How did that happen? Wasn't it just October?
Actually, I know it is December as I sit in this chair tonight. I feel it in every muscle of my back. I spent this afternoon decorating the Gibson House Museum, putting every ornament they had on the artificial tree (no live plant materials are allowed in the house), sticking red candles in the candelabra, putting pinecone garlands on the mantels, and a tiny children's tree in the kitchen. But first we had to haul all the house decorations down from the fifth floor, and I feel wrecked. I'm terribly out of shape. Something must be done about this, and soon. But first I need to survive Wreath Week, which starts on Monday. Last year, walking home each night, I felt like I'd been the loser in a prizefight. Just from standing for most of 11 hours while wrestling with balsam and pinecones!
Anyway, as I mentioned at the end of my last post, we had some excitement after our kitten visit in Maine. My husband was driving us home on Route 1, a busy highway north of Boston, when we suddenly saw two large bundled Christmas trees lying across our lane. He hit them at full speed; he had no choice. And the car wasn't the same after that.
Our car had a happier encounter with a Christmas tree last December.
I become calmer and more rational during emergencies than I normally am. At least this is true for emergencies that involve cars, ambulances, police, firefighters, body fluids, and/or a race to the vet. I have involuntarily tried to leap out of a fast-moving car because of a spider crawling on me; if that car had crashed, I'd have handled things better.
After we hit the trees, my husband was stunned and upset. He wanted to park on the shoulder of the road. We were in the left lane, and a dark red pickup truck was keeping pace with us in the middle lane so he couldn't change lanes easily. So, in unfamiliar, soothing tones, I told him we were fine, everything was okay, and the strange sounds the car was making were probably from branches and pine needles in the wheel wells. Not true, but I persuaded him to keep going until we could get into the right lane, take an exit, and park safely. We found ourselves at a convenience store next to Russo's Tuxes in Chelsea.
The front end of the car looked a mess, with parts and cables dangling and a piece of the bumper torn off. The car couldn't make the trip home. I called the police while he called AAA. Then I went into the store, explained what happened, and asked for the restroom. The clerk explained that they didn't have one and they were just closing. He directed me to Russo's, so I went and, of course, they were closed.
Now, I am not one of those women who needs a bathroom every hour or two. I can't imagine what that must be like or how it feels to be desperate for a bathroom often instead of once a decade or so. I often need to go only four or five times a day. I will go at home before a transatlantic flight and then usually I'm good until I get to our hotel, no matter how long the passport line is. But I had had a lot of water and tea that day, and probably hadn't gone since lunchtime, nine hours earlier. (I hope I've learned my lesson: always go before getting into the car.)
The state policeman who showed up was the same one who had just moved the trees (big and heavy, definitely a serious hazard, he said) and had been congratulating himself for getting to them before anyone hit them. He was surprised to hear about us, surprised we weren't hurt, and surprised the car didn't look even worse. He was kind, smart, and professional and I hope he has a long, safe career working in the town that has the worst crime rate in the state — he told us that.
He had strong opinions about which tow service we should use, even though his partner was still on the phone with us and was advising us to use a different one that was very close by. He made us hang up on his partner (I could tell they always bickered), and made the call himself. The truck showed up in minutes; I was ever so delighted to see him. One step closer to a restroom.
The officer said we were in a dangerous area and we couldn't stay there under any circumstances. He would drive us to a safer place. While it didn't strike me as a nice area, it didn't look that bad. His words made me wonder if Russo's is a mafia front. After all, they closed before 9 on Black Friday.
He considered and rejected a Dunkin Donuts and headed to another convenience store. Its bathroom struck me as one of the nicest I'd ever seen, although I realize now that isn't true. Food tastes better when you're starved and bathrooms look heavenly when you need one. The store radio was playing "Let It Be," my favorite song in fifth grade, so I sang harmony in there; the acoustics were excellent. We Ubered home, smiling and happy that each of us was still in one piece. And now we just have a big insurance deductible to pay and a car to get fixed... hopefully in time so to get our tree in a couple of weeks.
I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Christmas City of the USA. It would be too ironic if I were done in by a couple of balsam firs. How nice that we were spared from becoming a funny-tragic holiday news story and our cats from being orphans.