Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finding Home: Other Voices

Today I'm pleased to share this post from Ina Zajac: How My Neighbors Became “Neigh-Friends.”
 Recently, I’ve decided to start calling my “neighbors” what they really are—“neigh-friends.”

Ina’s definition: Neigh-friend (noun) 1. A person living in close proximity to another unrelated person who shares communal interests; especially related to the physical, social and educational welfare of children, as well as pets, and the local environment. Neigh-friends form and maintain long-term, mutually supportive and protective relationships.

The home I share with my neigh-friends is Lake Forest Park, Washington. It’s aptly named. It’s a laid-back Seattle suburb at the north end of Lake Washington; it’s known for its parks and an abundance of sky-tickling Evergreens.

It was the afternoon of April 30th when I picked up my eight-year-old daughter from school. Just a typical Thursday; I was driving her to a sewing class. Side note: I’m not sure why she’s interested in sewing. I can barely secure a button. We’ll just say it’s a skill she’ll have to learn elsewhere.

While driving down the same old road I’d traveled a thousand times, silver blurred in from my left. I had this rational “oh, this is how it ends” sort of feeling as I recognized it was a SUV slamming into us. Our Honda CRV spun out, took out two signs and ended up in a ditch, facing the wrong direction. It didn’t happen in slow motion. Nothing meaningful flashed before my eyes—no lifetime-achievement-highlight reel. The side impact air bags came down, but I bumped my head pretty hard; maybe because I'm 5'1". No blood, just ringing in my ears, and splotches slithering through my field of vision.

My daughter, on the non-impact side of the car, was shaken up, but seemed ok. “We’re okay, we’re okay,” I blithered to her like an idiot. It’s that mommy thing we all do. “See, mommy’s okay? See, no blood?” I tried to hide my shaky hands.

Within 10 seconds there were several people assisting us. One sweetheart of a man, told us not to move, not to try to crawl out of the car. Another was on his cell, calling 9-1-1. Others were helping the other driver whose car had somehow ended up in a ditch around the corner. Police and paramedics arrived within two minutes. By then a school bus had arrived, and 15 or so elementary school kids were walking by the scene. It was surreal hearing several of them asking my daughter, “Are you okay?” She just nodded and looked down at the ground. I felt for her; she didn’t want them to see her crying.

“Ina! Ina!” I heard from across the street. “Are you okay?” It was a lovely PTA mom, I barely know. We often smile at each other in the school hallway; her smile can melt butter.

So much like my daughter, I downplayed the situation. “Oh, it’s okay. We’re good. Thanks.”

It’s the same way I answered questions from the paramedics. “Do you want to go to the ER?” No. “Are you sure?” Yes. “Do you know what day it is?” Um. Thursday. “Do you need a ride home?” No. A few minutes later, a police officer insisted he drive us home. “What are you going to do, call Uber?” he asked with a steady smile. “We’ll get you home.” He assured me that they did it all of the time.

Within an hour the texts and calls started coming in from friends and neighbors. Can we drive you anywhere? Why aren’t you at the ER? Can we bring you dinner? Do you need a babysitter so you can get some rest? The side of my head throbbed as I told them, “I’m okay, thanks.”

I was pretty out of it the next few of days. I had been expecting to be stiff and sore, but there were other symptoms I hadn’t expected. All of a sudden I couldn’t remember my Amazon password. No biggie. But then I realized I couldn't remember my g-mail password either or facebook. I tried to finish a story for my fiction writing class and could not write. I could NOT string two sentences together. My author friends will understand how terrifying this felt. I had been scheduled to take part in a writing event at my neighborhood bookstore (Third Place Books). When I called to cancel, I didn’t tell them why. I couldn’t say, “My brain is mush, and I’m afraid I’ll never write again.” And so, I just cancelled without explanation.

My doctor prescribed muscle relaxers and oxycodone, and told me to let my brain rest. Supportive calls and texts continued to come in. My daughter, cleared by her doctor, did a couple of play dates while I rested. It took me a while to realize just how lucky we had been. At the time of the accident, school had just gotten out. The reason my neigh-friends were there to help so fast is because several of them had been standing on the corner waiting for their children’s school bus to arrive. They had been on the safe side of the street—the side my 3,500-pound car did not sweep through. God, what if? What if the school bus had come one minute earlier and the sidewalk had been full of children? These are the questions that have been dogging me at night.

While I haven’t been doing much writing lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking—and thanking. Mother’s Day was particularly special this year. It’s been almost two weeks since the accident. While I’m still hurting, I am getting stronger every day. I’m excited to start physical therapy. I’m also getting better accepting help. After some candid conversations with my neigh-friends, I have learned that they want to help, and that’s it’s not really even about me. It’s what they want to do because we are doing life together, and that’s what community means. 
An experienced feature writer, Ina Zajac is an avid people watcher, and lover of quirk and contrast. She enjoys creating contemporary characters; and is especially fond of gritty musicians, passionate artists and irreverent free thinkers.

Zajac's fiction writing is influenced by her fascination with music, art and her hometown Seattle. She does not shy away from provocative topics such as religion, addiction and violence. She also explores playful, uplifting topics related to the mystical and metaphysical. She is a fan of Alan Watts, Duncan Trussell and Abraham Hicks. "Remember who you are"—the central theme of Please, Pretty Lights —comes from this universal perspective.

She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Western Washington University; a master's degree in mass communication (emphasis in women's studies) from Arizona State University; and currently studies fiction writing at the University of Washington.


RachelintheOC said...

So scary! So glad you're 'okay,' Ina. Don't be surprised, though, if the traumatic effects last awhile and that's totally normal.

Accepting help is a huge part of community and look at it this way: if it were one of your neighbors, you would be on the giving end, I'm sure. It's what we do. It's the human side of kindness. Allowing people to help us makes them feel better, too.

hugs to you and your girl. xx

Luanne Brown said...

I am in your hood--so if you need anything else, just let me know. Been in some bad accidents myself so I know first-hand that healing takes times. Glad you and your daughter are okay and that no one else got hurt. All the best to you both.

Mindy Halleck said...

Ina, I've been in a bad accident and spent weeks trying to make like it was no big deal. IT IS A BIG DEAL! Take care of your self inside and out. How nice to live in a supportive community. I'm just up in Mukilteo if you need anything. Be well, Mindy

-blessed holy socks, the non-perishable-zealot said...
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