and Snugglers and Snuff, Oh My!
by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
are all kinds of people in this world. Some days I think that most of them are
good and some days I think that most of them, or anyway many of them, are not
so good. The truth, obviously, is that the world is filled with people who can
be both good and bad and that there are a few very good people and a few very
bad people scattered about just to keep things hopping.|
There is, for example,
my father. My Dad has always been a great one for helping people. One time he
picked up a whole family of hitchhikers – a mother, a father and two little children
– and brought them home. He fed them dinner, made them "cowboy beds" in the den,
fed them breakfast and gave them some money "for milk," and then took them back
out to the highway to continue on their way.
A few days later one of us
children discovered that all our piggy banks were empty. After accusing each other
for a bit we realized that the hitchhiking family must have taken it all – probably
a big fat ten bucks altogether – and were we ever mad! Our Daddy had brought them
home, made sure they were fed and warm and gave them some money – who knows how
much, but for sure a bunch of money -- and drove them back out to the highway
in the morning. And they stole our money from our piggy banks.
father asked, had we been planning to do with it? Well! We were saving it. For
something. It was ours! What, my father asked, did we imagine they were going
to use that money for? Hmm? Food, maybe? For their little children? Granted, it
wasn’t very nice to take it, but it was understandable. And since we had no specific
plans for that money, what difference did it make to us? We knew that piggy bank
money or not, we were bound to get supper every single night and had clean, warm
beds to sleep in and a place to live. Why, it might have been pretty nice if it
had occurred to any of us to offer them our money. Any other questions? Nope?
I am not saying that my father is one of the people in this
world who are good through and through. That doesn’t run in our family. But he,
like most people I think, does have a pretty wide streak of good running right
through the middle of him, a fact of which we are all very proud. When he would
help somebody he would always point out that he had been helped in the past with
one or two things and that he expected he might need some help again in the future.
As if he had a good deed savings account into which he made deposits against future
rainy days. Now that I’m grown up this makes good sense to me, and I try to deposit
into my own account when I can. I know that I have made withdrawals. As a matter
of fact, there was one three day period in my life when I drew rather heavily
from that account.
A long, long time ago I was leaving an unhappy marriage,
driving with my three babies from eastern Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, all by myself,
confused and heartbroken and probably a little in shock. When I was young there
wasn’t anything I didn’t think I could do. Although "think" might not be the right
word. I mostly ran on gut instinct and I’d had pretty good luck with that method
of operating right up until I used it for choosing a spouse.
If I had
been thinking it might have occurred to me that it was going to be a very long
drive home in a not very good car. It might have occurred to me that there wasn’t
only me to consider, but that I might give a little consideration to the children
as well. If I had been thinking I might have figured out a way for us to fly home
to Oklahoma. But I was worn out, fed-up, and confused. All I knew was that it
was time for us to go home. So I loaded the car with suitcases and stuffed animals
and coloring books and we went. Which was fine for 500 miles or so. Then, somewhere
in Virginia, our not very good car decided that enough was too much.
had enough momentum to roll up the exit ramp to the outskirts of a town. We slowed
to a stop, got out of the car and started walking through dust and grasshoppers
in the direction I hoped would bring us to a telephone. Don’t remember who I thought
I might call. It was August and hot, hot, hot. I had an eighteen month old on
one hip, a three year old on the other hip, and a five year old holding onto my
belt loop, trudging along bravely beside me. I began to think for the first time
that we might have been better served if there had been a little planning involved
in this whole venture. But we were there on the shoulder of that Virginia road
and there wasn’t anything to do but put one foot in front of the other and see
what happened next.
What happened next was that a car pulled up beside
us. It might have been a car full of bad guys, kidnappers, or murderers, but to
our great good fortune it was a lady with her mother. This lady took us under
her wing in the best possible way. She expressed interest in our situation without
being judgmental, without pointing out to me that I was a fool (at best) for putting
my children in such a situation. I remember she asked if my family knew what I
was doing and I broke a sweat and lied through my teeth, "Oh sure, we do this
all the time."
She took us to a motel, asking politely if I thought this
one would be all right. I realize now that she was asking if I had the money for
it, which I did. She pointed out the nearby restaurant and convenience store and
arranged for her mechanic to tow and repair our car. She even stopped by that
evening to make sure we were fed and clean and safe and had milk. In the morning
she came back to drive us to the garage. She brought each of my pretty children
a pair of sunglasses which they thought were very wonderful. At the time, I was
grateful and relieved and if I thought much of anything in my bewildered state
it was, "See, things work out."
Now I am well and truly grown-up and fully
recovered and I shudder to think about the fool that I was and the way I stumbled
blindly through that whole ordeal. Now I know that it wasn’t Chance that Mrs.
B. saw us and stopped and helped us when we needed it. It wasn’t something I should
have taken for granted. It was her conscious decision, born of a giving and generous
spirit. She stopped what she was doing, disrupted her schedule on our behalf,
asked a favor of her mechanic. Mrs. B. rescued us, tucked us in safe and snug
and made my confused, wide-eyed children smile and laugh. These were the first
things that Mrs. B. did to help us. She did the kinds of things for us that my
father had been doing for his strangers all those years. Later on that day there
would be bad guys and state troopers and a little more adventure. And she would
help us again.
II: Broken Down in Tennessee next page