That was the age old question. She asked it of her parents when she was a kid. Now she’s the adult, and the baton has officially been passed.
It was mid-day as they made their way down the highway, a perfect day for a drive. Marie looked in the rear-view mirror at her son Elliott, slouched in the seat like all kids would be, or could be with their seatbelt on. At six years he was a handful. Full of that kid energy that tires even the best athletes trying to keep up with him. His brown hair sloped over his eyes, reminding her to get him a haircut. He stared aimlessly out the window, a little ball of energy just waiting to be released.
“We’re almost there, just five more minutes. You can wait that long, right?” His answer was to squirm in his seat. Brash, energetic, quick to get frustrated, but a sweet boy. She was glad to make this trip to her mom’s. She dotes on her grandson, and he loves her cookies. Which is good because she needed the time to get a few things in order. Like her impending divorce. She had to focus on the future, and leaving Elliott with her was perfect for getting the few hours she needed to finalize everything. A new home in a new town, just her and Elliott. She would die for him. That’s my boy, and no one could tell her different.
She returned her eyes to the road, just in time to see a wayward tire hit her windshield….
“Mom! Mom! Wake up mom!“
She came to hearing these words, but she didn’t know where they were coming from. She tried to move but a sudden pain stopped her. Groggy and confused, she tried to slowly open her eyes to see what was happening. Suddenly she heard a pounding right her left ear. She winced from the sound, then slowly turned her head to see what was happening.
There were these two oval shapes coming right at her and then stopping from some unknown barrier. Again and again they came at her, only to be rebuffed. She tried to remember what happened, and why she was upside down. It wasn’t clear, and it came back slowly. All she could recall was a tire hitting her windshield, then a sudden swerve. They must have flipped over, which explained why she was upside down. Then she remembered something else. “Elliott” she tried to say, but her voice, like the rest of her, ached and responded slowly to her commands. And the thumping by her ear got faster. She tried to focus but could only make out the ovals coming one at a time now. Was she dying? Was she seeing her heart beat?
Suddenly there was a crash and a shower of glass. Then the words became clearer. “Mom! Mom! Are you alright? Mom!” The frantic tone made her want to answer, but the only thing on her mind right then was her son. “Elliott” she managed to croak.
“I’m right here mom, I’m right here.” Relief passed through Marie at the sight and sound of him. “Oh, Elliott, Elliott, are you ok?” She reached for him, but being upside-down made that an awkward movement. Then she noticed the blood on her hands. “Elliott, you’re bleeding!”
“No mom, that’s you.” She looked at him, eyes finally clear enough to make out his face. “Wha…” she muttered, then raised her hand from the car’s roof to feel her head. It came back wet with blood as she let it fall, lacking the strength to keep it up. “She looked at it and said “Oh, that is me.” The airbag managed to deploy, but it wasn’t enough to keep her head from banging into the door. “Ok, what now?” She was still groggy and didn’t know what to do next.
Elliott had managed to wiggle his way into the car on his back and started tugging at her seatbelt. “We have to go mom, the car’s on fire.”
“Wha…” she replied. Comprehension still eluded her. She decided to focus on Elliott and try to keep him safe. “You have to get away, son, you have too…” She didn’t know what to do. Her head throbbed and her leg felt as if it were broken. Her back and neck ached terribly, and her face was feeling flushed from all the blood running to it.
Elliott started screaming. “Mom! The seatbelt’s stuck!” He kept tugging and tugging, but try as he might it wouldn’t budge. “Mom! Mom!”
“Easy there, what do I always tell you?” She fell into her teaching voice by habit. His frustration level rises quickly, so she had to get used to bringing him down just as quickly, and help him do whatever he’s trying to do. “Breathe in, breathe out”.
“Hush now. Breathe in.” She watched as he took a deep breathe. “Now breathe out.” He exhaled log and hard. “Breathe in, breathe out.” He did as he was told, breathing in and out, and she watched as he became calmer. A few more breathes and he was ready. “Ok, in my bag is one of those seatbelt cutters. Remember what it looks like?”
He looked around and saw her bag laying on the roof. The contents had spilled out, including the thin, squarish black tool with the diagonal slit in one side. He grabbed it and brought it to the seatbelt around her chest. He placed the seatbelt into the slit, and with a few tries, managed to cut it off, sending her falling into him. He cried out a little, then began to wiggle his way out with her on top of him. It was tough going, but he managed. Marie didn’t realize the seatbelt was digging into her shoulder until she was released from it, and now that pain was fighting with the others for her attention.
Elliott made it out of the car and grabbed his mother’s arm, doing everything he could to get her out. Marie wanted to cry out in pain, but held it in for him. It was awkward going for both of them, but they managed to get her on her back where he could grab her under the arms and pull her from the car through the window, over the broken glass, and far enough form the car where the fire which started in the back found it’s way forward. In the distance they heard the sounds of sirens getting closer.
“Mom, are you okay? Mom!”
“Yes, I’m okay. Just let me lay here.” Which is right where she wanted to be, laying with her head in his lap. She couldn’t move on her own, and her leg, which at first seemed broken, was only bruised heavily where it met the underside of the dashboard. She couldn’t figure out how he escaped harm, but she was glad he was alright. That’s when he started crying softly.
“Hey now, don’t cry. We’re safe, see?”
“But you could have died in there!”
“But I didn’t. You saved my life. Now we’re okay. We’ll just wait for the ambulance and everything will be okay. So stop crying.” She took his hand in her bloody ones, and held it to her bosom. He sniffed a few more times but stopped crying.
That’s my boy. I wouldn’t trade him for another.