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How to Make a Minivan Fly

1 January 2014

It’s early Saturday afternoon, and I am M+26, or so, in the Great War. Russia’s advance has splintered and is being utterly crushed by the German army. Somewhere in the background music is blaring from my brother’s headphones, and my mom is cooing at the baby trapped in his carseat like so many Cossack soldiers a century ago found themselves pinned between German flanks.

The paradox is only straining the tension until it is instantly shattered by Husband shouting, “What are you doing?!”

A sharp gasp from just behind me punctuates the question, and before my eyes can even register that the windshield is no longer facing highway they’re forced shut again as 4000 pounds collides with, and lifts off of, five inches of concrete at about 65 miles per hour.

I have no idea what is happening. 

The force of the impact resonates through my entire body, but I push against the seatbelt that is desperately squeezing me against my seat. Left arm on the back of my chair, right hand bracing against the dashboard (thank God the airbag didn’t go off), I twist around to look at my family in the back of the van, and as the adrenaline kicks in we look like panicked astronauts more than car accident victims.

My mom is bouncing in her seat as she releases passionate prayers to God, proof that the fervent prayers of the righteous avail much. My brother, behind her, is trying to push himself away from the ceiling with one hand and hold mom in her seat with the other. Trail mix scatters dreamily through the air. Books, knitting needles, hats and other sundries – the necessary casualties of five hours in a minivan – all seem to dance carelessly before our eyes. The Mute button has been pushed. Time is stretching.

And then time and volume break in on me again as the ceiling forces us back into our seats. Minivan meets ditch, briefly, and not quite the bottom of the ditch so we’re leaning slightly as we take to the air again.

Now the scene is catching up with itself – a second jolt convinces me to look forward, not back, and as I watch the brown grass approach again – as I tune in with the commotion of loved ones yelling, my baby crying, metal smashing and debris falling like hail – my heart breaks and my mind screams, and just at the moment that I collectively inhale to scream, to worry, to pray, to – I don’t know what, just at the upbeat before what is happening hits the first full bar in my reality, the quiet returns:

“No. It’s going to be okay.”

And I don’t question it. Not because I choose not to, I just … don’t. I know that voice. I know that stillness.

And suddenly, the yelling and screaming seems a bit excessive. And I still watch with wide eyes, but I get impatient about how long it takes to stop two tons moving a mile per minute with cold dirt.

Car 1

Probably four seconds after that first sharp gasp, we’re still, and still right-side-up. There are bumps and bruises, but everyone is – okay. I scramble to get the baby out of the car seat, and he calms down as soon as he’s in my arms. (Then he squirms until he gets to walk around and explore the train tracks and the dead grass.)

Car 2

Phone calls are made, rides are arranged, reports are filed. The teenage girl who pulled out from a side street to cross the highway without looking for traffic, stuck around until the police officer finished his report and dismissed her. We’re currently waiting on insurance companies and collision centers to finish their reports and assessments. We borrowed a car from the family we were going to see, to get home a couple days later.

Every time I think about it, it plays back in slow motion. I’ve thought about that morning several times too – how we left later than we wanted, about my brother’s smoke breaks and Husband’s habit of casually browsing the shelves at every gas station we stop at, about diaper changes and how the timing of all of it came down to just a fraction of a second.

God knew. Could He have prevented it? Sure. But He knew it was going to be okay too. And so it is.

First jump from the curb on the left to the Husband on the right, about 20 feet

First jump from the curb on the left to the Husband on the right, about 20 feet

Second jump from the gouge in the dirt on the right, to the flying Husband on the left, also about 20 feet
Second jump from the gouge in the dirt on the right, to the flying Husband on the left, also about 20 feet

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