Trouble rarely comes alone

My daughters dance. They dance in competitions, and some of them have reached championship levels. They also dance for programs. They dance in schools and nursing homes and libraries. They dance in community events and ethnic festivals. They dance in parades. They dance in churches and in taverns.

Because they dance, they also practice. Imitating an idea of their dance teacher, I bought four 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and taped them to the garage floor to give them a private dance studio. The wood warps and flattens due to weather conditions, and the duct tape has to be replaced periodically, but the convenience of a place to dance cannot be beat. All they have to do is open the garage door, back the car onto the driveway, plug in their music, and they are ready to dance.

Our house includes a two-car garage with two steel garage doors. Since the day we moved in, half the garage has been filled with boxes of things that are not a car. (Yes, even with a 388 square-foot workshop and storage shed, we also had to keep things in the garage.) Over time, the contents of the garage have changed. More and more, they include the property of family members who have gone off to college—and I am very happy that none of those boxes were transferred into the shed.

One of the garage doors, the one on the storage side, broke several years ago. The door tangled with something, probably a bicycle, and the steel cracked and tore at the top of the door. The door could still be opened and closed manually, after I fixed it with some scrap lumber, but it could no longer handle the energy of the mechanical opener. I knew that the door would have to be replaced before the house could be sold, but we were willing to live with a faulty garage door.

When the shed burned two weeks ago, the items that could be rescued, and some that are being inventoried to be replaced, were moved into the garage. That means that the car sits in the driveway now, and it also means that the dance studio is closed until further notice. One of my daughters moved a few items to get to one sheet of plywood, which she pulled onto the lawn to practice. She left the plywood out, but I didn’t want the grass to die, so I put it away. Later that night another daughter wanted to practice. I told her she could get the plywood out again, but I wanted it returned to the garage when she was done.

She did not put the plywood far enough into the garage before closing the door. The door tangled with the plywood and began to crack and tear the same way that the first door had broken.

I researched online to check the cost of a new garage door. First I looked at the web sites of the big hardware stores to learn what the doors alone would cost. Then I researched the work required to install a garage door. In the past I have had to reattach springs that had broken, which is difficult enough; I decided that I could not handle the entire burden of replacing the doors. I found a local company that specializes in garage doors, noted that they had an online coupon, and made arrangements to have them provide and install the two doors.

The workman came Tuesday. That meant that I had to get up early Tuesday morning and empty half the garage so he would have room to work. I was carrying boxes of material left behind when family members went to college. I was carrying boxes of old toys—a toy kitchen set with a large box of plastic food and plates and so forth; a box of Lego blocks; a box of Lincoln Logs—you get the picture. I was also moving things that came from the shed and things that replaced what had been in the shed—a new lawnmower, a seven-foot artificial Christmas tree (which I assembled at the end of the driveway to air it out), rakes and shovels, a World War I footlocker that had belonged to my grandfather—again, you get the picture. The lawn was covered with boxes and assorted items. It looked as though we were having a lawn sale; I even joked about putting up a sign that would say, “Nothing here is for sale!” Then, when the garage doors were installed and the bill had been paid, I had to put all those things back into the garage.

As a result of all that lifting and carrying, I have irritated a pinched nerve in my neck. Every few years the problem flares up—some years ago I underwent three months of physical therapy after the family doctor discovered that I had lost strength in my right hand because I was not using it due to the pain. Although the pinch is in my neck, the pain extends the length of my right arm, often aching in my elbow and forearm. Two fingers in my right hand are numb. When I had physical therapy, I was taught stretching exercises that help to relieve the pressure on the nerve, so I am returning to those exercises, as well as occasionally swallowing medicine for the pain.

I am reporting problems, but I hope it does not sound as though I am complaining. I am happy to have two new garage doors; that work would have needed to be done when it came time to sell the house. I also need to repaint seven rooms, plus two bathrooms and three closets, and then replace the flooring before the house can be sold. Since I am hoping for a job offer in a different city, I might go ahead and start working on that painting soon. J.

Catching up

In the two weeks since my workroom/storage shed went up in flames, I’ve been dealing with that reality as well as reaching several other landmarks.

The insurance company sent a pair of adjusters to look at the damage and estimate the cost of repair and replacement. They indicated that contractors would probably prefer to raze the structure and build from the concrete slab rather than trying to replace all that was damaged by the fire. After considerable study, they estimated the cost of replacement, subtracted our deductible and depreciation, and handed me a check. The check had to be sent to the holder of the mortgage, since that company’s name is also on the check; someone will sign the check for the company and mail it back.

In addition to the cost of the building, my insurance policy also includes contents of the building. As a result, my family and I have spent much of the past two weeks listing everything that was in the shed, then researching the cost of replacement. That started the day after the fire, when I went to the hardware store to replace tools that I need to use this spring. The next replacement purchase was the lawnmower, which did not appear to be damaged, but which started once, ran twenty or thirty feet, and died, refusing to start again, even after I replaced the air filter. Children’s clothing and toys, which my family was gradually removing to donate to the church for its periodic rummage sale, now has to be listed, photographed, and in most cases discarded. Some homemade dresses are being saved for their nostalgic value. Then there’s the Christmas decorations. Many of the ceramic and glass figures were scalded by the fire. I will soon make arrangements with a professional cleaning company—recommended by the insurance company—to see what can be saved rather than replaced.

Meanwhile, I am inviting general contractors to place a bid on the work to replace the building. Many of my readers probably know a lot about general contractors, but some might not know about them. (Mrs. Dim didn’t understand them. When I asked her if she could recommend a general contractor, she told me not to use the one she had used. He showed up once, then took her money but sent other people to do the work.) General contractors oversee a building project, but they hire various specialists, such as carpenters, roofers, and electricians, to do the work. A person can save money by not using a general contractor, but that saved money is balanced by the time it takes to negotiate with each specialist, along with the necessity of knowing enough about construction to speak with those workers and to know that they are doing what they should be doing. The insurance company recommends a general contractor.

One general contractor came to the property the same day she was called and promised to email a bid. I haven’t received that email yet. A second general contractor did not return the phone call for two days, promised to come by on a certain day, and did not show up. A third came to look at the shed and wanted to know how much money the insurance company provided so his bid could match the insurance payment. I told him I planned to get several bids and compare them all to the insurance company’s evaluation, but he said he would submit a bid with a paragraph promising to adjust his figures. I’m hoping to receive one more bid, so I have three to compare.

All this overlaps wrapping up the school year and preparing to teach a summer class. At the same time, I have started my summer writing project, a study of the parables of Jesus. (I will post a few chapters, but since I plan to publish the whole book through amazon, I don’t want to share the entire work for free.) My car—a 1999 Ford Escort—crossed the 200,000 mile mark this month. I have seen license plates from forty-seven different states this year, but I am still looking for Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware. And the exhibit I curated is open until the first of July. J.

Up in flames

When I went to bed last night, I wondered if I would think in the morning that the day’s events had been just a bad dream. But the smell of smoke was too pervasive and the memories too vivid for me to think that I had dreamed about the fire.

The day began normally. I had been at work for two hours when the phone rang. I answered it and heard a voice saying, “The storage shed is on fire! I’ve called 911, but they aren’t here yet!”

People like me want to believe that we respond calmly to a crisis. Sometimes people like me say foolish things calmly in a crisis. “Do you think I should come home, then?” I asked. Of course I was out the door and on my way home as quickly as possible.

The drive home takes twenty minutes. I spent those minutes praying two things–that no one would be hurt, and that the house would be protected. I also reminded myself to breathe and to pay attention to traffic. The fire trucks were there when I arrived home, so I parked down the street. The fire was contained by then, and the firefighters were preparing to soak the contents of the shed to ensure that no hot spots would reignite.

A family member had used a power tool in the shed that morning. She did nothing wrong–she used the tool correctly and put it away when she was done. But some fault in the outlet began a small smoldering that was not immediately evident. Twenty minutes later, the same family member took some garbage to the curb and decided to bring back the recycling bin–the latter task is something I generally do when I come home Friday evenings. Her spontaneous decision to do so yesterday gave the opportunity for her to see flames and smoke far sooner than they would have been noticed otherwise.

When we bought the house, the shed was already part of the property. It is about ten feet wide and twenty-five feet deep. The front end had workspaces with shelves underneath and pegboard on the walls for hanging tools. The back end had shelves on the walls for storage. To the right of the entrance we kept lawn and gardening tools and an area for potting plants; to the left was workspace for carpentry and the like, with hand tools hung on the wall and power tools on the shelf below. Beyond that was a work table with boxes of clothing and an antique, homemade dollhouse that had been given to the children. Beyond that were boxes of outgrown toys and clothing, disassembled cribs, and the like. On the back shelves were boxes of holiday decorations.

I was already doing triage in my head while I drove home. The tools were all replaceable and probably covered by insurance. The children’s clothing and toys were things we were slowly removing, donating them to the church for its rummage sale. The Christmas decorations would be the saddest loss, but I was resigned to that loss already so long as no one was hurt and the house remained safe.

No one was hurt. The house remained safe. The fire fighters had been delayed because they were giving a program at a school. One of the children had asked them what would happen if there was a fire somewhere while they were at the school. They had said they would leave to fight the fire. A minute or two later they got the call about our fire.

The lieutenant told us there was a clear V-shape of damage from the outlet where the fire began. It traveled up and then crossed the length of the shed, following the air flow. The lawnmower was on the floor of the shed. Although charred boxes fell onto it, it was undamaged. A tank of gasoline, half-full, was on the floor of the shed about five feet from where the fire began. It survived unscathed. The power tools, on the shelf under the work area, were likewise unharmed. The hand tools that had been hanging on the wall were gone. Our grill for cooking with charcoal was, of course, unharmed, but the electric starter for the coals melted completely and will need to be replaced.

After the firefighters left, I called our insurance company. As they began the claim process, they advised me to take pictures of the building and its contents, then to begin removing contents that were not damaged. After taking pictures, we started at the front, taking out the lawnmower and power tools and other items that had survived. The antique dollhouse was, ironically, harmed much in the pattern of the shed that contained it–most of the damage to the roof and upper structure. As we worked our way to the back of the shed, moving aside charred and burned boxes, we could see that the boxes holding Christmas decorations were darkened and soaked but not burnt. One by one we carefully carried those boxes to the driveway and inspected their contents.

We did not have time to do an item-by-item inspection. Some of the ceramic and glass decorations had been damaged by the fire, but we set all that aside to handle later. Most of the clothing that had been on the work table was merely soaked and smoke-scented. We spread those items out on the grass to dry and to freshen in the breeze. The day was dry, sunny, and windy, which made it ideal for rescuing the clothing. It looked much as if we were preparing for a garage sale, and we wondered if we should post a sign saying that these things were not for sale.

Some items came to mind before we could enter the shed; others came to mind as we worked our way through the shed. Four wooden folding chairs–probably older than I am–survived, although they will be to be refinished. Handmade children’s clothing of sentimental value was found and proved to be unhurt. Even a box holding a stamp collection was retrieved from a lower shelf, essentially unharmed. The primary loss was the building itself, but the insurance adjuster has not yet looked at it to tell us so.

In spite of the trauma of enduring a fire on our property, my family and I feel that we have been blessed by the Lord. No one was injured by the fire. The house was spared. (The corner of the shed where the fire began is about ten feet from the nearest corner of the house. Two large oak trees next to the shed could have spread the fire, but we’ve had a wet spring and they remained unsinged.) Insurance will cover most of the loss. I expect to order a dumpster and clear the remaining contents out of the shed. I have been hoping for a while to receive a job offer in another city; this event may have helped to prepare for a move by forcing us to deal with extraneous possessions before the urgency of packing. Many people (including some of our neighbors) can see only loss in a fire like this. My family and I see instead how all things work for good. J.

Misunderstanding the Rhythm of the Rain

I can’t believe that I’ve been misunderstanding that song all these years!

In 1963, the aptly-named Cascades released their only hit single, “Rhythm of the Rain.” It rose to number three on the Billboard charts and has been a staple of Sixties stations and compilation recordings ever since. As a writer, I respect copyright laws, so I will not quote extensively from the song.

The premise, though, is that a man is mourning the loss of a friend. The rain is both expressing and interrupting his grief. He calls himself a fool, which—until today—led me to believe that he had caused the end of a relationship. I thought that he blamed himself for her departure.

Over the past weekend and during the middle of this week, that song has been running through my head. After multiple repetitions in my mind, the song’s true message suddenly burst upon me. I googled the lyrics to make sure that I was right, and I am indeed right.

“The only girl I care about has gone away, looking for a brand new start.” It’s happened to me; it happens to a lot of people. But nowhere in the song does he claim that she left because of something he said or did. She just left. Now he’s sad. He misses her badly. He wishes that she would return.

“But little does she know that when she went away, along with her she took my heart.” If she doesn’t know how he feels about her, they must not have had much of a relationship. Perhaps he was too shy to try to get closer to her. Perhaps other circumstances kept them from being boyfriend and girlfriend. For whatever reason, she left for her new start—maybe a new job, maybe life in a new city. Possibly she got married. Now he sits alone and mourns her departure, wishes she was back, and knows that he cannot build a relationship with someone else because he’s still stuck on her.

This is why he calls himself a fool: not because he caused a relationship to end, but because he’s heartbroken over someone he never dated, someone who doesn’t even know how much he cares about her. He calls himself a fool because he allowed his heart to stay with this woman who has left. The rain is not going to tell her how he feels, no matter how he pleads with it. If he never had the nerve to say how much he cared, it’s too late to say it now. And he is miserable without her, even though he was never really with her.

“Oh, listen to the falling rain—pitter-patter, pitter-patter.” One hopes that he soon gets out from under this cloud and learns that life goes on. It would be sad if he spent years missing the one who got away when they were never even together. J.

Busy times

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Most of the busy-ness was unavoidable, but the net effect has felt (at times) overwhelming.

Most important, of course, were Holy Week and Easter. Special services for Good Friday and Easter are to be expected. We observed the anniversary of the Lord’s death in our place, conquering death and granting forgiveness and eternal life. Then we celebrated the anniversary of his resurrection, announcing his victory and establishing the guarantee of our resurrection to live in a new and perfect world.

On the morning of Good Friday, a member of the congregation died. He had been ailing for some time; given his faith, it even seemed appropriate for his to die on such a day. He was seventy-three years old, a lifetime member of the same congregation. One of the other members called him “a pillar of the church.” After the funeral service, one of his sons remarked to me, “Finally Dad got to fill the church.”

On top of that, a historical exhibition that I was assigned to create and assemble opened at my workplace the night of Good Friday. As soon as I realized that the opening date was a holiday, I alerted the other people involved that I would not be present for the opening. For them the date was set—the second Friday of the month is a given for such events, because of other plans involving the place where I work and its neighbors in the community. With help, I put together the elements of the exhibit on Monday afternoon, and a “soft opening” was held Wednesday night prior to the official opening. A “soft opening” is only advertised within the workplace, and there are no refreshments. Four people came into the exhibit during the hour of the “soft opening,” and two of them were casual visitors unaware that there even was a “soft opening.”

I had decided in March that my First Friday Fiction would be a story taken out of a novel which I started writing more than thirty years ago. When I made that decision, I did not realize that I would end up posting the story in six installments, bleeding into Holy Week. Nor did I anticipate that typing and updating the story would inspire me to complete it in two more parts. My draft of the six installments actually ended with discussion questions, intended to gather responses that might shape the rest of the story. Instead, I began answering the questions myself, which led to writing the final parts of the story.

Embedded in these busy times were three landmarks for this Salvageable blog. I passed the second anniversary of the beginning of the blog on April 14. Somewhere in there I published my four hundredth post (one of the story episodes—I haven’t bothered to see which of them was #400). Around the same time, I reached one thousand different visitors who have looked at least once at Salvageable.

That mark of one thousand different visitors might not seem impressive, but I am happy about it. After all, writing anonymously, I have not promoted the blog on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media. In the past two years I have made many good friends, even though we know each other only through WordPress. I am grateful for all my readers, and I also enjoy reading your writings.

Undoubtedly, the best is yet to come! J.

Where were you when the lights went out?

Several unanticipated problems arose this afternoon when electric power failed at the local shopping mall. Fortunately nobody was hurt, and order was eventually restored.

The restaurants in the food court of course could not cook more food. One fast food establishment had some sandwiches and salads already prepared, but financial transactions were still difficult without use of the cash registers. Eventually, the manager discovered that one of his recently-hired workers was home schooled and was able to calculate correct change in her head, so the food was sold before it spoiled.

Emergency lights came on in the main corridors of the mall, but the rear sections of many stores were shrouded in darkness. One customer, trapped in darkness in a dressing room, mistakenly put on three pairs of pants in his confusion. Eventually he found his way out of the dressing room. When the magnitude of the problem was realized, store employees and regular customers all over the mall began using their cell phones as flashlights to rescue those customers who were trapped in the darkness. One helper spent fifteen minutes trying to comfort a woman apparently frozen in terror in the darkness. When a second helper arrived, the two of them discovered that the first helper had been consoling a mannequin.

Some customers became confused about which store was which in the darkness. A number of men of various ages stumbled in and out of Victoria’s Secret, claiming that they were trying to find the tools department of J. C. Penney.

Most traumatized were the people trapped on the mall’s escalators. Security was able to assist those who were near the top or bottom of an escalator when the power went out, but those trapped in the middle had to wait nearly two hours for electricity to be restored.

Happy April Fools’ Day to all, and to all a good night. J.

Eros and Psyche and Ted and Alice

Beauty and the Beast. The Phantom of the Opera. My Fair Lady.  The story is told repeatedly: a mature man becomes some sort of mentor to a young woman; over time an awkward romance blossoms out of the relationship. Sometimes the awkward romance involves a love triangle (Phantom-Christine-Raoul, or Henry Higgins-Eliza Doolittle-Freddie). This seems to be the more modern approach. For Beauty and the Beast, her love and loyalty to her father forms the triangle rather than any romance with a peer. The central figure, though, is always the mature male who is molding some portion of the young woman’s life to meet his standards and who then comes to view her entirely as his.

Henry Higgins wants Eliza to talk and act as a woman of high society. The Phantom wants Christine to sing as a well-trained soprano. The Beast wants Beauty to look beyond appearances and to have compassion, even affection, toward the misshapen.

The oldest version of this story, so far as I know, is the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche. Psyche is a beautiful young woman—so beautiful that men admire her from afar but are too frightened of her beauty to woo her. Eros sets out to fix her problem, but he falls in love with her himself. Even though he marries her, she is never allowed to see him; he comes to her only in the darkness of night. When her sisters (There’s the completion of the triangle.) tell her that her situation is too weird, she lights a candle to view him while he sleeps. She feared that he would be a monster, but he turns out to be achingly handsome. After all, he is a god. A drop from the candle falls and awakens him, and he flees from her; she must accomplish various impossible tasks before the couple can be reunited.

From a god to a hideous beast—or a deformed man living in the cellar and pretending to be a ghost—or a misanthropic linguist. Somehow this man is transformed by the presence of a vulnerable and shapeable young woman, and he learns that he needs her to make his life complete. Is this not a common male fantasy? And what does the young woman receive in exchange? She seeks a mentor, a teacher, or merely a host to take care of her. The last thing she wants is a lover, at least not one who is far older than she is and rather unattractive in other ways to boot.

Though much of the story remains the same, the ending varies. Beauty and the Beast find true love. Eliza spurns Freddie and returns to Henry Higgins (but only after he confesses to himself that he has “grown accustomed to her face”). Christine escapes the Phantom, who either disappears or dies, depending upon which version of the story you are following. At least Christine has Raoul, and Beauty still has her father. One wonders what will happen to Eliza; after a long diatribe on equal rights for women, the story ends with Henry Higgins demanding that she find his slippers in a tone reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

This male fantasy, this cautionary tale for young women, has its roots in a culture in which women became wives while still in their teens, but men had to show that they could earn a living and support a family before they married, often in their late twenties or early thirties. Marriages were arranged, and romance generally was not a factor in the arrangement. The blossoming of romantic tales took place in medieval France, tales in which a woman typically garners romantic love from a man who is not her husband. (Think of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot.) Beauty and the Beast is not as old a story; it was written in the 1700s, and its usual form is known from the Blue Fairy Book of 1889. Perhaps that explains why that version of Eros and Psyche could include a marriage based on love, in which husband and wife live happily ever after. J.

Signs

By the interstate highway, among all the billboards and business signs, appears one large hand-made sign that says, “Warning! Prepare to meet God!”

The first time I saw that sign, I wondered if it was put there to indicate a particularly dangerous stretch of highway. That, of course, is overthinking (something I do quite often). The location was random; the sincere intent was to get people thinking about the need to be prepared at any time to meet the Lord. After all, none of us knows what tonight or tomorrow may bring.

The last time I saw that sign, I noticed that it stands right in front of an Appleby’s restaurant. “That can’t be good for business,” I thought. I pointed out the combination to my daughter, and we began joking about posting that sign in the school cafeteria, either at the entrance or as a banner over the food line.

Context is everything, even when it comes to signs. A church with a sign that says “Jesus saves!” has a certain message in mind. A bank with a sign that says “Jesus saves!” possibly has a different message in mind.

I heard of two competing restaurants in the heart of London. One day one of the restaurants proudly posted a sign that said, “The Queen ate here!” By the end of the day, the other restaurant had posted a sign that said, “God save the Queen!”

I am thinking of a man I see some mornings on my way to work. He stands at a bus stop at a busy intersection holding a sign that says “John 3:16.” That’s all it says–not the actual content of the verse, just the reference. No suggestion to go look up the verse and read it and believe it, just the reference.

It seems to me that anyone who knows the meaning of John 3:16 does not need to see this sign. Anyone who needs to know the information contained in John 3:16 does not know what the sign means or how to find its meaning. Maybe in all the days that man has stood at that bus stop with his sign, one backsliding Christian saw “John 3:16” and began to think about the Bible and church and the love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ and had a life-changing moment. I doubt it. God can work such miracles, of course, but I fear that this man with his sign thinks he is witnessing, when he could accomplish far more with one conversation with a friend or a neighbor. J.

Dad, Jill, and Grandma

In western civilization, men tend to be analytic, problem-solving thinkers, while women tend to focus more on relationships and on the feelings of others. Of course this is a generalization with many exceptions—women do solve problems and men do care about relationships and feelings. (And don’t expect me to enter the nature v. nurture debate on this topic.) Given the standard qualifications and disclaimers, the tendency remains.

When Jill tells her father about trouble she is having with friends at school, Dad’s inner tendency is to suggest some solutions to those problems. If he is wise, Dad will keep those solutions to himself. Jill didn’t approach Dad seeking solutions. She wants two ears and a shoulder. If Dad can be supportive of her feelings and understanding about her situation, Jill will receive what she wants and needs. If Dad cannot help but blurt out, “Have you tried this?” he may lose future opportunities to know what is happening in Jill’s personal life.

As always, though, Dad has to perceive when he should act like a typical man and when he should keep his solutions to himself. Jill spends Saturday night at a friend’s house and goes to church with that friend Sunday morning. Jill’s grandmother has agreed to pick up Jill at the friend’s church and bring Jill home at half-past-noon. At 12:50, Dad’s phone rings. Jill gave Grandma the street address of the church (not the name), and Grandma’s GPS says that address does not exist. Grandma has driven up and down the street several times, and she has seen nothing that even looks like a church. She has phoned Jill, but Jill is not answering her phone.

Grandma does not want a sympathetic ear at this moment. She calls Dad looking for a solution. Provided Grandma is not panicking (and she is not), Dad does not care how Grandma feels. All his attention is focused on solving the problem.

Grandma has only a GPS, but Dad has access to Google. He types in the name of the street and adds “church.” He learns that there are three churches on that street. He lists them to Grandma with the street numbers, and the third one matches the number Jill had said to Grandma. Dad is able to click on a picture of the church at that address and describe the building to Grandma. It’s a storefront church in a strip of stores set back from the road. Dad describes the building next door which is closer to the road and easy to spot. Grandma is able to find the church and find Jill, thanks to Dad’s help.

(Fortunately, the church service was longer than expected. Jill has not been sitting outside waiting for Grandma to arrive.)

In western civilization, men have to use their best judgment when to find a solution and when to just listen. Sometimes women say of the men in their lives, “He never even listens to me.” He’s listening, I assure you, but part of his mind is processing the information you are giving him and looking for solutions. He does that because he loves you, and because he’s a normal man. Give him credit for that. J.

A father’s worries (snow day edition)

I do not blog about the members of my family. I respect their privacy, and I figure that they can tell their own stories on social media if they wish. My readers miss some good stories because of this policy, but certain principles need to be held consistently.

Of course there are exceptions.

This account is mostly about me and the way I felt, but there is no way to tell the story without including members of my family.

One day last month, schools and other institutions were closed due to winter weather. Other businesses, including the shopping mall, chose to remain open. I have daughters who work for a fast-food restaurant inside a shopping mall. Their manager figured that the mall would be busier than usual, the schools being closed and all. He texted those who were scheduled to work and asked them to try to come to work. He also called for additional workers, for whoever was available.

Some of our neighbors had already left their homes by car and didn’t seem to have trouble with the local street, so my daughters figured they could get to work safely. They set off by car. I was home—the place where I work was closed for the day. I had no plan to try to travel anywhere.

Then the phone rang.

My daughter the passenger called to tell me that they had slid to the edge of the street and couldn’t get the car moving again. They were well past half-way to the mall, but they were in a low spot between two hills, and two other cars were also stuck in the same area.

While we were talking, I heard my daughter the driver scream, and my daughter the passenger said urgently, “oh no, oh no.” Yet another car had met the same slick spot on the road and was sliding directly toward them. A collision was narrowly avoided, thanks to God’s grace and the skill of the other driver. Imagine my helpless anguish, though, being home on the phone and listening to my daughters in danger, unable to help them in any way.

We stayed on the phone for twenty minutes, and two more cars slid on the same spot straight toward my daughters in their car, and all I could do was listen to their shouts and screams.

Other cars managed to navigate the road. Those drivers chose not to stop to help, and I cannot blame them. Anyone who stopped between the hills was going to be stuck there. I asked my daughters to get out of the car and stand a safe distance away. They finally took my suggestion.

At one point a pickup truck belonging to the city did stop. The driver spoke with my daughters and the other people who were stuck. He said that the sand truck had stopped sanding right at that spot, which is why it was so slippery. He had called for barricades to close the road, and the sand truck would be back as quickly as possible.

From this point, the story is a happy one. My daughters continued to stay in touch by phone, off and on, while they waited for the sand truck. An older couple saw them standing by the car in front of their house and invited them indoors for tea and cookies. When the sand truck had arrived and applied its sand, the gentleman asked them if they would like his help to get the car unstuck. They thought he was offering to push. Instead, he took the keys, got behind the wheel, and maneuvered the car onto a drivable stretch of the street. He got out of the car, they got in, and they headed toward home.

The main streets were good, but they feared the side streets of the neighborhood. Therefore, they stopped at a grocery store, bought hats and mittens and hot beverages, and walked the last mile home. In the afternoon, when the streets were in better condition, I drove my daughter to the store to regain her car.

People say that as children grow, their parents’ worries become larger rather than smaller. I have to say that in my family, that adage appears to be true. J.