Here’s the rest of my heart thumping weekend.
By my third cup of java, the August sun began to peek through the blinds. The plan for the morning was outlined in my mind. I would surprise my husband by mowing the lawn, then take Laura to her swim lessons at the Boys and Girls Club. I waited until eight-thirty a.m. to drag the mower out from the shed. It took a few attempts of priming the bulb and pulling the cord, but I was finally able to start the push mower. I was quite proud of myself.
I had trimmed a mere twenty feet of grass before I found the discreet copper water line that was buried below the tall blades of grass. In seconds, I thought I had been transported to Yellowstone National Park as I watched a magnificent geyser erupt in front of me. I stood dumfounded, unable to move. From shock to frantic, I tried to remember where the shutoff valve might be. My husband had shown me the one in the house, but that would not help me outside. I visualized the man poking his rod down into a hole each month as he read the meter and it dawned on me that it was below ground. I looked around and spotted the deep, spider-filled opening which was barely visible through the overgrown weeds.
I dropped down to my knees, reached in and tried to find the handle. There was nothing but webs. The only way to reach the meter was to lay flat on the ground. I sprawled out, face first, and reached my arm into the hole as far as I could, trying not to think about the crawling creatures that would soon attach themselves to my skin. There was no handle. I jumped to my feet and dashed inside to call for help.
“Bill, I need your help now!” I shouted into the phone.
“Who is this?” Bill Kramer, the trailer court manager, replied.
I could have said it was the crazy, dumb blond from down the street, but instead I identified myself and gave a brief explanation of my crisis. Bill agreed to come to my rescue. When he arrived, he took one look at me and burst into laughter. There I stood, saturated from head to toe with grass clippings clinging to most of my body. He proceeded to take his wrench and stop Old Faithful as if it was another daily routine. I thanked him, knowing I would never again be able to have a conversation with him that did not involve my humiliating call.
There was just enough time for a shower and change of clothes before taking Laura to her swim lessons. An hour of watching her thrash about in the water with her friends would help me relax, I told myself optimistically. I found a place on the stadium-type bench and tucked my daughter’s shoes and towel and my purse in the space underneath.
I offered a hand to the young mother who came up behind me as she struggled to unload a large diaper bag, purse, towel and an infant in a pumpkin seat. We chatted a little about her newborn. She related that she was stressed about the weather report and thunderheads she had seen building on the horizon. I assured her we were safe inside the sturdy concrete building.
After a short while, she could no longer ignore her concerns and decided to get her daughter from the pool and leave. I kept an eye on her sleeping baby as she dried off her daughter and gathered all her bags. Once she had everything balanced over her shoulder or under an arm, she picked up the pumpkin seat and left.
About thirty minutes into the lesson, I reached down to get a piece of gum from my purse. My hand grasped anxiously from side to side, but couldn’t feel anything that remotely resembled a purse. I stood up and looked underneath the bench. Laura’s shoes and a towel were the only things on the floor. My purse, oh my God! My purse is gone.
Panic sank in as I remembered my husband was out of town and no one else had keys to my car or house. I dashed to the check-in desk seeking help. My voice was quivering as I tried to get someone’s attention, but the staff was too distracted by the impending storm that blackened the skies overhead.
Just as I thought I would burst into tears, the young woman who had sat next to me came rushing through the door with my purse in hand.
“I’m so sorry! I grabbed your purse when I left. I didn’t realize until I got home that I had it. I left the kids with my husband and hurried back as fast as I could.”
Overwhelmed with gratitude, I thanked her and headed back to the bench to once again get my blood pressure under control. The moment my derriere hit the bench, a large clap of thunder shook the building and all the lights went out. Fifty blood-curling renditions of “MOM!” were shouted from the pool. A staff person tried to announce the emergency instructions, but could barely be heard above the shrill screams. The only back up lights available were BIC cigarette lighters held by a few shaking hands.
One by one, the children were removed from the water and returned to their anxious parents. With Laura by my side and my car keys securely in hand, we sat briefly waiting for the storm to pass. The thought of going to the trailer and riding out the storm was ruled out. I never felt safe there in bad weather even when my husband was there to calm my fears. Instead, I thought it would be a good time to visit Mom in Florissant.
The skies cleared as Laura and I made the drive to Mom’s house. Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee while Laura and my youngest sister watched television. Mom and I retreated to the breezeway as I narrated a brief version of my nightmare weekend. It was great to finally relax in a secure environment. Of course, it was just a façade.
I took another sip of coffee and my eyes caught a glimpse of something outside. I studied the blacktop driveway. It was parallel to the side street and could hold about four cars comfortably if you pulled in close, perpendicular to the fence. Hadn’t the car been almost touching the fence? An alarm was going off in my head. My white Ford Pinto was inching slowly backwards toward the street. I bolted from my chair, sending the coffee flying everywhere, and dashed down the dozen steps to the bottom landing. I flung open the screen door and headed for the car. I was berating myself all the way. How could I have forgotten to put it in park? Imagine my surprise when I whipped open the driver’s door and found my little girl scrunched down on the floor board of the passenger side!
Once again my heart felt like I had been in a marathon race. Thank goodness the side street had little traffic and was relatively flat. I was able to apply the break and stop the car before it made it into the street. Laura knew she was in trouble, but I knew if I opened my mouth, she would get all the frustrations of the day. Instead, I buckled her in the car seat and pushed the car back into its spot. Mom was standing at the steps by then, so I asked her to keep an eye on Laura while I retrieved my purse and keys from upstairs. I was going home to lock myself away for the rest of the day.
The ride home was uneventful, thank goodness. As I unlocked the door to the trailer, I heard the phone ringing. “How’s it going?” my husband asked on the other end.
“Just fine,” I lied.