I slid through a red light today, right through a space between a school bus and a station wagon. The sun was shining and it's warmer today than it has been and I didn't realize the roads were slick. But, of course, the roads are still slick. It's still winter and it's still Minnesota but I forgot and, for a brief moment, I didn't have control of my car. It's amazing how a long a moment can seem. I saw the bus and the station wagon. I imagined the impact. I thought of my kids in the back seat and prayed they wouldn't be hurt. I gripped the steering wheel, said, "Oh god" and we slid through, like thread through the eye of a needle.
The driver in the station wagon honked repeatedly and I said aloud, "I couldn't help it! Like I would run a red light on purpose!" I knew he couldn't hear me but I said it anyway. Maybe I was saying it to myself or to the kids. Maybe I just wanted the three of us to know that it was beyond my control.
We came to a stop and I put my head on the steering wheel and exhaled. Zeca mumbled something and I snapped, "What did you say? I can't hear you!" She cleared her throat, "You can't be mad at him for honking. He didn't know it was an accident. He didn't know you didn't mean to run the light." Miguel said, "Mom, he probably honked because he was scared. You would have done the same thing."
They were right but my heart was still beating too fast and I was afraid I was going to cry so I said nothing and drove the rest of the way to school. They tumbled out of the car as usual as we all said "I love you!" and "Have a good day!" and I got about a block from the school when I started crying because "What if?" What if the bus had slowed down in that intersection? What if the wagon hadn't been able to stop? What if?
I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately and, as I sat in my car and cried this morning, I was grateful - for good timing, for my kids and their kind hearts, for perspective. I'm also grateful for the frightened driver of that station wagon. If I could, I'd take him out to coffee, apologize and thank him.