Sometimes memories are like little lifeboats that can give you just enough leverage to keep you afloat during a difficult time. I know it’s probably best to be present and stay in the moment, but sometimes little bubbles of magic float up from the past and there is something lovely about savouring them one more time.
I remember the first time my wife and I met, delightfully nervous as we walked around and around the Assiniboine forest. I remember the first time our kids met each other at Bird’s Hill Park, all of them bundled together in a hammock, shrieking with laughter as I snuck up on them playing the ‘monster’.
Some memories are fleeting, but this one that I am going to share with you has come back to me many times over the years. It’s a memory, a reminder, a lesson that I keep trying to learn. Trying to master.
It was mid-June, normally a time of sunny warm weather in Winnipeg, but this year the rain had been falling like a West Coast winter. Riley and I were heading out to our plot at the community garden at the University of Manitoba. I had been anxiously awaiting the weekend hoping that all of my young plants hadn’t been washed away in the never ending deluge.
Riley rattled on in his carseat in the back weaving his chatter somewhere between fantasy and reality in that magical way two year olds have of bridging together their mental worlds.
I was only half listening, I was worried about my garden and concentrating on driving. I had only had my license for a few months and drove rarely. It was enough to keep track of where I was going, but I was also distracted by the darkening sky. I frowned out my window at the billowing black clouds (that were not in the forecast) hoping that the rain would hold off long enough for me to check out my sprouts.
It started spitting again as I turned off the highway and pointed myself up the gravel road on the outskirts of the university campus. My attention was suddenly wrenched away from the sky as I felt my wheels start to sink and slide on the loose, sodden ground.
My car slid sideways and I held my breath as the ditch approached us. I turned the wheels and leaned on the break and we slowed to a stop. I exhaled a long slow breath relieved to still be on the small gravel road. I decided to park out on the main road instead, except that my car didn’t seem to agree with me. I pressed on the accelerator and the tires spun, and spun. The clouds broke open and the rain started to pound down on the roof of the car. The car that was going nowhere.
I tried alternating between reverse and drive a few times, but there was no traction. We were stuck. My heart started racing as I looked at Riley and then out into the downpour. “We’re stuck. I don’t know what to do.” I said, half to him and half to myself as I leaned back and unbuckled his seat.
I couldn’t even think. There was not a car in sight, I didn’t have a cell phone, I was stranded at the community garden at the outskirts of the U of M, with a toddler. This was the worst.
“Oh no mama,” Riley answered his little face reflecting my worry, as he climbed into the front seat beside me. “Are we going to be stuck here forever?”
“No,” I told him distractedly, “it won't be forever.” I wondered how far we would have to walk
to find a pay phone.
“Are we going to starve?” His big blue eyes round as saucers.
“No,” I answered again, “We have snacks and water right here.”
“Is the rain going to wash us away?” He put his little hand against the front windshield where the rain splattered so hard it was impossible to see the edge of the road.
“No,” I sighed loudly, “We’re not going to be washed anywhere.”
He frowned and crawled awkwardly into my lap, squeezing himself between me and the steering wheel. “Well mama, if we aren’t going to be washed away or starve and we’re not going to be here forever, there probably isn’t really anything to worry about.” He reached up and patted my cheek with his warm little toddler hand. “Maybe you should just have a snack.”
Of course, he was right.
There was nothing to worry about, because worrying has never actually helped anything. Instead, we had a snack and Riley cheered me on as I found some old boards and cardboard and shoved them under the tires. After a sodden hour of adjusting and readjusting and shoveling, the tires caught and we were on our way home. Wet and soggy and smiling.
Instead of a miserable rainy trip to the garden, we had had a great adventure. It’s a problem if you think it’s a problem, otherwise, it’s an adventure. It’s just a matter of perspective.
Isn’t it always?