Our family hasn’t been to church in person since mid-March. This is mostly about COVID, but partly about me and my issues. Nothing makes me want to quit church forever like a presidential election year. 2020 is a presidential election year on a high-octane cocktail of speed and steroids, and not going this year has been just fine with me.
Paul has been checking in with me regularly, and this week he said, “I think we should go. How do you feel about it?”
I was honest. I didn’t really want to.
“Are you going to feel like it in the foreseeable future?”
“Then let’s go this week.”
I sighed but didn’t argue.
This morning, we got through breakfast and showers and dressed in certified Church Clothes for the first time in seven months, and loaded into the car more or less on time. We headed down the road, Paul chatting away, the boys asking questions from the backseat, and me acting like a grouchy teenager because I’m a really excellent Christian.
We were probably more than halfway there when I heard a noise. We don’t drive beautiful new vehicles, so noises are not uncommon, but this one was a little alarming. I waited to see if it would happen again. It did. I considered not saying anything. I’m a little gun-shy about reporting odd noises after the Great Bird Incident, but it was getting loud.
“Do you hear that?” I asked Paul. He did, and slowed to listen to the rhythmic thumping.
“Flat,” we said, more or less in unison. Paul turned off at the intersection just ahead, onto the road overlooking the farm where my mother grew up. Rural Wayne County is a small world. I hopped out of the car and took a quick look around, and sure enough, the front left tire was a mess.We pulled onto a quiet side street where the road was flat.
About a year ago, Paul decreed that all of us were going to learn how to change a tire and held a workshop. None of his three students emerged as experts, but he felt like between us we’d manage. This morning we were lucky. He was there to supervise, even if he couldn’t work around his messed-up foot to get down in the grime. Levi was there to do whatever he could think of, Elias was there to worry about all of it, and I was there to provide a little muscle and, if necessary, jump up and down on the breaker bar. We got to it.
It wasn’t long before we noticed a man coming out of one of the nearby houses. It was Russ, someone we used to go to church with. (Wayne County, man.) Paul explained to Russ that we had everything we needed.
Except the correct size wrench. We didn’t have that. So none of the lug nuts were coming off. Russ went to look through his tools.
In the meantime, I had texted our friend Jordyn, who lives a five-minute drive from where we were enjoying the beautiful fall morning, and who has previously changed a tire for me on this very vehicle. (Are there people who live their entire lives without having a flat tire? I’ve had three in the past five years that I can think of. I wonder if I’m getting someone else’s as well as my own.) He threw some tools in the car and headed our way.
I told Elias to walk to the end of the street and find out the name of the street we were standing on so I could tell Jordyn (mostly he needed something to do). It was then that I discovered that I’ve never really discussed street signs with my children.
“There are two names of streets,” he said. “Which is which?” My answer led to a concept review of parallel and perpendicular. He checked to see if there was anything else he could ask while he had my undivided attention.
“What does ‘No Outlet’ mean?” he asked. I explained.
Out of topics, we wandered back toward the car. Levi and Russ had the blown tire off. I wondered if I should text Jordyn not to come, but he was probably almost there.
I was right. As Jordyn pulled up, Levi was starting to put on the spare. It was good practice for him, so no one interfered. Jordyn helped him load the blown tire back into the hatch and answered ridiculous questions.
“Alright then,” Russ said, satisfied we’d at least get home. He picked up his tools and went home to a chorus of thank yous.
“Sorry I dragged you out,” I said to Jordyn. “But thanks for coming anyway.”
He promised he didn’t mind. As we got ourselves back into the car, he pulled past us slowly and headed down the road.
“WHAT???” Paul said.
“What?” I asked. “What is wrong?”
He was turning the key to start the engine, but nothing was happening. The battery was dead. I started laughing again.
“Go after Jordyn!” Paul said. “Hurry!”
“It’s fine,” I said, catching my breath. “There’s no outlet. He’ll be back.”
Jordyn indeed returned, worked through his incredulity, pulled up nose-to-nose, popped his hood and pulled out jumper cables, and got us running. We drove home on our tiny donut spare, Paul marveling at the inanity of the morning and me snorting periodically as I got responses back from the friends I’d been updating with our adventures.
“You know,” said Paul, “I really believe some things happen on purpose. We obviously weren’t supposed to go to church this morning. I wonder what it means?”
I smiled sweetly.
“I think it means you should listen to your wife.”