Full disclosure – I am not the world’s greatest driver.
It all started about three weeks after my sixteenth birthday, when, high on the confidence of a newly-licensed driver, I was checking over my left shoulder to see if I could safely turn right on red… and ran over the curb on the right side, losing my hubcap and popping my tire.
It was to be the first of many such instances throughout my glorious driving career. I call them instances when I make contact with a stationary object, and accidents when they involve another moving vehicle…
I’d been on a pretty good streak without either until February, when packed snow on an unplowed road led to a morning fender-bender on my way to work. Honda CR-V vs. Toyota Corolla – my little car didn’t stand a chance. Teary and frustrated, I called my husband, who quickly came with his car so I could get to work (somewhat) on time, while he took care of talking to insurance agents and getting my hot mess to the body shop.
And then, a few weeks ago, I had similar accident that I couldn’t blame on snow – not even on the light drizzle that had been coming down all morning. Nope, this was my own dumb fault, because in stop-and-go traffic, I’d gotten distracted by the GPS on my phone telling me a faster route was available, and started when there was no room to go, banging right into the back of a shiny black BMW.
Fortunately, the man I’d crashed into was incredibly kind. We exchanged information as we checked out the damages – not nearly as bad as what I’d accomplished in February, but still something that needed repair. I picked up my phone and dialed my husband, angry with myself that I was making this same phone call again within three short months.
“Hey, it’s me. I got in an accident. Again. It’s not as bad as last time, but I hit a BMW and banged up both our bumpers.”
“Are you okay?” he interrupted.
“I’m fine, just mad. It’s so dumb, I was distracted by my phone and just feel like an idiot. I’m really sorry, I know we just did this with insurance and…”
“Don’t worry about it, you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. Car is totally drivable, I’m heading into work and I’ll send you pictures of the damages when I get there.”
I tried to let go of my frustration so I could focus on the tasks at hand, but all day I was still beating myself up a little. So many of my teenage insecurities came back, and I wondered if I was doomed to have such an expensive character flaw my entire life.
That night, we had plans with friends for dinner and movie. As soon as I met David at the restaurant, he gave me a huge hug and a kiss and asked again if I was okay. I brushed it off, not wanting to make a big deal about it in front of our friends, and enjoyed the evening to the best of my abilities. When we walked in the door later that night, there were fresh flowers in a vase on the kitchen table.
“I figured you were having a tough day. Just wanted to let you know that it doesn’t matter. I love you. Cars are replaceable, people aren’t. I’m so glad it wasn’t anything big. We can figure it all out, we’re a team. I’m just happy you’re okay.”
He wrapped me up in another big hug and I had to fight back tears of gratitude. I’m not sure what I did right to receive such grace, in a moment when I’d messed up big time and it was totally my fault. None of that mattered to him as much as making sure I was okay, and making sure I knew I was loved. It might have seemed like a small thing to him, but for me, it was one of the clearest moments of unconditional love I’ve ever experienced.
It doesn’t take much, it seems. Just a little vase of red carnations and a long, lingering hug can turn the whole thing around.