Nothing bad happened.
There was no accident; no one was hurt; there was no blood, crying, or boo boos.
But deep in my nervous system I’ve got cells that beg to differ. They are crying in agony, nipping at my serenity, echoing a constant refrain. What if. Almost.
On Halloween evening, I was eight days into a nasty cold so I was grumpy and my head was pounding like the rain drumming down on all of us. The kids were drenched within minutes. Simon almost slipped through my arms because his Spiderman costume was so slick from the rain. The blue ribbons in Sadie’s pigtails were untied and drooping like wilted flowers.
The rain wasn’t bothering the kids; the swarm of them huddled up and ran from house to house, like a giant Disney-themed amoeba. I was holding an enormous umbrella that, when unfolded, resembled a circus tent. I was aware of the occasional car driving past us, and each time one passed, it set my nerves on edge. I was scared something would happen to one of our little trick-or-treaters who were too busy procuring candy to use their “listening ears” or pay attention to traffic. I said a selfish prayer: Please don’t let something happen to one of mine.
Then there was a black car coming on my left and the kids were emerging quicker than I expected from a house where no one answered the doorbell. I was yelling all of them to stay put when one of them darted out right in front of the car. I saw the blue and white checkered dress and all of my internal organs froze solid. SADIE! STOP! The tip of my umbrella grazed the car, trying to stop it. Jeff appeared from somewhere behind me and grabbed Sadie who had run straight out in front of the car. It missed her by two yards? Two feet? Two inches? Two heartbeats?
Ten seconds and the whole thing was over. Jeff ushered Sadie back to the sidewalk, and the rain started to pound us even harder. I insisted on becoming part of the children’s horde. My heart refused a regular beat.
She ran out in front of a moving car. Ohmygodsheranoutinfrontofamovingcar.
I begged Jeff with my eyes to cut it all short so we could retreat with the kids into the safety of the house. After cursing the incessant rain all day, I felt a flood of gratitude when it forced us in early.
That night, I put a sugared-up Sadie to bed. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her Dorothy dress hanging on the hook. The sight of it turned my stomach.
“What was your favorite part, Mama?” She asked, unaware that while she counted her candy and conned Simon into giving up half his loot, I was replaying those seconds on the sidewalk.
“I liked it when we were inside counting the candy,” I offered. An honest answer.
We worked our way through our nighttime routine– story, gratitude list, prayers, song– and I kept getting drawn back to that awful what if moment even though my perfectly alive daughter was inches from my face asking me if we could pray for her lollipops.
I’d die if anything happened and I missed all of this I think as she moves in for her final snuggle before drifting off. I know that replaying the near-miss over and over is another way to miss her, to sap the quiet perfection of the moment away to wallow in morbid reflection over something that didn’t happen.
But I couldn’t stop.
Her eyes did their final flutter, and I extricated myself from her embrace and kissed her again before leaving. Before I shut the door, I grabbed the costume and put it in her closet underneath the stack of baby blankets and princess dresses.