And you think you had a bad day?
When it rains, it pours.
Wait, that’s too cliche and we ARE talking about my life here. When it rains in MY life, it more than pours.
The wind starts to pick up steadily until it’s howling a warning of trouble to come. Lightning strikes in jagged streaks across the sky, illuminating the black storm clouds rolling in like charging buffalo kicking up a dust.
Do I heed the warning signs?
Of course I don’t.
Don’t y’all know me at all?
I don’t even own an umbrella.
That’s not to say I have never owned one. In fact, I’ve been the short-term proud owner of at least a few dozen since becoming a mother.
I’ve never met a kid that can’t somehow break an umbrella in under two minutes flat. They can just look at it from across the room and before they even get their grubby little hands on it, the umbrella will spontaneously combust just to avoid the torture they will inflict.
I’ll be honest, umbrellas are still fascinating to me even as an adult. I love the quick swoosh sound it makes as you open it and the click as it pops into place, and I still can’t resist the urge to twirl it.
I love the variety of cheerful colors and patterns. I miss that feeling of preparedness as I whip out my umbrella and swoosh/click it just in time to save me from raindrops falling on my head.
But sadly, my house is where umbrellas go to die a horrific, twisted death.
Along with my ability to take heed of the warnings of a fast-approaching disaster.
On a recent rainy day off work I had made a plan with the kids to go out of town. It was a school day, so the plan was to pick them up from school and leave directly.
I decided to have the oil changed because the “change oil” light had been flashing and I needed new wipers since it was raining. My current wipers were held together with twisty ties. Seriously, bread bag twisty ties. Hey, it worked for a few months.
What can I say? Procrastination inspires genius.
I had two hours left before I had to pick up the kids and I headed home with the window wipers swishing smoothly back and forth. I was feeling pretty prepared and responsible and thinking I should reward myself with a nap when I heard a crunch, as if I had run over a fallen branch.
Only it wasn’t a branch, and the crunch was quickly replaced with a hissing.
And the thunder rolled.
I pulled over and got out to confirm. My heart sank as I saw a hunk of glass jutting out from the sidewall of my tire.
What kind of wicked person sets a glass bottle in the middle of the road?
So now I’m standing in the rain in the middle of the road waiting for some juvenile delinquent to jump out with his smartphone that he’s no doubt filming a YouTube video with.
After a little cry and some curse word therapy, I sized up the situation. I had a spare tire under the car but no jack and no tool to lower the tire and release it.
I walked a few blocks to get help.
An hour later, the tire was changed and I began to have a little hope that I may still pull this day off.
Hope is a dangerous emotion.
I picked up the kids and we headed out of town. Kid #3 needed to buy a birthday present for her best friend and if you’ve ever tried to, “Be smart and shop local,” you know the struggle.
Has ANYONE ever left Shopko with what they went in looking for?
We decided against going to Carroll because the radio loses signal on the way there.
The struggle is real. How do people even live between Scranton and Carroll with no radio stations?
We headed toward Ames. By the time we approached Ogden, someone needed to pee, and the car could use some gas since I forgot to fill up after the flat tire fiasco, so we pulled into town.
Then lightning struck.
As I started to leave the gas station, I was instantly aware that something wasn’t right with the car. I could barely turn the wheel and it died twice before I even left the parking lot.
Kid #2 and I hopped out and looked under the hood where he found a large, broken belt.
Not just any belt, but the belt that apparently runs EVERYTHING.
Just my luck.
Kid #3 immediately began hyperventilating as she quickly came to the conclusion that the day was not going to go as she had planned. I ignored her and called the only place in town that was listed in the phone book for auto repair.
The mechanic showed up half an hour later and confirmed that we weren’t going anywhere in the car that day. Now, my knowledge of cars doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but $465 for what is essentially a giant rubber band seems a bit ridiculous.
I made a rescue call to a friend to come pick us up.
The sky opened up and it began pouring.
Kid #3 is in full-blown panic mode now.
Folks, I’m here to tell you there really is a ninth circle of Hell, and in it you must sit in a broken-down vehicle in a monsoon with three kids who are at each others’ throats.
Kid #3 is under the impression that I have somehow manipulated the universe to ruin her plans of buying the perfect birthday gift for her best friend. She’s convinced this is all my fault. She “thanks” me sarcastically and I resist the urge to take off my waterlogged flip-flop and smack her with it.
I try to encourage her by telling her we can “Be smart and shop local” when we get back to town, but she’s been to Shopko before and is no fool.
She has progressed into teenage angst meltdown mode now.
“Why did I have to be born to the born loser?” she cries.
Kid #2 is laughing at the entire situation, taking pictures and video documenting her downward spiral from the back seat.
Kid #4 is climbing over the seats with his wet, muddy shoes trying to entertain himself during the wait. He has kicked us all at least once in the process.
Kid #3 is crying and spouting off at the mouth and I’m losing my mind.
I could really use a hug from a straightjacket about now.
I threatened to kick them out of the dry car and make them wait on the curb in the rain.
To save them from certain death and myself from prison, I exit the car and stand in the rain to cool off. The rain doesn’t drown out their bickering but I don’t care anymore. I let big, droopy raindrops slap me in the face, thankful they hid my tears.
Kids smell weakness.
I want my mom.
On rainy days, she would be found in the warm glow of the kitchen, her houseshoes swishing on the hardwood floor, the smell of an early dinner filling my nose as I walked in the door after school.
She made the storms of life bearable and I always knew there would eventually be a rainbow.
This parenting thing is hard and sometimes I feel as useless as a barrel of spit.
After what seemed like an eternity, a friend arrived to pick us up and we climbed in her van in grateful silence.
It was a long, quiet ride home as I stared out the window at the sun peeking through the parted clouds.
The storm was over.
We sustained some damage but survived.
I can only hope when the kids are older and in lifelong therapy to deal with whatever issues I’ve inflicted on them, their memories will be sprinkled with a few rainbows here and there.
I know it’s dangerous, but I’m hoping for some sunny days.
Stefanie Freeman is a Jefferson resident and the mother of four.