This happened a week ago but I wanted to wait before publishing. I always prefer the tone of a piece written at the time so I am going to leave it in the present tense.
I nearly ran over a toddler today. It was one of those moments that you play over and over in your mind. So much happened in a single second and the more I think about it, the more I realise how removed and separate I was from it all. Thinking about it with hindsight, I wonder how much of what happened was dumb luck, or a little bit of everything I ever learned about anything leaping forward from my sub-conscious to save this tiny little dot.
I was driving along a 4 lane road in an area that usually has some pretty dodgy drivers around. I drive this road a lot and have had to share it with some diabolical road users in my time so I usually keep some idea of where other cars are around me. Up ahead I saw a police car that had pulled over a driver on the other side of the road. The lights were flashing and whenever I see this, I try not not see it. From my time in the police force, I know that one of the worst places on the road for a bingle is right next to a police car with its lights flashing because everyone rubber-necks! They slow down and turn their heads to see what all the excitement is about and often it ends up in a rear-ender. I drew level with the police car and then….
…..Right there in front of me, this tiny little girl, wearing pink spotted leggings and a white top, wandered out on to the road. She looked about 18 months old, maybe 2. This tiny little baby stepped out into 4 lanes of traffic. She was outside a big seafood warehouse which is set back from the street a fair way. She had obviously seen the flashing lights of the police car and wandered out of the shop unnoticed, down the drive and out in front of my car heading straight for the police car.
My instinctive reaction to anything unexpected on the road is to slam my hand onto the horn and hit the brakes at the same time. I saw that the horn frightened her and she stopped walking long enough for me to swerve around her. I was hitting the horn over and over while I did this. I pulled over and looked back to make sure the car behind me didn’t collect her and no one was going to run into the back of us.
I knew that I couldn’t stay where I was….
but I had to make sure the girl was off the road too….
but I couldn’t leave Wade in the car in the middle of the road….
and before I had time to do anything, all these people rushed out of the warehouse and two guys in fluoro work vests plucked her off the road and she was safe.
And all of this happened in one second. All the things I just described and saw came into my mind in one second, all at the same time and none of it consciously. The clothes she was wearing, the shop she came from, why she was on the road, where all the other cars were, was Wade in danger if I stayed on the road.
It was the strangest feeling.
I pulled my car off the road into the next driveway and burst into tears. My hands were shaking and I felt sick. I turned around and looked at Wade. He had pulled his glasses off and was watching me with those perfect eyes. That look of complete and utter peace that he has. The one that says everything is going to be ok. My perfect child.
I kept replaying it over and over in my mind. So many things combined in an instant that saved this girl from being killed and kept Wade from being in an accident. The fact that I didn’t turn to look at the police car but had my eyes on the road. By hitting the car horn so many times, it must have caused the cars behind me to slow down because none of them ran over her either. It stopped the girl from walking giving me time to swerve and it also alerted the people in the warehouse to what was happening. This meant they got to her in time. Some how, after swerving, I managed to slow without stopping meaning we didn’t get hit from behind with Wade in the back seat. I swerved without hitting the girl or another car and I got off the road before anyone collided with us and I didn’t actually plan or think of any of it.
The rest of the day was really strange. I kept having these emotional moments with Wade where he would do something so heart-breakingly beautiful that I would find myself in tears again. We were at my nan’s house for lunch and Wade loves his great-nan. She often makes soup and crumpets for us and we usually end lunch with Wade playing with the spoon. He loves to quietly tap the handle on the table then turn it round and make as much noise as possible by belting the crap out of the old laminate table. Today I gave him two spoons and his face lit up as he smashed both of them, as hard as he could onto that old laminate that has already taken one hell of a beating over many, many decades. His little hands were a blur as he performed his little drum solo, quite skilfully I might add. His face was beaming and for a second I thought about that little girl.
What if I’d hit her and killed her. How would her family be feeling right now? Their little girl might be doing something adorable right now that they may have never seen. This kept happening all afternoon.
I’ve had close calls before. I’ve seen death and near death before. But the feelings didn’t feel the same. They didn’t linger and wave their hands in the air yelling “Write this down and don’t forget it”. After thinking about it all day, I think it’s because the little girl was the same age as Wade and it’s the first time, as a parent, I ever imagined losing him. It’s something parents think about all the time I guess, but not with the same clarity. I have had the “I can’t imagine life without you” thoughts before, certainly. Today though, because I felt how ridiculously crazy it was that I didn’t kill that girl, I truly saw how quickly they can be taken from you…..and I felt it in my bones.
Readers of my last post will recall the frustration I’ve been feeling about being forced into a co-sleeping arrangement with Wade. Tonight I put him down in his cot and he started crying. I had told myself I would be tougher with him this week. Mick is working nights and he is a push-over with the crying so I was going to take a stronger stand and try to get him to self settle. He cried and cried and when he got really upset, I went into his room. He was standing up in his cot so I lay him down and rubbed his chest. I sang him “Me and Bobby McGee” which is one of his favourites. (I sing it as a lullaby, not the whiskey sodden, swallowed razor blades version by Janis…in case you were wondering!)
He stopped crying and looked up at me. There was a warmth coming from where I was rubbing his chest and he was staring deep into my soul. I started to cry and tears were rolling down my face on to the mattress. My perfect child looked into my eyes and smiled. A peaceful and contented smile as old as time. After a couple of minutes he fell asleep. I guess he just wanted to show me how much he needs me to feel safe and loved. When he woke a few hours later, I didn’t hesitate. I picked him up and held him close and we will curl up together for the night.
I hope that other family are doing the same thing tonight.