Friday, November 20, 2009
Cherie Takes Over
Later, whenever she got ill while growing up, her mother always blamed the cow.
As a young adult Cherie took her mother’s gift of caution and anxiety and made it her own. She was a committed creature of habit. For instance, before she drove anywhere unfamiliar, she needed such explicit directions that in one case she wrote: at the third light, make a left turn past the white house with black shutters and wave at Grandpa O’Malley (who’s always rocking on the porch). Don’t worry; he never waves back.
Sometimes, Cherie would make a trial run the day before she drove to a new address, giving herself time to get lost, as she usually did.
That is, until her grandfather came to live with the family. Poppy was a retired merchant marine and worried about Cherie’s reluctance to change her routines. One midnight, while sharing milk, cake, and conversation, he asked her, “What do you think will happen if you get lost? Nothing. You’ll find another way. It’ll be an adventure.”
“Just because you loved being on the high sea doesn’t mean I inherited your pirate blood,” she retorted.
Poppy walked over to Cherie, gently pulled her face upward and kissed her forehead goodnight. At the door he turned and smiled. “I want you to be happy, you know? Be happy while you’re living, hon, for you’re a long time dead.”
“For goodness sake, why are you telling her that?” Cherie’s mother yelled from her bedroom.
“It’s just a Scottish proverb.”
“You’re not Scottish!”
* * *
Despite any maternal attempts to stop it, the day arrived some months later when Cherie left home. She was offered an internship in Washington, D.C. and Poppy convinced the family to let her go. Cherie was going to drive herself there. On a beautiful cloudless day, the family’s goodbye involved much hugging, kissing, and crying – all of it on Cherie’s part. Surprisingly, her mother was calm and accepting.
When she first left the driveway and headed south, after giving the family a smile and a thumbs up, Cherie thought about how she felt. Worried? Yes. Frightened? Yes. Ready, willing and able? Yes, yes, yes.
* * *
A few hours later, a two-mile long line of drivers on the interstate sat in their cars waiting. The helicopter, ambulances, and police cars kept everything at a standstill.
No one could have survived this crash.
* * *
Of course, Cherie missed an important turn not long after leaving her home. But remembering Poppy’s words, she stopped at a fast food joint and ate something to calm her nerves. She asked for directions from a man gassing up his car. They were simple and concise and the man assured her his way was easier and, more importantly, toll-free. Cherie soon found herself not on the interstate as the detailed note from her family advised, but on a parallel road.
She turned on the radio. She felt happy.
“Just a detour. Just another way to get there,” she encouraged herself out loud, and sang along with the music.