When Sam was three, I had a temper tantrum. Let’s clarify. I had one of my temper tantrums. It was February in San Francisco and pouring rain. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t moved my car because of steet-streeping day. Holding Sam, I rushed out in the rain to move it, the traffic control officer had just finished writing the ticket, and stuck it under the soggy windshield wiper. He took a look at me, hopped into his little parking meter car, and zipped away. Didn’t he see my good intentions? See that it was only two minutes past 12:00. That I held a child in my arms. That I’m a NICE person? My reaction? Kick the car. I cursed. Said something like, “Arghhhhhh!” And then kicked the tires a few times. Sam just stared in the way kids do when they are too scared to cry.
Clearly, deep beneath that brilliant mop of red hair, that experience — that movie of Mom spazing out — got stuck somewhere in his sweet little cortex. “Mama. Remember when you were so mad, and it was raining, and you screamed and kicked the car?” Oh, no, I hadn’t remembered, sweetie. Thanks for reminding me for the zillionth time.
Go forward, about a year later. We are visiting Steve at his office. When we come out of the building, I know it before I see it — or rather see the absence of our car. It’s been towed. I feel that rush of energy. The terrible one that when I turn into Mrs. Hide (as in the children should run and…) seems to sweep over me. I think it’s called anger. But I also know that if I don’t let the synapse fire — if I just stop, just for a moment — then it won’t catch and the spark dies before it takes off.
In a compact moment, the memory of my car transgression came back. I can make this right, I thought on some level. And I took that deep breath that can get you out of so much trouble if only you’d go to the trouble of taking it. And as I walked up to the empty space where our car had been, I said, “Sam! Look. This is so funny. Our car is gone. It’s been towed!” He looked a little scared. This is new. It could be bad. Mommy could lose it. “You’ve never gone to get a towed car! This is going to be fun. This is going to be an adventure.” Sam loves adventures. We hail a cab. Take it to the scary car-towing spot under the San Francisco viaduct. Pay $250.00. And get our car.
Sam reminded me of that for years. Years. “Mama, remember when we had that fun adventure and our car got towed?” Like it was the best fun he and I had ever had, ever.