By the time my daughter Elaine came to pick me up from work, the roads were bad, and plows had not made the rounds yet. But we only had a short 3-minute drive from campus to home. No sweat.
As Elaine pulled up to the stop sign at a busy cross street two blocks from home, a driver came barreling along on our left, too fast for the poor road conditions and attempted to turn right. But the driver must have realized that wouldn't be possible. There was no traction to turn. The car's trajectory would crash it right into my daughter's side of the car. My daughter who turned 25 today.
The car swerved back onto the cross street rather than attempting the turn.
As I watched, time slowed as they always say, as Kelly Madigan Erlandson writes in the poem below. We were driving home to celebrate my daughter's birthday, but in one instant it could have been otherwise. I felt my heart rise into my throat, as the car whooshed so close to our front bumper. "A God thing," a gift moment. It reminded me of Kelly's poem, so I share it here:
After the Test Said Yes
Stopped at the crossroad on 14th street, ice clean
as an apple slice under my wheels, I am waiting
for my turn and I don't know yet about looking back
which is why I cannot describe the color or make of what hit me,
moving too fast to brake on the black, and my blue Volkswagen
shoots out into oncoming lanes and once there begins to spin--
and that is where time slows, like they always say,
forming an opening in the day that was already thick with news.
The man comes to the car window,
wants to know if I'm okay, and I tell him I'm pregnant,
that I just found out this morning, and he looks like he will faint,
and I open the door and step out into the street,
and this, I believe, is the story of conception; how my daughter
used momentum and ice and velocity and impact
to pierce the atmosphere and enter the world.
-Kelly Madigan Erlandson
(from Born in the House of Love. Main-Traveled Roads. Originally published in Barrow Street. Selected for Poem of the Day, The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor, March 4, 2006. Reprinted with permission.)