A purple shirt.

28 Oct

There is this old saying or belief that has been shared by survivors of near death experiences; it is a phenomenon that has become a part of our culture. Right before you’re about to die, your whole life will flash before your eyes.

“It is said that life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”, Terry Pratchett

***

This morning, as I dressed for a casual at home playdate, I was feeling cold. I decided to layer my tank with a long sleeved shirt under my sweater, and for some reason, today, I picked a purple shirt.

This is significant for several reasons:

First, I have a thing about purple. I have written time and again about the fact that I am incredibly superstitious. For someone with the amount of anxiety that I do, superstition is not only burdensome, it’s infectious. One little seed is planted and the superstition just grows and grows and grows.

Years ago, when my husband used to have to travel often for business, one of my colleagues at work told me that when she or a loved one flies, she always wears purple underwear.

What a silly tradition. But once I heard it, I had to do it.

And then, as they often do, my superstition only grew with time, so that not only did I need to have my lucky purple underwear (which, by the way–and omg I can’t believe I am actually writing this–I wear around my wrist when my parents are taking long overnight flights) but when my own family travels, I insist that we all wear some purple articles of clothing. When I went into the hospital to have my son, I wore my lucky socks, which are a bright neon purple. They would not let me wear them into the OR, so my kind husband put them on, under his suit and with his dress shoes, so that I would be swathed in this mysterious purple protection.

And truthfully? It’s not my favorite color.

But I do it. Because I feel like I have to.

The other reason why this purple shirt, thin and soft with age, is special is because it is part of a very special memory for me.

My husband and I were visiting his grandparents in Connecticut. It was to be the first time I would be meeting his extended family, just a month after we became engaged (which was just 9 months after we started dating). I bonded with his (sadly, now deceased) Pop Pop because we were both teachers, and it was a special trip for us, as it was our first getaway as a couple. Once we bid his grandparents farewell, we took a small detour on our way home to stop in West Hartford for some shopping and scones. I really liked this little clothing boutique, with designers whom I had never heard of before, and I agonized over what to buy, deciding to be prudent and just going home with one sensible top.

A few days later I got home from a late evening grad school class and walked into the big, walk-in closet of our old townhouse and there, hanging straight on the back wall, displayed proudly, were the items that I had loved from that boutique but had decided against buying. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had called the store and had them send the clothing to me as a surprise. There was a cool sweater with a skier on it, a velvet blazer and

a purple shirt.

Today, as I dressed in my purple shirt, both my superstition and my memory crossed my mind and I thought, “I need to write a blog post about this. What a cute story that was.”

And then the day went on.

***

We had a lovely playdate. My son got to play with his sole baby boy friend and his mom, a dear, very special friend of mine, said how she could not believe that our babies were now a year old. We talked about when we first found out we were pregnant, confiding in each other before it was public knowledge. We remembered bumping bellies and fantasizing about our future sons becoming friends.

And we talked about how life goes by so fast.

It flashes.

Then, we had to go on with our days

and then a bunch of weird things happened.

First, I had to go to my parents’ house to take care of their dogs. And, of course, Mommy’s Law, I was stuck there with a soiled baby, no diaper to change him into and an older child to pick up from school. I took off the baby’s dirty diaper and drove him commando the .3 miles from my parents’ house to ours. I contemplated letting him stay that way for the short ride to my daughter’s school, but I couldn’t do it. “Let’s say he pees in his carseat.” I thought. And so I ran into my house, grabbed a diaper, took him out of his carseat, put him on the floor of the backseat of my car, put on the new diaper and re-fastened him into his seat.

And then I had this fleeting, anxious moment that I had not seen Lola in the house. So I raced back to the door, unlocked it feverishly, called for Lola and she came running. And I felt a rush of love towards our “first child” and I thought,

“You know what? I am going to do something different today; I am going to bring Lola with us on our drive to pick up my daughter from school. It will make everyone happy.”

It was an odd thing for me to do, but I did it. And as I was re-locking the front door, Lola at my feet, I thought “Is there some reason why I feel compelled to bring Lola with me? Is there some sort of natural disaster looming, and it will be beneficial to have all of my children, furry and otherwise, in my care?”

I chalked this up to my typical anxiety and we drove off to the preschool.

And everything was normal.

My daughter asked for ice cream from McDonald’s

(don’t judge)

and I told her that of course we could get the hot fudge sundae, no hot fudge,

our routine order, and see either Tyrell, Omar or Henri, depending on who was at the drive-through window this afternoon

(I said don’t judge!)

It was good timing for me. The baby had fallen asleep in the backseat and I figured we would kill time by getting ice cream and then I would go and make a deposit at the drive-through window of the bank.

Except, I missed my turn for McDonald’s. I never miss my turn. And I thought about turning around, or taking a different route, but then decided that I would reverse my errands and go to the bank first.

And so I made my deposit and as I put my car into drive, I had an unusual thought:

“Maybe I should go out a different exit. Why go through the whole loop around the block when I could just turn around? It would be faster.”

But I had the time to kill, so I went on my normal way.

I made a right hand turn out of the bank’s lot into the right lane of a main street

and then

crash.

All I remember was a crash.

I looked over to see that an enormous truck (for a beer distributer) had hit the side of my car.

My kids, my dog and I were all in the car when this giant beast of a truck mangled the side of my small SUV.

Now, let me say that I knew immediately that we were all unharmed. But I was shaken. And I was also aggravated that I would have to go through the whole accident protocol, so I pulled over and waited for the truck to follow me. I never saw the truck again. I did, however, see the driver, who walked down the side street where I had parked.

“OK, so there’s no damage to my car,” he said. “It looks like your car is hit pretty bad so why don’t you just let insurance take care of this and let’s just leave it at that?”

“What exactly was your impression of what just happened?” I asked

“Well, I was driving straight down the road and you were the one who turned out of a driveway. But I’m fine and my car is fine, no damage to me, so how about this? Why don’t you write me a note and sign it that says that I am not responsible for this accident and I did not cause this damage to your car?”

And so I called the police.

At first I was angry at my purple shirt.

It didn’t protect me. It let me get into a car accident with my kids, one thing I pray daily to not happen.

But then I got home and looked at the damage. I saw a gaping gash about 8 inches from where my son was sleeping in his carseat.

And I realized, we were very lucky. It could have been so, so much worse.

***

Just yesterday I had a visit from a dear family friend, and during that time my grandmother stopped by. In our year of craziness, the past week in my family has been utter chaos. We joked that our bar is now set very low; that our barometer for success in a week is if we can avoid going to the hospital for seven days straight.

We laughed. But there was a lot of fear, and sadness, and pain behind our laughter.

What would be next? Locusts?

By the time I got home from the accident site and situated, my dad had calmed me down over the phone and my grandparents pulled up in my driveway with treats for my kids. A half hour later, my Aunt pulled into the drive behind her, dropping off a gift for my son. Then, my husband arrived, racing home early from work. An hour later a Physiatrist friend (also double board certified in Sports Medicine–see? I pay attention!) came to examine the aching left side of my back.

And I thought, “Wow. I am so lucky.”

My village of sorts really is super.

***

Today, my cold weather outfit got me thinking about fond memories of the past

and today my car accident got me thinking about the fragility of life.

But, most of all, everything that happened today, every single thing, reaffirmed something that I am trying to embrace:

Life is precious and it’s happenings are unexpected. Time goes by really quickly. Things change in an instant.

When people say that you have to live every moment,

it’s kind of true.

If I hadn’t stopped home to get my baby a diaper, or ran back inside to grab Lola, or missed my turn for McDonald’s or decided to drive out the certain exit of the bank parking lot

I would be, right now, sitting in my next door neighbor’s living room and sharing a glass of wine with her and catching up.

Instead, I am resting with an ice pack on my back and a heaviness in my heart. Not a sad heaviness; it’s something more profound.

Today, in a way, my life did flash before my eyes. I reminisced with a best friend about our pregnancies and tiny babies; I remembered to take care of my first child, my fur baby;

I remembered a sweet story from my past that I had forgotten.

And that,

that,

was all because of a purple shirt.

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