Again? What is this, some kind of Rocky series? No, this will be the last of the Pat entries, I promise. This one will be brief, too. It’s just another slice of life from our street when the girls were little.
It’s early Sunday evening. Our family is in Bridgeport. We’ve just had pizza at Vinny’s, our favorite hole in the wall. We all hop in our new Odyssey to head home. Everyone is buckled in and ready to go. The car next to me is about to pull out. I wait. They seem to be having some trouble navigating the space. I’m just hoping they don’t scrape our car. It’s taking an inordinately long time. Now they’re waiting to pull onto the road. Jeez. Just go already.
Finally, the coast is clear. Impatiently I put the van in reverse and swing the car to the right. Suddenly there’s a bang, and we jolt to a stop. “What the–?” I look behind me. A telephone pole has leaped into our path and is now pinned against the back of our van. The telephone pole population is way out of control in Connecticut. They’re everywhere. Did I mention that the van was new?
“You just backed into a pole!” Nancy shouts.
“I see that, now. I didn’t see it before.”
Now, Sarah and Emma are in the back seat. Emma turns around to look. She’s in first grade and already knows a lot about the world. “Yup, you did, Dad. You hit it pretty hard.”
Sarah is three, and is still in the kind of car seat that makes it difficult to turn around. She is confused by this event. “Why did Daddy hit a pole?” she asks.
“Because he wasn’t looking,” says Emma.
I get out to survey the damage. The pole is fine, though I notice that it appears to be a serial leaper. It has the scars to prove it. The back of the van is a bit worse. There’s a small dent in the bumper, and, worse, there appears to be a small dent in the rear door. I’m thinking this will undoubtedly require replacement of the entire door. Crap. Nancy gives me an exasperated look. So much for the new car.
The drive home is subdued. The girls seem to know that they should keep quiet. Nancy is quiet so that she doesn’t yell at me. I’m quiet because, well, I’m pretty damned embarrassed.
The next evening, when I come home from work, I’m met in the driveway by Nancy. She appears amused. This is a good sign. She points down the street to where little Sarah is toddling alongside Pat, who she calls Mrs. Beezwee, because it’s hard to say Beasley when you’re three. “They’ve been walking up and down the street for the last 15 minutes. They seem to be having a very serious talk,” says Nancy. “I’d love to know what they’re talking about.” We continue to watch.
A few minutes later they’re back at our driveway. Sarah gives us both a hug. Pat smiles at me, a little twinkle in her eye. “I heard you had a little accident.”
I look over at Nancy. “Don’t look at me,” she says, “I didn’t say anything.”
“No, Sarah told me…several times,” Pat says. “She walked me up to every telephone pole on the street, and at each one, she said the same thing. ‘This is a telephone pole, Mrs. Beezwee. Daddy hit the telephone pole. Why Daddy hit the telephone pole?'” Pat lets out her deep guffaw. “I told her, ‘Sarah, I do not know why your Daddy hit a telephone pole. I think it was probably an accident.’ This was apparently not a satisfying answer. She kept walking me up to each one and saying the same thing. ‘This is a telephone pole. Daddy hit a telephone pole. Why Daddy hit a telephone pole?’ Finally, I just said to her, ‘I think it’s one of life’s little mysteries, Sarah.'”
Sarah did eventually let that little mystery go. I think she was in first grade by then. Who knows how many people she had informed and questioned by then. Though the episode is not my proudest moment, I’ve always loved the image of little Sarah leading the supremely patient Mrs. Beezwee on that telephone pole tour, as she tried in vain to make sense of her father and life’s other mysteries. She’s about to finish college, now. It’s still a work in progress.