A few weeks ago, I backed my car straight into the garage door. I have no explanation or excuse. I was distracted by my children’s demands (“Encanto music!” “Water, mama!”) and should have waited until we were all situated, but instead, I threw the car in reverse. A cacophony ensued.
“Mama, what was that?”
My stomach lurched. I had the wherewithal to slam on the brake, turn off the engine, and sprint up to Mr. Magpie, whose even keel is God’s greatest gift to my flutteringly anxious posture at times like this. Fortunately, no one was injured, we were able to fix the garage door the same day, and the car was still totally drivable/functional (cosmetic issues — though sickeningly expensive ones, of course), but —
I consider myself a careful person and the entire thing startled me.
I’m not sure if I’d accidentally hit the garage “close” button and the door was on its way down and I didn’t notice amidst the complaints of my children, or if I’d stopped the garage door from opening all the way when I first entered that morning by tapping it twice so it was never fully lifted, and the car couldn’t clear fully? Why had I not waited until everyone was quiet and waters were circulated and music set? Why hadn’t I checked in my rearview mirror more thoroughly? We weren’t running late — why was I in such a hurry? I am sometimes progress-minded to a fault.
I am reminded at moments like this of the incident where I ran into a plaster wall while pregnant with micro and split my head open. I searched for meaning for months. What was the takeaway? Why had it happened? Was God teaching me a lesson? I am saddled with the blessing and curse of a writerly mind: I cannot help but chart the narrative pathways that make life “hang together.” I am also a devout Catholic and believe in providence. And so it can be tough to let these things go.
But I will never forget a Magpie reader writing in to say, gently, “Sometimes things just happen.”
I mean: let me be clear. I was driving the car and take full responsibility for what happened. And it did read like a cautionary tale: “Jen, slow down. Jen, take in your surroundings. Jen, check more carefully before pulling out.” Check, check, and check. But maybe the buck stops there. Maybe there is nothing nefarious or sweeping beyond. It was an accident, and I will forever take greater care pulling out of the garage. So much so that as I backed out slowly the other morning, I made several corrections as I rounded a particularly curved portion of the drive, and I muttered to myself: “Take your time.”
Mini, in the backseat, without skipping a beat: “Mama, you’re almost there. You almost did it.”
Something clicked into place for me, as though a square of film in a viewmaster: my children, present when I’d backed through the door, curious but nonjudgmental about the entire thing, and my children, present as I modeled my own cautious adjustments, urging me along. I felt at once the heavy and beautiful responsibility of raising these two tiny humans. I hadn’t given a thought to what they’d made of the entire ordeal, but they’d been sitting there, eyes wide as saucers, taking it all in. My wordless braking and then immediate reassurance: “Everything is OK, I’m going to run and get Daddy.” Mr. Magpie’s quiet, efficient, forgiving tone as he silently, pragmatically jammed the dented door up so I could still get the children to school on time. His compassion despite the fact that I’m sure he was not thrilled about the damage: “It’s OK. These things happen.” Our mindful retreat up the drive and then immediate resumption of all the normal parts of the school drop off routine. It was not orchestrated, but I think now I did a passable job of not letting the children worry too much despite the fact that my mind was spiraling: who would I call to fix the door? (If you’re local and God forbid run into a similar SNAFU, Paul Benson at Benson Garage Doors is the absolute best.) How much would the car cost to repair? And what did it all mean?!
I was startled and empowered by mini’s encouragement that morning. I can only assume that somewhere between Mr. Magpie’s calm reassurance right after the fact and my subsequent attentiveness in backing out that she picked up on the fact that I was trying, hard, and that it is a good thing to nurture those efforts in the ones you love.
So maybe this was the through-line all along: an opportunity to demonstrate how we move on from missteps. Not with browbeating, but with a quiet determination to learn from the mistake and to love each other through it. I hope my children carry that gentleness with them, in their dealings with others but also, importantly, with themselves.
“You’re almost there. You almost did it.”
+Writing this post reminded me of when my daughter comforted me as a two year old.
+Some words to fall back on.
+I absolutely love these words of wisdom.
+On a much lighter note: a great party dish.
+One of my favorite dresses (have already worn it this season, and it’s been above 50 degrees all of a handful of days) is on sale in a different stripe! This brand runs big. If in doubt, size down. Honestly, I think most people could size down (even if not in doubt).
+Just the prettiest quilt to throw out for a picnic/outdoor park session, or in a nursery.
+I love these pens so much I’ve given them as gifts to two friends.
+LOVE this button-front shirt — so timeless. Feels very Meryl Streep in Out of Africa.
+This puff-sleeved eyelet shirt is another Target win.
+Another nautical print snag: this shirt dress, on sale! Reminds me of some of the nautical prints from Emilia Wickstead a few seasons ago. While you’re there, consider adding this simple black shirtdress to your cart — I swear it will be a total workhorse for you.
+Courtney Grow told me to buy this lip pencil…and I do what she says.
+Affordable scalloped placemats!
+This reversible quilted jacket for a little one is absolutely precious.
+Boho maternity heaven.
+This woven sandal looks much more expensive than it is. (Could be Missoni?)
+This rainbow sweater is too cute for a tiny one.
+Love these Ray Bans.
+Another epic swimwear option.