I was driving home today after doing some errands and a very old memory popped into my head. I was young —maybe 8 years old. There was a car accident at the corner of our street, Sabra Road and Willys Parkway. I was outside watching the people involved in the relatively minor accident get out of their cars. It was then I saw a motorcyclist sans helmet ride by and he turned his head to look at the accident as he continued driving down the street. There was an oncoming car and I remember shouting, “Look out” as the motorcyclist, with his head still looking at the accident which by that time was behind him, plowed right into the oncoming car. He was thrown from his bike.
It was shocking. My heart was racing and it felt like a heavy lump in the middle of my chest. I am almost certain I even projected myself onto the seat of that motorcycle because I too felt compelled to stare at the car accident. I remember feeling the overwhelming irony of the whole affair— the accident because of the accident, the bitter consequences of this distraction. I’m not sure what happened to the motorcyclist, but the rumors that flew through the neighborhood were that he had died. He had died because he was distracted, because his focus was dangerously other than where it needed to be.
I remember the grief and the powerlessness I felt when I thought about how my inadequate warning had absolutely no impact whatsoever on the situation.
My husband, listening carefully, asked me why I thought this image came up for me today.
Perhaps it is because I have been emptying out old files and organizing piles. Maybe a few cobwebs came loose. Perhaps it is because I spent this last weekend with family celebrating my mother’s and her twin sister’s 89th birthday. There were lots of stories shared and my mother even recited some of the poetry she wrote and performed when she was a teenager.
This is not the first time I ever recalled this memory, but it is the first time I asked my mother and sister if they recalled anything about it. (They didn’t.) I even tried to google information about the accident but nothing came up. It wouldn’t surprise me if I didn’t say much to my mother about it at the time or that she had little response to it if I did. I remember at the time trying to talk about the accident with a former babysitter of mine who lived in a white house facing where the accidents occurred and recall that she cut the conversation short.
Maybe the dwelling in this memory today is all about emptying out some of the cluttered spaces inside. Tossing and letting go of the accumulated material detritus of my life has perhaps initiated an emotional and psychological cleansing as well, setting free clots of deeply buried feelings. Perhaps.