A few weeks ago, my tire all but blew out on I-95. Seventy-five miles per hour in the far left lane and the car started swerving left, right, left.
You pray for a miracle when that happens.
Please, God, find a space for me in the next lane, and the next lane, and the next lane. Please, God, just get me to the shoulder.
And then, you find yourself sitting two feet from a rumble strip, a thin patch of tar between you and the passing cars.
You pray for their attention. You pray for their carefulness. You pray for their sobriety.
Please, God, don’t let somebody clip us from behind. Please, God, don’t let us die because somebody, somewhere behind us, didn’t see the stopped car on the side of the road in the dead of the night with the wind and rain whipping around us.
We prayed hard that night.
We sat quiet in the space between one exit sign and the next, the flashers fizzling out behind us, those dimming red sparks holding on just long enough for the tow truck driver to pull in front of us and light up the road like a football stadium on a Saturday night.
It’s one of those moments where you think, “If I can just get through this, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll floss more. I’ll run more. I’ll take out the trash sooner. I’ll hold open more doors and read more library books and hug more strangers. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. Just let me get through this.”
I turned to my future mother-in-law that night, and I said the only helpless, true thing there is to say: “I’d really like to marry your son. I’d just really like to do that.”
Because when you sit in a car in the dark of night, two feet from trucks trekking down the road, you’re not sure anymore. You’re not sure you have control. You’re not sure you’ll get out. You’re not sure there’s anything you can do to feel better.
I imagine it’s a little less dramatic than the way the people felt on the Titanic. But it’s that utter hopelessness that keeps you from crying – you laugh, you sigh, you sit and wait. You shiver when you roll the window down. You sip iced tea. You cannot do any more anyway.
The true test comes the next day, and the next day, and the next day, when you’re not trapped two feet from trucks, and you still want to say those same words:
I’d really like to marry your son.
Some days, I stop and think about where I landed in this life. And I can’t help but acknowledge that my future is a miracle.
She sat on the side of her own metaphorical highway once – helpless, feeling utterly lost. She had lost her baby girl that night. But she decided to try again, to have a new baby, and that baby grew up to fall in love with the girl in the front seat of that shaking old car, the tire steaming and smoking and burning behind her. That baby grew up, against all odds, and made some girl really, really happy.
So that she could say, “I’d really like to marry your son.”
And she is. And she will.