Thingish Things

God Strikes Again

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jun• 04•11

I don’t mean to overdo the God thing, but I keep running into the guy.

Take today. It was one of those Saturdays. I had been warned about it all week from my wife: “Don’t forget about Saturday.” She must have said it 50 times: “Saturday, Saturday, Saturday.”

Details of the day swarmed around my head like gnats you can hear but not quite catch.  “Saturday. Zzzz. “Are you listening to me about Saturday? Zzzzzz.”

“Of course I am, darling. Saturday…”

But I wasn’t really listening at all. And, as usual, she was onto me.

I knew a lot was going on today, just not every detail. There would be a “sleep over” pick up in the morning; my youngest daughter’s first ballet recital after that; then soccer practice (yours truly as coach, a laughable picture); a lunch; a non-profit board meeting for which I had to collect proxy votes; then two work-related conference calls; a press release written and distributed in the early evening, followed by a barbecue at our house with my wife’s family. That and the lawn needed to be mowed.

Of all those things, though, the most important — by far –was the ballet recital.  That was the big deal of the day for my family.  Our little one had been practicing her curtsies and pirouettes  for months.  It was her first public performance of anything, and her sisters and parents and grandparents were all coming bearing promised flowers and video cameras. She even got a touch of lipstick after breakfast.

Things didn’t start out as well for me.

I needed to print something for the older girls and my printer just wouldn’t work. I was already behind schedule and I knew it. But for a solid hour I tried to print the damned thing, with my wife calling upstairs every three minutes, “Did it print yet?” Zzzzz; “Don’t forget to…”Zzzzz; “Shouldn’t you be leaving? Zzzz,  and “are you listening to any of this…?”

“No, dear; yes, dear; in a minute, dear; yes, all of it, dear.”

At 8 am I was actually considering banging my head to death against a wall, but two thoughts dissuaded me: life insurance won’t cover it, and I may not die. So I abandoned the printer, swore, and jumped in my car to pick up daughter number one from her “sleep over.”

I was running late; I really had to hurry. I wanted to be on time for her because I like to be punctual and encourage our children to be the same, but we also were short on time.  We needed to pick up flowers for my little one’s recital and head immediately there afterwards. There was no time to spare, and we couldn’t be late. Georgia would be peeking out from behind a curtain for us.

Now, where I live there is an overabundance of two things, windy one-lane roads and people with too much money. The latter condition doesn’t apply so much to those living in  my town as it does to our neighbors to the north, which is exactly where I was headed this morning.

No sooner did I get on the single-lane country road to get my daughter than I found myself behind a convertible Mercedes Benz ZXBQR5000D traveling 20-miles-per hour. The ZXBQR5000D, or whatever the heck it’s called,  can go 150-MPH through switchback roads in the Swiss Alps in the snow, but its driver today was content to take a Sunday drive on this particular Saturday directly in front of me — for 12 miles.

One piece of good news: I probably won’t have a stroke tomorrow because I didn’t have one driving behind this fellow today.  But I will be spending some quality time in purgatory for the thoughts and words I manufactured along those dozen miles of road. I muttered cusses people have never heard before. Truly original and detestable stuff.

When he finally turned off, and I passed him with a polite wave, I slammed the accelerator to the floor of my beloved little Ford Focus, and, impressing even myself, went 85 in a 30 for the rest of the trip. Three minutes late. It was miraculous.

Yada, yada, yada with the lovely “sleep over” mom and we were off. Only cost us four minutes.

No room for error, but if nothing went wrong — if we stopped for flowers and drove quickly and directly back to our town — we should make the recital exactly on time.

One thought had been nagging me all morning though. The recital is where the ballet lessons are held, right? I was sure that it was — of course it would be — but the vaguest phantom memory of gnat buzzing was giving me an unsettled feeling.

I had thought about asking my wife to be sure before leaving, but I just couldn’t suffer the humiliation. So I thought deeply and logically about it and determined that the recital absolutely would be held in the church where the lessons are given. Nothing else would make sense. Daughter one and I raced on.

There are a dozen places where we could have stopped to buy flowers, but for some reason I pulled into the unlikeliest one — a garden shop two towns away from where we live. What made it so unlikely is that it doesn’t sell flowers. I realized it the moment I walked in. But then I remembered that there is an A&P behind it, and they definitely would sell flowers — not spectacular ones, but flowers nonetheless.   How could I not have thought of that?  I would have driven right by if it were not for that garden store — the one that doesn’t sell flowers.

I left the motor running and sprinted inside the A&P.  I grabbed a bundle of roses and headed straight to the checkout. There were two lines, neither one discernably shorter than the other. I got on one. And then thought better of it and got on the other. But then I thought better again and got back on the first line — then immediately back to the second where I nearly cut off a nice lady buying only a gift card. “I’m so sorry,” I said.  “Crazy morning.” And by the time I returned to the original line, God, a mother, and her little girl had stepped in front of me and taken my original place.

The girl, around the age of my youngest daughter, was wearing a pink tutu, a mere coincidence I was sure. We were two towns and seven miles away from where we were going, and there are ballet recitals probably happening in every town this time of year.

I wanted to say something sporting like “I’m going to a ballet recital, too!,” but I was afraid I’d look like some strange middle-aged man holding roses and talking to little girls wearing tutus on line, so I held my tongue.

But the cashier mercifully broke the ice. “Recital today, honey?, she asked.

It was the opening I needed: “I’m going to a ballet recital, too!,” I chimed in. “Here?”, the mother asked. “No, in Mount Kisco,” I said.

Polite smile while she paid the bill.

“You don’t have someone named Georgia in your class do you?,” I finally asked the girl.

“Nope,” she said.

I knew she didn’t! How could I have questioned my logic?

But then her mother, collecting her bags to leave the store, halted and turned: “Funny,” she said, “that’s usually where we take classes, too, but for some reason our recital is at a school here today. Is it possible that yours is, too?”

Thank you, God. We headed right to that school. We were 15 minutes early. I got to give my astonishingly understanding wife a little “no problem” smirk before watching my little girl, in all her adornments, walk onto stage, scan the auditorium for her daddy and beam when she saw me. And right there I saw God for a second time today.


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  1. Nick says:

    This is a nice story and told very well. You are right. Children are a gift from God. In my case, I would very much like it if God helped me when I run late but He rarely does. But He also rarely makes me late if I leave enough time in the first place.

  2. Me says:

    I love this one, Billy. Although if I were Corrinne, I would have hit you over the head with a 2×4 years ago:-)

  3. Deb says:

    Thanks for the laugh and huge smile Bill 🙂
    It’s a wonderful life, isn’t it?!

  4. Your Friend says:

    Hard not to have Voltaire running through my mind again. “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” And you have done just that. Well played.

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