Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I brake for butterflies

I wasn’t one of those lucky kids who turned 16 and got a set of keys to her very own car. Instead, on my 16th birthday, I got a key to my mother’s car which I was welcome to use any time she wasn’t using it herself, and I had asked for permission, and the moon was full and Mars and Jupiter were in perfect alignment. THEN, I could drive the car.

One night when all those things made it possible for me to drive the car, I was driving home from some kind of late night practice at school. I can remember this so well: I was driving down the highway and out of nowhere a huge raccoon ran in front of me. I didn’t know what to do so I just plowed over it. The sound and feeling of plowing over that animal made me feel terrible. Of course, I went straight to the car wash to wash away any evidence of my “crime” and never mentioned it to my mother.

Years later I was driving down a highway in Colorado. Surprisingly, it had been almost ten years and I hadn’t hit anything since the unfortunate raccoon. Well, on this snowy morning I was driving to church and a prairie dog ran out in front of me. Remembering how it felt to hit that raccoon, I panicked. I swerved hard, lost control of the car, and crashed into the concrete barrier separated me from oncoming traffic. My car was totaled but, darn it, that prairie dog lived.

So there I was in the emergency room in a state where I had no family, having an EKG while a police officer was writing me a $400 ticket. I no longer had a car and wasn’t even sure how I was going to get home. But I promised myself something that day – the next time an animal ran out in front of me, I would not swerve. Especially not for a cannibalistic rodent which is known for carrying the plague.

I had my chance on Valentine’s Day. I was driving to meet Bryan for dinner at a restaurant about an hour away. The boys were with me and my dad was in the passenger seat. As I drove past a house in the middle of nowhere, I could see a little cat running out towards the road. It was all happening in slow motion. I didn’t know whether to slow down, speed up, or swerve the car off the road and into the woods. But then I remembered, “I will not swerve!” I kept on a-going and closed my eyes, hoping desperately to miss the cat. Not because I am a lover of cats or anything but because I had just washed the car. Ha ha. Then a THUD, THUD and I opened my eyes. My dad said, “Well, I don’t think it was that cat’s day.”

I was sick But I have to say I was relieved that I hadn’t swerved and totaled another car.

Sorry, kitty.

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