Memory is a funny thing.
Some people have an incredible, detailed and precise memory that travels way back into toddlerhood (my brother-in-law is one of these people). They can remember non-photographed details of their favorite blankies even though they no longer exist and disappeared long before age three. They can tell you exactly what you were wearing on August 2, 1975 even though you haven’t a clue (because you were only 2 years old for goodness sake) and they can remember events that nobody else can with incredible details like it just happened yesterday.
My memory? Not so much.
It comes and it goes.
I rely heavily on my family members and photographs to remind myself of my past. I write notes and jot things down on my calendar so that I don’t forget them. I can be found with ink on the palm side of my hand (my equivalent to tying a string around my finger) on almost a weekly basis.
I would like to be able to say that the memories that reside in my head are there because of my deep connection to them and the people in them, but I can’t. Simply put, my memory has more holes in it than a two-ton brick of Swiss cheese.
But every now and then, I will surprise myself. Something will trigger a memory and a vivid recollection will begin to form in my mind.
I don’t know if it was the rain, or the particular spot on the road, the time of day, or the fact that I’d just seen a car that looked just like the little Mazda (my first car) I was still driving when McRae was a baby, but the memory came flooding back like a tidal wave.
It was raining. McRae was close to 6 months old and I was having car trouble. I remember veering off to the shoulder in the downpour and thinking, “What in the world am I going to do?” These were the times before everyone had cell phones. In fact, Brett had one for work that was about the size of a toaster so you can imagine that I wasn’t tucking that into my purse.
As I sat with my hazard lights blinking, begging the forces that be to keep my baby in his contented state so I could rationally make a plan, a truck pulled up behind me. I could barely make out the make and model through the torrents of water streaming down my back window.
I was too far from home to walk. It was the middle of the day. Everyone was working but there was a slight chance that my dad was home. If I could get to a phone, I could call him.
The man in the truck approached my little tuckered-out car and asked if I needed help. My mother instincts were on high alert, but for some reason I was as calm as a cucumber with him.
After few words, we had come up with a plan - we, two strangers on the side of the road. He helped me buckle my son’s infant seat into his pick-up truck. I got in between him and the stranger.
He drove me into the next town and dropped me off at my mother-in-law’s hair salon where I could use the phone and call for help, or at the very least wait for her to be able to take us home. We were safe. I thanked the stranger and asked his name.
I had written down the man’s name on a scrap of paper with the intention of baking him cookies in appreciation for his kindness. I never did that.
The paper became lost, who knows where, in the chaos that makes a life, the mess that makes a family and the disorganization that makes a home. I have no idea where it went, but if I could find it, I'd want to thank him.
So wherever you are, gentle, kind stranger, thank you.
Eleven years later I want to thank you for being there when I needed you and being an honest and trustworthy soul. Thank you for taking that young mother and her baby from a broken-down car on the side of the road and bringing them someplace safe.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you for being my angel.