driving course that taught accident-avoiding and damage-minimizing techniques, and I can honestly say it was a great thing for me. I avoided a few accidents since then, and the one I was in a bit less than two weeks ago I managed to make sure the damage was minimal.
It is, however, so much worse when the people you love are in the car. I hope the damage can be repaired quickly and with minimal disruption to your lives. And that you are feeling better by now.

Ahuva Batya said...

I loved reading your thoughts, although not the actual events. I'm so sorry you had that experience, but your words regarding not being able to react is something that I will be thinking about the rest of the day. It's a perspective of parenthood I hadn't really considered. Always being "on," always being the strongest person in the room. I'm sure it's exhausting. I'm glad the accident was not worse.

Vacant Uterus said...

I'm behind again and catching up, again. I'm glad you're okay and that the kids are okay, too. Corned beef rock stars you are, indeed. And more, my friend.