Sunday, March 13, 2011

WOTD 4 - BUGGY

I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit; always thought there must be something I can do that is worth something to someone. Poor Libby and Ann Marie had to live with me thinking everything I created could be sold to someone somewhere, if only we had some way to tell them about it. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a button made of swirled string arranged in a Mason Jar lid which had been filled with Elmer’s glue? As the glue dried clear, I added a safety pin, making…(TaDa!)…a button!

When I grew up and had a nice husband who was willing to foot the bill for capital investment, my first business cards read “Cori’s Unforgettable Edibles.” The investment money went to a cart full of Halloween candies, marked 50% off after the holiday. With it I designed and crafted gingerbread houses. We lived in New York at the time. I was 21 years old, pregnant with my second child, and my husband was at the mercy of a hard working judge in the 2nd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, working eternal hours not unlike poor Bob Cratchet in A Christmas Carol. I lived in a rented home in a strange town with babies; and built gingerbread houses. I marketed them, rather successfully I might add, to Real Estate agents. They’d order them from a fine selection of Victorian shingled houses (Necco Wafers make fine shingles); traditional brick houses with Bit-O-Honey bricks; or Tootsie Roll log cabins with yummy Junior Mint roofs. (I ingested every mistake, which was the beginning of my demise.) I delivered the confectionery edifices to families to whom the agents had sold houses. I continued that side-job when we moved back to Pittsburgh.

A few years later we moved to Utah. We brought a large truck full of antique furniture to sell. I designed little parchment business cards with the words: Pineapple Enterprises- Antiques and Interiors. The pineapple was the colonial symbol of warmth and hospitality, which I thought represented what antique furnishings can do to a home. Eventually I sold off all the antiques and bought music equipment with the profits: guitars and microphones and mixers and speakers and multi-track recording devices. Now my business card reads: Seven Roses Music – Performing Songwriter Cori Connors.

I suppose it is the sentimentalist in me that leans toward a home filled with antiques. I like to imagine who may have owned that table before I did. Who might have ordered that walnut bedroom set from the Wells Fargo catalogue before the turn of the last century. Or who pulled the blade of their planer over that small table in the basement, the one with the uneven top and the hand hewn joints. Or who had the patience and the eyesight to chisel those dainty dove tailed drawers in my high boy, in a place no public eyes would ever see. These days the backs of our drawers are stapled together on an assembly line where they pay school boys minimum wage with one 15 minute break in the afternoon.

When we lived in Rochester I acquired a few treasures I hoped would accompany me through life. We bought some at auction on a Saturday night out in that auction barn in a neighboring town near Pittsford, NY. One of those purchases was a wicker baby buggy. It was in pristine condition, nearly 100 years old, and the wheels were still round and the rubber had not disintegrated. I used to stroll my baby Sarah through the streets of Pittsford, the canopy shifting forward and back depending on the direction I was walking in relation to the sun. Little Johnny trailed behind us, or helped push as we walked, his chubby little hands reaching way up to the wooden handle. The buggy bounced as we walked, riding on tension bars bent like scrolls meeting each other above the sidewalk. We walked up to the raspberry patch and picked two pints of berries; one for eating on the walk home and one for dinner; or we strolled down to the corn stand, picking out half a dozen beautiful chartreuse ear of bread-n-butter corn, their golden tassels hanging out of the bag we set in the corner of the buggy like a squad of Barbie Doll cheerleaders with bouncy pony tails. We tucked a fragrant ripe cantaloupe in the other corner of the buggy, down by where Sarah’s feet would be if she had been any older than a few months. I imagined walking all my future babies in that dandy old wicker buggy.

When August came and David’s clerkship ended, we packed up our few belongings and prepared to move back to Pittsburgh, where Dave had taken a job with Kirkpatrick, Lockhart, Johnson and Hutchison. We rented a Ryder truck and loaded it up ourselves. The truck was hardly full. We didn’t have that much. A few boxes, a crib, a small dresser and the buggy. I miss that way of life.

We took off around midnight, thinking we would drive through the night while the kids slept.

Dave crawled into the cab of the rented Ryder truck, with 18 month old Johnny in a car seat beside him. It was normal to put a kid in the front seat in those days. I strapped Sarah into her car seat beside me in our old green Toyota Corolla. Through the night we drove south on I79, generally in tandem, sometimes breaking stride and passing each other just to keep the journey interesting. We reached Zelienople PA as the sun was starting to rise. There wasn’t much traffic at that point. I was hunkered down, in the driver’s groove, chipping away the miles in the left lane of the two lane divided highway, when suddenly the hood to my car flung up and slapped against my windshield. Stunned, I grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and instinctively hit the brake, only for a moment though, as I recognized the danger in a sudden stop in the middle of the freeway. I could see nothing but hood through the windshield. It must have come loose from the latch in front of the engine, though for the last 300 miles it had shown no sign of instability. I checked the rear view mirror and started to pull over to the left, but heard the monotonous voice of my high school driver’s ed. teacher Bap Manzini reminding me in my head: “Never, never, never pull off to the left. The shoulder is not made for cars to pull off there. Besides, it’s against the law.” So I again checked my mirror and started to make my way to the right hand shoulder. David had seen what had happened and was travelling behind me at the time. I saw him moving with me. All of a sudden he banked his truck to the right, sharply. I could see nothing but the lines on the side of the road, and his truck in my rear view mirror. As I approached the right hand shoulder, the Ryder truck came shooting past me, squeezing between my car and the guardrail, scraping its side against the metal rail.

“What the….!” Stopped straddling the line on the shoulder, I sat in my car, my heart throbbing violently in my chest. I reached over to check on the baby, waiting for David to come back and explain himself. Why had he done this foolish thing? Was he moving too fast to stop reasonably?

“Where IS he?” I thought, starting to fume at the whole ordeal; frustrated at our old car betraying us; wondering why Dave had put himself and Johnny in danger by stopping the truck like that.

It felt like minutes passed, though I’m sure it was only seconds, before I opened my car door and looked beyond the upended hood. There were broken tail lights on the truck, and then I noticed a large flatbed semi-truck loaded with cement pulled over up the road. It took a few breaths for me to realize the back of the truck had been creased and crinkled. I ran to the cab and found David frantically trying to get our screaming boy out of his car seat. Windshield glass was shattered and scattered everywhere. Dave pulled Johnny into his lap, cupped his hand over his little head and spoke comfort to him, telling him they were ok, we’re ok, everything’s ok Johnny. The driver side door was jammed shut and he could not get out until he removed Johnny’s car seat and crawled out the passenger side. He stepped from the truck onto the guardrail, overlooking a small cliff, and shimmied back around the truck to me. He placed Johnny in my arms. As I scanned the setting once again I began to realize what had happened, the realization illuminating my mind like the rising sun to the east of us. The semi had hit him! With the speed that we were already travelling, multiplied by the force of the heavy truck’s impact, David had miraculously steered the truck in the minimal space between my car and the guardrail.

“You couldn’t see him.” Dave pulled me into his chest, our boy sandwiched between us, our little girl still sleeping in the car behind us.

“I could see you couldn’t see him, and he couldn’t see… that you couldn’t see.” He spoke with the breathless stammer familiar to athletes and laborers.

I had been decelerating unaware that the heavy laden semi was moving at freeway speed in the right hand lane. I was moving directly into his path.

“I knew I could take a hit better than you could.” So David purposely moved himself between the semi and our little Toyota, knowing he was likely to be hit.

And he was hit, with such force that it totaled the truck he was driving.

The buggy was crushed, with the rest of our belongings in the back of the truck.

A tow truck took the Ryder away, and I believe Dave drove us the rest of the way home to Pittsburgh after tying down the hood with some rope or wire. I really don’t remember those details.

I do remember, though, the feeling that overcame me in what felt like a wash of love…a full immersion, baptism of love for the man who calls me his wife. I remember holding my baby, tears rolling uncontrollably down my cheeks and into the collar of my shirt. I remember looking at her daddy and thinking how beautiful he was, how strong and worthy and manly and brilliant and beautiful he was. He had literally risked his life to protect us, willing in an instant to put himself directly in the path of danger as it hurled itself at me. All these years later, if I close my eyes, I can hear the scraping of metal on metal, hear the crying of my little boy , feel the crunch of broken glass under my shoes, smell the strange combination of pale green morning dew mixed with the nasal sting of the steel mill in the distance and the burning distinct smell of hot brakes and burnt rubber. I feel the warm arms of my young husband pull me to the safety of his strong shoulders, where I bury my head and cry. His scent is divine, in my memory. So beautiful and dear. So beloved. There are mornings, even now, when he has gone to work or is downstairs working out on the treadmill, when I roll over and bury my head in his pillow to inhale that scent. He is a man among men, better than I ever dreamed I could have. Proven in the fire. Willing to give anything…literally anything…for the people he loves.

I never did stroll the next two babies who came to us in that buggy. It went to the buggy graveyard. But I remember it. And in the remembering I am awe struck once again by the selfless, godly gift I have in the man I call my husband.

2 comments:

  1. scary times -- david amazed me then and amazes me still. where did he come from?

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  2. David, quietly sitting behind the projector- puzzled and humble and then happy the thing works - we are so much more than you can tell at a casual glance. So much more story. So much hidden fire. I am tired now. And the buggy becomes a symbol for a young woman; putting away the childish things - the eyes that hadn't seen, the life behind her. Suddenly, she is moving forward in the way of a real and rich life.

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