This has to be handed in tomorrow, do you think there any last minute changes that I should make?
That day dad had taken us to school-me and my sister. This wasn't such a rare occurrence, occasionally when my mother was at a meeting or seminar. We always hated those days purely as it meant less time in bed-now it seems so petty to have complained about a measly loss of 15 more minutes. My mother had left early to go to Oban or somewhere, I don’t really remember where she was going that day or what for. All I know is that she was travelling in that direction, along the Rest and be Thankful, when it happened. That road was well-known for being treacherously twisty, with no run-off on either side...
It was an odd day, one of those in between sort of days. It was freezing and frosty but the sun was shining, the ice shimmering. At the ring of the school bell signalling the end of lunch, my friends and I began to hurry towards the school, glad for an excuse to get back indoors. I remember seeing my dad - he is a depute head teacher at my school - standing at the front door. We greeted him and he replied. But he seemed elsewhere. Distant.
It’s hard to recall him telling me, but I do remember great confusion. Mum had crashed. The car. Rolled three times. Ended in a ditch. But she was ok. She was fine. Shaken, but not hurt. It was “a miracle”; she’d walked out herself, with barely a scratch and a rip in her tights. I didn’t know what to say, oblivious to the sheer scale of this event. I had no idea what I was expected to say. My dad walked away as I followed the rest of the latecomers up to class.
Despite the shocking news, at the time my main worry was about what my teacher would say when I walked in late. I now realise how insignificant that was when my main concern should have been my mother. I guess that at that age - I was 12 at the time - hearing that she wasn't physically hurt put my mind at ease. At the time all I could think about was what effect this would have on my life, how I would be affected. Now I realise how self-centred this was. What about my mother? What about the emotional hurt? What if she had suffered from nightmares? What if she couldn't face the wheel again? Such thoughts had never entered my mind at the time.
The next two periods had been a total blur. My friends kept attempting to make conversation to resolve the awkward silences. But that was nothing compared to the walk home…
My sister and I met up at the end of school, Emma looked strangely gaunt, as if she'd been hurt. She barely said anything during the walk home. I remember her telling me that she had cried during class – I didn’t understand, after all, mum was “fine”, but Emma had always been sensitive. Although Emma was only two years my elder, I now realise that Emma was virtually an adult and she understood the connotations of mum’s crash. I was still a child, unaware of what loss could feel like. Emma had known how serious that day could have been; we could have lost a parent.
When our house came into view, my mouth became dry, a lump forming in my throat. I was scared. I didn’t want to enter my own home. “Come on”, Emma urged, her voice shaking. Apprehensively, we moved towards our house. As we reached the gate an unknown car came into sight. I looked at the confusion on my sister’s face.
“Don’t be silly,” replied Emma unconvincingly, “it doesn’t happen that quickly.”
I wondered, would we have to walk to school? How would we get the shopping? Visions of a newly-deprived lifestyle flooded over me, so that I was almost cross at my mum for landing us in this state. Yet again I thought of such petty things. After all, what did that matter?
The door slid open revealing laughter and music. We followed these sounds, which were coming from the living room. The first thing that caught my eye was of course my mum, dressed in jeans and a loose shirt that I remember being buttoned wrongly. This was not my mum, she was always the image of perfection; never a hair out of place. I remember finding this odd, but she was smiling and laughing with a couple of her friends from work and my dad.
“How was school?” she asked.
“Ok, the usual I guess.” I replied confused by how such a typical conversation could be taking place after such a rare occurrence.
At the time, although confused by the cheeriness of this scene, I took the sight of my carefree mother to mean that she was fine - laughing at her own foolishness. However, I now see that mother was just putting on a brave face, perhaps for my own benefit. Or maybe she was trying to convince herself that everything was, and would be, ok. I also now realise how shaken and terrified she must have been and that my mother was not foolish-there had been black ice on the road and she had tried so hard to redeem herself and get the car back on the road.
Later it became obvious that she was scared by the prospect of driving again. One day at work mother had hit a boulder in the car park and on another occasion she had experienced a minor collision with a bus. But anyone’s confidence would be shattered after a crash that severe. We all helped of course. In the beginning dad took her out for short drives round the block and I was even there when she went back on the motorway for the first time since the crash. Truthfully I was rather terrified; if she lost her nerve there was no way I could have really helped. Perhaps just being there for my mother gave her courage and re-established her belief in herself. By just being there for her in her time of need, I suppose the relationship I have with my mother grew stronger, such a simple task meant so much to her…
“So, shall I just see you all there then?”
“Would you like me to come with you mum?” I suggested, there was no way I was going to let her be alone in the car again, especially not when she hadn’t been on the motorway since the accident.
“Sarah, that would just be, but are you sure you want to?”
“Yes mum, don’t be silly. You’ve been on the motorway millions of times!” I tried to convince not only my mum, but also myself, “You can do this no problem. Now let’s go quickly or we’ll be late.” It was like a role-reversal, I was helping her, convincing her that she was capable while she looked at me, scared and looking for assurance.
Today I look back at that crash able to see its potential. I also think of what the people of our small community may have thought, that it had been her fault or that she was clearly an incompetent driver. I guess my mother maybe thought so too.
“It’s four years ago tomorrow that I had the accident you know,” My mother casually informed me a matter of weeks ago whilst doing the ironing.
“Is it really?” I answered, amazed by how quickly the years had passed. Those four years could have been extremely different. Everyday on the news I hear stories of families being left devastated due to road accidents – it could quite easily have been my family, left without a mother, a wife, a daughter or even a sister, so many lives could have been left incomplete that day. I never realised how vital a role my mother plays in so many lives, until I faced the prospect of losing her.
“Strange, isn’t it?” she replied.