It was 8:32pm on a Sunday night. WHOOP! WHOOP! Was the very last thing I wanted to hear. The 2 BIGS, the dog and I had just made a mad-clandestine get away from my parent’s lake house. My super-clingy 4 year old was ‘pending the night and didn’t quite understand that we weren’t staying with her. While my parents distracted her with a golf cart ride we literally threw everything into the cash car and boogied-boogied out of dodge.
8:32 was a little later then I wanted to leave for the 1:15 trek back to ‘city’ but it was the perfect Sunday afternoon on the lake and none of us wanted to quit swimming, diving or learning to do a perfect can-opener from old ‘cuz CooderBob. We stayed until we’d wrung out the very last drop of fun and then tried to hightail it home.
We all heard, “WHOOP! WHOOP! THUMP! THUMP!” I was trying to drown out the sound my saying, “No-no-no-no-no. This. Can. Not. Be. Happening.”
Big boy said, “You know that is a flat tire, right?” We were 3 miles from my parent’s house. I murmured that I did and eased off to the side. Feeling slightly panicky I took a deep breath and tried to make a plan. I couldn’t go back—my super clingy daughter wouldn’t allow me out of her site-EVER AGAIN. I couldn’t call for help—my poor dad was recovering from surgery. I was on my own. I have to admit that I have never fully changed a tire.
We got out. YEP. It was definitely flat.
‘I can do this’.
My son and I unloaded the car which had just moments before been hastily packed. I found the spare, the jack and the thingy that takes of those screwy thingy’s. Like a boss I laid down under the car and positioned the jack. From my one previous attempt to change a tire I knew where IT DIDN’T go. That done, I looked for the little thingy that you used to crank the jack. Nowhere. I cussed and made my way back to the tire well. Nope. Panic bubbled up in my throat. I was throwing stuff around while trying to use words like “thingy” and “crooked little pipe with a round thing on it” to describe what I was looking for to my bewildered son. Needless to say he was unable to offer much help despite by clear-as-mud description. “AHAHA,” I exclaimed finding a small, triangular shaped-felt covered- package. The thing was packaged like the HOPE diamond. Really? It was a pipe with a round thingy on the end for crying out loud.
Armed and certainly dangerous I plopped down on the hot asphalt and, determined, set about getting this chore done. I was practically beaming moments later as the car began to lift ever so slightly off the ground. I cranked like mad-women. Just before I let out an obnoxious “WAHOO” I realized that I hadn’t loosened the screw like thingy’s and now the tire was slightly off the ground. I tried to use the bigger p pipe thingy to get out the screwy thingys but sure enough I had jacked the car up enough for the tire to spin round and round and round as I tried to chase it with the tool. I let out a very delicate and lady-like exclamation that might or might not have had 4 letters.
Crank ‘er down. Grab the larger pipe thingy-ma-bob and go to work on the bolts. Oh yeah. Those aren’t going anywhere. I tear up but don’t give up. After confirming, ‘lefty-loosey-righty-tighty’ I throw my considerable weight at the tire tool. My son clears his throat and points to other way. I refrain from saying, “ohhh…you meant THAT left,” because there was really no point. I reverse direction and throw my considerable weight in the other direction. Nothing. I try again with a little more gusto. Nothing. I blink back tears and throw my considerable weight one again against the tool but this time I add a grunt. Hey, it works for karate choppers attacking blocks of wood. It didn’t work for the bolt. I stand up and attempt to kick at the tool with my red-polka-dot flip flop. Nothing. I lay back down on the ground and leverage my foot from the bottom and use all my back-end weight. Not an inch. I stand up, put my greasy hands on my hip and do what every proud, responsible adult woman would do. I cried. Quietly.
It won’t make it anywhere…this thing is sitting on the rim. We could walk but doing so would require us to travel at least a mile down a dirt road called, “Owl Swamp Road,” nuff said on that idea. My crap is piled up on the side of the road, it’s getting dark and I have 2 bigs and a dog looking at me waiting on some brilliant idea.
My parents have an old-blue truck that. We’ll borrow that. “Call Gramsey and ask if we can borrow the truck,” I instruct my daughter. She is wise enough not to ask ANY questions. She jumps out of the car—and grabs my phone. It’s dead. All of our phones are totally dead. At this moment I admit to a brief moment of, “Really? Really?” before pulling myself together (sort-of) and directing her to crank up the car, charge my phone and make the call. I sit back down to work on the tire. This time I have the added fun of doing so with 4000 degree exhaust blowing in my face. In the car my daughter shouts that we have 1% power. While she gives a progress report on the power level of the phone I huff and puff and push and pull and hit and stomp the tire thing. To no avail. I am determined to do this by-my-self and not-have-to-call-for-help-AGAIN. My strength is not fueled by my determination. Despite using every ounce of force I can muster the rusted bolts don’t move. Before she reaches 3 I throw the useless tool down on the ground –pick myself off the ground and stand up. “I am a 43 year old woman with a full time job. I should be able to get you home safely!” I wail. I walk away to cry just a bit.
I indulge in my pity party for just a moment and walk back to see my son standing on the tire thingy in his little neon tennis shoes. He’s jumping up and down on it and lo and behold if it doesn’t start moving. A bit at a time but it’s moving! I sing his praises and he keeps jumping. Daughter now has enough power to start power calling the grandparents and son jumps away at the tire tool like it is a trampoline.
One by one he uses his unorthodox method to get the bolts off before our communication captain can make a connection. He and I hoist the little, tiny tire over to the exposed wheel and….uh…which way does it go? Seriously? Which way? I try and play it cool like I know what I am doing but I have no clue. Luckily my boy loved match box cars one upon a time so he’s maneuvering thru this like a pit boss and a NASCAR race.
At some point my pride kicks in and I jump in to finish the job. The little tire doesn’t look like much but lifting that bad boy onto the wheely-things in exactly the right spot to line up the holes is no joke. My arms quiver as MY BOY directs me ‘a little to the right—THAT RIGHT MOM’. Daughter is pacing up and down the sidewalk still trying to get a call to go thru. She has to walk almost to the main road to get any bars. It’s a juggling match between the service bars and the battery bar. She is keeping up current on both, “3% power and 2 bars Mom.”
As I am cranking and sweating I hear her start to leave a message. Big boy and I both shout “NO!!!!!!!!” so vehemently that she almost drops the phone. A) I don’t want to freak my parents out and b) I don’t want clingy child to hear her sister’s voice on the recorder and freak out. I am trying to be the only person freaking out. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
Finally after much effort the tire is fixed. I have hope! We did it! By ourselves. I don’t have to call my Dad. And then we look at it. The tire looks like the tire of my son’s matchbox cars. No way I can take off for an hour and fifteen minute ride in the near dark with 2 kids, a dog and no one waiting at home on this puny thing. My bike tire is bigger. I tear up again. I am a 43 year old woman who has to call her mom and dad for help. Again.
Safety trumps pride so we used the last bar of battery to call again. This time we get thru. Help is on the way. “Moooommmmm….you are going to be in trouble! This car is dirty,” daughter proclaims. I start with my ‘this-is-why-we-shouldn’t-let-it-get-this-way’ speech but my heart just isn’t in it. There is no spit-shining that can be done in the next 5 minutes that will make this cash car any more parent ready. We do what we can to get all the paraphernalia—swim bags, cooers, dog crate, diet coke bottles, etc. out of the car while we wait.
Like a Knight in Shining Armor my dad rides to our rescue. As he tops the hill my daughter whoops in surprise. My Dad, who has just had surgery, is driving and he’s not in the blue work truck. Instead he arrives like Sir Galahad in my Moms BRAND NEW silver steed. I protest but my Dad tells me to hush. He hugs us all—gives us a quick tour of the new and I mean BRAND new car and sends us on our way. In the rearview mirror I see him contort his big hulking form into the little bitty tiny space that the cash car allows the driver. I am sitting in the leather comfort of a Barca-lounger while he putts away in a crappy tinker toy listing badly to the left. “I should follow him to be sure he gets home safe,” I mutter. My boy answers, “He’ll get mad if you do.” I agree and pull away.
Sniff-Sniff. I am holding back tears. My son is in hog heaven synching up his I-touch to the rocking sound system in the new ride. My daughter is uncharacteristically quiet. We travel a bit and I say, “I am 43….” Both young voices silence me immediately. My daughter, not surprisingly wins, “I’ve got a pep talk to say,” my son groans. My brutally honest daughter doesn’t always have a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. My eldest senses a torrent of tears if she chooses this moment to unleash. “No, it’s a good one,” she assures him. “I am proud of us. We did it. It was hard but we did it. And….” Sniff-sniff I started but she stopped that right quick. In a voice that would make a 6th grade teacher proud she said, “…I am not done mom.” She spoke with such authority I didn’t ever crawl her for being rude. “ Gramsey and Grandpa don’t mind helping. They want to help so you shouldn’t worry about that. Hi five guys,” she slaps heads us and then settles back to luxury of the oversized back seat to snuggle with the dog.
A few more miles down the road and I hear my boy say, “I changed shoes mom,” I looked and remembered that I hadn’t seen him in tennis shoes since the last day of school. “I noticed. I couldn’t have done it without you, dude. I gave up but you kept trying….you changed shoes so you could keep trying and I am really, really proud of you.”
“Oh yeah. Hi fives again dog,” chirps the back seat. She leans in to slap palms again.
My precious fella turns and gives me that special one sided grin he saves just for me. There in that big seat, with his hat turned backwards sits a little man. He’s bathed in the glow of the electric blue dash lights as he presses buttons until tunes spill from the radio. (I couldn’t have done that without him either…as I proved later when I tried to turn down the tunes.) “We got this,” is all he says.