“Take time to recharge your batteries. It’s hard to see where you’re going when your lights are dim” – Robert Conelly
When I wake up to an amazing sunrise, I feel like I can tackle anything. Sometimes life has a way of testing that bravado with a little misadventure.
I had quiet morning minutes to myself on Day Four of 2014. These precious moments of silence – waking up in the manner I choose to – can steer the course of my day. One child woke at a time, and I felt like I was being the tender mother I aspire to be. I let my husband sleep in, and the kids and I made some weird concoction in the “green juice” category. By time husband woke up, I’d already stretched, fed the kids, and drank one broccoli and four celery stalks. How could this not be an empowered day?
The morning sun inspired Husband too, and we set out for a vast city park with forested trails. We saw fairy trees and heard bird screeches. This was the ultimate urban hike. The sun rays teased me away from the shaded trails and into the open fields. I was a solar array converting the sun’s energy into pure parenting power. I ran circles around my three-year-old son and watched my daughter flow on the breeze as she danced to the music pumping from our car. This is what this day was made for!
And how quickly the needle skipped off the edge of the record when we bundled into the car, full of oxygen and inspiration. Husband turned the key and the car coughed three times. He tried it again and the car sluggishly repeated it’s message, “Look Man, I just gave you a dance party. What more do you want?” And this is where I remember that we didn’t have jumper cables; we loaned them out and they never returned. Husband and I dueled with our phones to find the first emergency response. After I tapped out my contacts in the park’s surrounding neighborhood I looked around the parking lot. I am so leery of asking others for help. I directed Husband to a probable cable carrier. No luck. I watched him send off texts to people who were extremely likely to cross town to help us. No contact or no cables. I was getting tense. I snapped at my seatbelted kids who were howling and screaming at high pitches in the back seat. So I sent an email to my neighbors. We live in a cohousing community, and asking for help is expected as part of the social contract we all enter to participate in one another’s lives. I mustered up my courage to go to two cars I’d spotted passengers in nearby. The first car had three passengers – all their seats reclined and cannibis smoke trails filling the car and sliding out the sunroof. “Excuse me, do you have any jumper cables?” Driver: “Nooooo. I’m sorry.” His smiling friend in the backseat: “But we’ll give you a jump if you find cables.” It took me a long second to decode that he was offering assistance and not a come-on. Friend: “If you don’t find any cables, we can go find some.” I detected an Ethiopian accent – a community and culture we have a strong affinity to – and their kindness put me at ease. The woman walking to her vehicle beside the Ethiopian car didn’t have cables.
The afternoon was slipping away and even though it was only 2 pm, the sun was climbing behind the tree-line bringing the cold temperature with it. Husband maintained his cool while my attitude was getting colder by the minute. There are some mishaps where I am the one who can keep a level head, but when the children are directly involved I can’t rationally compute. Then I received a promising call from my neighbor who offered to cross town with his cables to help. Yes! This gave me a juke, and I set off for the nearby Environmental Education Center to see if they might have a pair. No luck, and our friend was likely already on his way. When I got back to the car the hood was popped as a distress signal. I flagged down a Parks employee to see if he might have a set of jumper cables and he laughed, “I’m on my way to get my own set!”
We mulled around outside of the car so the Friend would be able to see us in the now empty parking lot. It seemed that he would be here any minute, and finally an older gentleman pulled over to see if we needed help. Friend showed up as the Gentleman was rooting around his trunk. I thanked the Gentleman for stopping and he told me that he did have a kerosene lamp since the Goodwill thrift store was unable to accept it as a donation as it still had oil in it. Note to self. He was a kind old man, and the first person out of many to offer assistance without question. I vowed that I’d keep my eyes open to others who might need assistance even if it was inconvenient for me…because that’s just what I ought to do.
The jump itself took seconds and we were on our way. We saw our Friend speed off and corkscrew around to the lower parking lot to enjoy the park he was lured to. We drove first to a grocery store to get some much-needed snacks, and then to the auto parts store where we found that the battery was kaput. Thirty minutes and $120 later and we had power once again. I saw the Parks employee drive out of the parking lot with his new jumper cables as our new battery was charging.
How do you react when things don’t go as planned?