Last summer, we sat in the orthodontist’s office hoping to hear the magical words, “Good news! No one needs braces!”
(I will pause while you cackle at my naivete and foolish hope.)
Instead, we learned that we needed MULTIPLE sets of braces. The total cost was shocking. Like, I felt my soul leave my body for a moment. We coulda bought a car. Maybe two.
Plus, it meant dozens of pain-in-the-ass all-day ferry trips over the next two years because there is no orthodontist on our little island. My parent-brain wearily calculated all the work calls Nick and I would need to reschedule, all the school they’d have to miss.
It had been a long hot summer and I was tired. I wasn’t ready for one more hard expensive piece of parenting. But I gathered myself and put on my grownup hat. While I wasn’t thrilled, I knew the kids were even more devastated about braces than the grownups. After all, it was their mouths. I mentally added Advil to the shopping list.
“Okay, kids, that was terrible news. Let’s go buy some basketball shoes.”
Many back-to-school purchases later, it was time to catch the ferry home. So instead of sitting and chatting over a pleasant meal, we bundled some gross fast food into the car and hit the road…only to find ourselves ensnared in terrible traffic.
The map sent us on a weird detour that turned out to be a speed trap. Now we had a speeding ticket AND were still lost. The friendly cop who wrote the ticket informed us that there’d been an incident on one of the ferries that had shut down a whole route that day, resulting in an absolutely colossal backup of traffic, mostly of people who, like us, were desperately hoping to get on a ferry that they were almost certainly now going to miss.
When we finally got there, the little on-ramp to the ferry terminal was a sea of chaos.
The police were out waving people in creative traffic patterns; cars were doing desperate U-turn loops; traffic spilled over into private driveways; everyone was on a phone; two lanes had turned into six. It was mayhem.
Then three people in a row did some jerky shitty driving, zooming past the rows of cars patiently waiting their turn, cutting in line and wedging themselves aggressively in front of this one hesitant older driver who looked alarmed.
Horns were honking. People were yelling. It was MOST un-Canadian.
Things were tense in our car too. We had drunk all of our water. It was hot and dusty and we all had to pee and we were running out of gas. In 40 minutes we moved 40 feet. We texted a neighbor to see if they could take care of Wallace and the chickens if we couldn’t make it on the last ferry. I googled hotel rooms. The gas light came on. We were too far in to turn around. I was taking deep breaths, trying to stay calm, but then someone in a shiny truck careened aggressively down the shoulder of the road, almost skimming the edge of our car, and the Chicago in me just reared up. I was THIS close to leaning out my window and giving him a piece of my mind. (Most un-Canadian.)
Then someone tapped on our window.
He was tall, and older, and had long white hair and a biker jacket. I rolled down the window thinking that he must be so hot in all that leather– wondered if he needed help– and then realized that he was holding out a handful of plums.
Sweet misty purple plums.
“Would you like some plums?” he asked.
Oh! Well gosh of course we did– they were cold and sweet and dusted with something like magic.
He handed them in through the window, one for each of us.
He was gone before we could even thank him properly. I watched him walk away, startled and disoriented, like maybe I had just imagined the whole encounter. But there was a ripe piece of fruit in my hand. He had broken the spell.
I ate that tart, delicious plum with tears prickling my eyes.
I peered out the window to see that he was still moving down the row of cars, giving away more plums.
I felt chagrin. I felt chastened. I felt deeply ashamed of myself in a really healthy way.
“Damn it. We’re really seeing the best and worst of people today, aren’t we, kids?”
They nodded, up to their chins in the sweet miraculous plums of human kindness.
I closed my eyes.
Sank into that gift.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a great peacemaker. My first instinct is to be the one who yells. Who honks. Who gets out of my old minivan and walks up to the fancy truck and shouts, “Why do you think that where you are trying to go is any more important than where all the rest are trying to go?!? You ASSHOLE???”
While warranted, that wouldn’t have been helpful. My outraged response would only have made an ugly scene uglier.
And here walking right in front of me was this totally different way to be in the world. To be the one walking around quietly delivering…
Oh gosh. It just felled me. Knocked me right over.
Look, it’s good that I have a healthy warrior in me. When necessary, she will rise to any occasion. She’s a powerful ally. But most of the time? Her sword isn’t called for.
What we could really use around here… is plums.
That’s who I want to be. I want to be the one giving away plums.
We all have plums of one sort or another. Sweet misty bits of treasure.
Let’s give them away, shall we?