The plume of thick, dark smoke rising on the horizon matched my mood that morning. Dark. It had been yet another rough start to the day. Little Fella screamed from his high chair while scattering Cherrios onto the already crumb-laden kitchen floor. Crunch. Annie incessantly whined that she was still hungry. Her requests for fruit snacks, gum, peanut butter on a plate, crackers, goldfish, a popsicle were met with an increasingly louder, "I said no." Amidst the cacophony Kate stole into the playroom to engage in repetitive play with her "kids", a random assortment of 22 small dolls that must be lined up and put away according to her own stringent standards. Any deviation from her particular routine is not allowed and will result in a full-blown tantrum.
We were running late that morning, and I quickly morphed into the wild-eyed, crazed Mean Mommy. "Hurry up! Put those away! We're going to be late, " Mean Mommy barked.
"Put kids to bed first," she responded firmly.
"Just leave them! Why do you have to put them back? Let's go!" Mean Mommy ranted, not understanding her insatiable desire for these nonfunctional, quirky routines.
Giving her a few extra moments, I loaded the other 2 into the car. However, the routine was still not complete when I returned. Not having any more time to spare, Mean Mommy picked her up and carried her kicking and screaming to the car, kids strewn about on the floor.
It was an ugly car ride that morning. Kate, red-faced with tears streaming down her cheeks, screamed at the top of her lungs, drowning out Little Fella's cries. Annie alternated between whining and sucking her thumb. My insides shook, and I cursed under my breath.
Halfway through our 20 minute journey, the plume of smoke began to dissapate, and the screaming and crying subsided. As I rounded the bend in the winding rural road, traffic came to a screeching halt. Police cars, fire trucks, and an ambulance barricaded the road. A single vehicle wrapped itself around a tree, fully engulfed in flames. The driver, extricated from the car just moments before it was too late.
The accident required me to turn my car around and find a new, albeit longer, route to school. During the drive I had a little extra time to think. Had Kate not played with her toys, had we not argued, had we not been running late, we might very well have been involved in that accident. The little annoyances that, at the time, I thought were going to ruin my day, were nothing compared to what the driver of that car endured, were nothing compared to what could have happened to us. Life can change in the blink of an eye. Let us celebrate the many blessings in our lives, today and every single day. Let us not take these things for granted. Ever.