All I wanted to do was pick up my daughter’s birthday cake. Instead, my car was totaled.
I was heading north on Third Street in Geneva on Wednesday, proceeding through the intersection at James Street, when I was blindsided by someone attempting a right turn onto Third. Someone who never stopped at the stop sign. I didn’t have one, and never even saw her coming. I just felt the impact. My first thought, as I felt my head jerk from side to side and my car slide out of control was, this is gonna suck. My second? How will I get Holly’s cake?
“It’s all my fault. I didn’t even look to my left,” the other driver volunteered, as soon as we scrambled from our cars. “I just looked to the right, where I was turning,” she added, clearly shaken.
The intersection was littered with debris. A witness called 911. I was pretty sore, what with my head throbbing and my neck and back going into spasms, but my new acquaintance was beating herself up.
“Stupid,” she called herself.
“Hey, we’re not dead,” I said, “or homeless. Big picture, you know? I mean it. That’s why they call them accidents.”
It may be hard to believe, but that’s how I cope. I’m a lot happier this way. But at that moment, I was also a little teary, quite shaken up, and needed to sit down.
I returned to my car. I know it was a really bad idea but I was in shock, so that’s what I did. A policeman showed up and the details dispensed with; I would go back and forth to my car twice more before realizing that it was still running.
“I hope yours can be repaired,” said the other driver’s husband, who’d just arrived to pick her up. “You’ve got a lot of stickers,” he added, as our cars were loaded onto the wreckers.
“Yeah, my son would probably prefer it not be repaired,” I admitted. “He’s not a huge fan of my stickers. ‘I agree with every sentiment on your bumper, Mom,’ he said just a few days ago, but gosh, high school is hard. I get it. You don’t want anyone prejudging you.” I added that as I watched my beloved stickermobile – which I’d just run through a car wash two days earlier – being hauled away with its “Life is Good,” “Coexist” and Jimi Hendrix “Peace” stickers still firmly attached
Noah keeps saying he’s going to make me sign a “Sticker Act” before I get another car. I’m not convinced mine is a total loss, though, as my own insurance company’s appraiser has yet to chime in with his assessment of the damages.
I just thank God my children weren’t in the car with me, as the impact was on the passenger side. The thought makes me shudder.
“Where can I take you?” the husband asked.
Todd was in Chicago and I was too dazed to come up with anyone else who might immediately pick me up, but I needed to get Holly’s cake. That was my only thought. I didn’t feel well, but in a few hours Holly and seven of her friends would arrive at my house expecting a birthday party. I didn’t know what to say.
“We’re retired. We have nowhere else to go,” the husband said.
“My wish is your command,” he added, extending his arms in a broad gesture.
His kindness made me cry.
“I just need to get my daughter’s cake,” I replied, as I sputtered and pointed up Third Street in the general direction of The Sugar Path on State.
“But I can’t expect you to run my errands with me,” I added, realizing that I’d also planned to pick up balloons at Party City on Randall.
“We ruined your day,” the husband said. “It’s the least we can do.”
I had no words.
“She probably doesn’t want a ride from us,” his wife said as she turned away.
I could see that this was important to them. Besides, I had no other offers.
“Thank you. I could really use your help,” I replied, and off we went.
While we made our stops, the wife called her insurance company and insisted that they furnish me with a rental car. Pronto.
“Oh, no rush, I’m in no hurry to drive,” I said from the back seat as I tried to catch my breath, but she was busy making calls.
Unbelievably, mere minutes after her husband helped me into the house with Holly’s cake and my unwieldy bouquets of helium-filled blue and green balloons, I got a call from a car-rental agency asking when I would like my rental. But that would have to wait. I had a party to throw.
All Holly wanted for her birthday were “lots of tulips,” a red-velvet cake from that bakery and a party. I’d already wrapped her gifts (that she didn’t ask for), cleaned the house and arranged the tulips (eight bunches in all – a bargain at Trader Joe’s!), so all that I’d had left to do was to pick up the cake and balloons.
Thanks to the kindness of good people, everything went off without a hitch. In fact, when Holly got off her bus after school, she never even noticed that my car was absent from the driveway, excited as she was about her party. Just as it should be.
It wasn’t until much later – after we told her about the accident, I kissed my birthday girl goodnight and I laid down on an ice pack – that I realized that the impact of the crash forced my car into the oncoming lane.
Things could have turned out much worse, but they didn’t. And it’s a good thing. Because it was my sweet girl’s birthday and, boy, that cake was good.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She provides this personal recollection of an event she experienced. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.