Mary Beth Writes

My friend Karen texted last night that she is okay but she had been in a car accident in the afternoon. A driver had not stopped at a stop sign, thus plowing into Karen’s rear driver-side door.

Her accident reminded me of one I was in with my son years ago. This is the newspaper column I wrote about the event.

Hold a good thought for Karen today, okay?  She texted this morning, rather poetically, “I feel like I’ve been dragged through a knothole.”


It was late last Friday afternoon and son and I were driving south on Memorial towards a birthday party he needed to be at in a few minutes. I noticed an old beater car careening down 11th street at a very high speed. I realized that it was going to arrive at the upcoming intersection the same moment as me.

Luckily, I lived in Chicago so long I don't expect other drivers to be sane. When I saw that car blitzkrieging down the side street, I did what any overzealous former Chicago driver would do. I checked my blind spot, then swerved to the right.  Maybe the beater would slam on its brakes at the intersection, but I was going to try to get out of there ... just in case.

This instinct is probably why, later, my son told the police officer, "If I had to be in an accident, I'm glad it was with my mom." The beater never stopped. It tried to turn north onto Memorial while going 70 mph. The huge arc required for the turn slammed it into the back of my car.

Everything goes into hyper-timelessness while you are having a car accident. The din of crunching metal surrounds you. You feel the impact of your body jerking, the moment vibrates all the way into your blood and comes back out the tuning fork of your spine.

The thud was still reverberating when I heard the screeching sound of the beater as it jerked away to speed north in the exit style known as "Hit and Run". If you know anything about a full-size copper brown sedan with a recently smashed in left front - could you call the police, please?

Son and I simultaneously mumbled "Are you okay?" and then "Yeah, are you?" He found his glasses first. The impact had knocked them off his face and into the side window so hard the frame was bent.

He bent the frames back and put them on.  I began to realize, not knowing quite how this came to be, that we were crosswise in the intersection.  The impact had spun our car 180 degrees.               

I couldn't find my glasses. Son looked around, "Oh, here they are." He calmly fished them out from the crack between the console and my seat.

I started to back the car out of the intersection. I wondered why it felt as though I were hitting the curb. I climbed out to look. The rear right tire was no longer upright, it had been knocked so hard it resembled a falling over Ferris Wheel. The curb sensation was the edge of the tire bumping the body of the car.

That was the moment I began to understand that if I hadn't veered, the incredible impact of the accident would have slammed into the driver's door and then into me.

My son rushes in the door after school, eats three brownies in one gulp, and then gives me a grin and a hug. Because we almost bought the farm together, we remember how much we like each other.




Really sorry I was the inspiration for this one! The car plowed into the drivers side (not the passengers side) - so, yeh , I’m really lucky that I am only sore today and that nothing is broke. I’m old and I have osteoporosis! Hyper-timelessness. So strange. So true. I feel loved from all my friends and family. I am mourning my car and taking it easy today.
Mary Beth's picture

Yep, I looked at your photo with all that damage to the driver's side and then said passenger's side. Hah. I went back and fixed the text. Be well.
Leonard's picture

Really sorry about the accident, but that line almost makes up for the rest of the awful-ness!

Wow, glad your friend K is “all right”. Having been in several accidents I can relate- your description of the “hyper-timelessness” is apt. Once, years ago, I was hit by a criminal in a stolen car, changing lanes, and spun around and ended up with my lit cigarette still in my hand. It felt like it took 10 minutes but was 10 seconds. The next day I went to work, sore, but OK, and there was my criminal, who recognized me and apologized! ( I worked at the jail.) Another time as a young Mom, I spun out on ice and was hit by a semi truck on an overpass, and truly thought in those seconds that my car was going over the edge and that I would certainly be killed and leave my tiny daughter motherless. What a miraculous relief that my 1970 Plymouth Fury stopped at the edge. I have a photo of the car at the junkyard with me and my daughter standing by it.
Mary Beth's picture

Oh wow! I'm really glad you survived those. Hah, I worked at a jail, also (as I think you know). I had just a few of those extremely odd encounters.

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A-Z M is for Aunts


Reprint of old column from 5/22/2004 

Happy Mother's Day to all the women who raised us! 

This was my all-time favorite moment from the "Friends" TV show. It's a few hours after the birth of Ross's son (not with Rachel) and all the friends are meeting the baby for the first time. Monica, Ross's sister, holds her newborn nephew tenderly, tears in her eyes with awe for this new life in her family.


This was first published May 10, 2002

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking with our kids about the best and worst jobs we have had. I said picking asparagus was pretty boring. My husband didn't like the day he was a taxi driver. We both love writing when it goes well, we get a lot done, people tell us what clever people we are, and we earn lots of money from it. These aspects of writing come together about once a, well … I'm sure it's right around the corner.

My daughter prodded, "Come on, Mom. What's the best job of your life?"

Dark River

The photo is the Platte River in Nebraska. This post was a newspaper column for the Racine Journal Times in 2003.


Dark River

"I think us here to wonder."  (From "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.)

The day was one of those glorious October days when the sun blazed through gold and crimson trees; the incense of burning leaves perfumed the air. It seemed a shame to go inside simply because night was coming on.

"Let's take the canoe out on the river tonight."

Where Heritage is Found

Last week I spoke with a woman who  is working to support MayaWorks.

I sent her this writing I did back in 2006.


I stayed several days with the Sepet family, a very cash-poor Maya family that lives in the altiplano, the mountains of Guatemala.  These people were so intelligent, gracious, strong, and hospitable.  

This adventure happened during my second day with them.

Quarantine Dairy #669 A Rerun


I have a lot of projects to get through today. I wrote this in 2006 when I worked at Target for six months. I still like it.


This week I saw an inspiring sight.  I saw a little kid completely lost in his imagination. 

When History isn't in Museums

I stayed twice for several days with a Maya family in Guatemala’s altiplano. This adventure happened during my second day of my second stay with them.

Senor Jorge, the 50ish father of the family, asked if I would like to take a walk to see a Mayan antiquity. It took a minute to understand his question since my high school Spanish was a long time ago.

Yes, I would!

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