My Worst Mess Ever


How would Dad take it when I told him I’d just created a disaster in the driveway?

Luck is a marvelous thing. I know. It kept me out of a number of scrapes when I was a beginning driver of a big car.

My greatest challenge was maneuvering in our two-car driveway, especially when the other car had been parked too close to the center. Then I was faced with the white Oldsmobile on one side and a one-foot concrete retaining wall on the other.

Usually luck was on my side of the driveway, but one Saturday morning it just didn’t hold out. As my sister and I drove up the sloping hill into the driveway, we heard a grinding noise not unlike that of a demolition crew at work.

“Stop, Michelle!” Anne screamed. “You’ve hit the wall!”

“I have not!” I insisted, but I put my foot on the brake. The grinding stopped.

“Okay, Anne, so maybe I nicked the wall, but all I need to do is pull forward and …”

The car didn’t move. The back left wheel scraped itself into a spin, but the car didn’t move.

“Stop! I’m going to get Dad.”

“Don’t you dare. If I can’t go forward, I can always go backward …”

Fortunately for Anne, me, and the wall, I didn’t have a chance to shift into reverse. With a sudden thrust, the back wheel spun free and the scraping stopped.

“I’m going to tell Dad.” She hopped out of the car and ran into the house.

Surveying the damage, I had to admit that a demolition crew could not have done a better job. The one-foot wall had been reduced to a half-foot mound of concrete Legos.

As I walked slowly up the stairs to the front door, I remembered what was now the second worst disaster of my life.

Anne was a baby then; Matt, Mike, and I were six, three, and five. We three older children were playing in the boys’ bedroom when we decided to go sailing.

Three empty dresser drawers made great boats, but the carpet around them looked like a still blue lake, and we wanted a stormy ocean. Soon the floor was covered with toy, clothing, and blanket waves.

We were deep-sea fishing when we noticed Dad standing in the doorway.

He didn’t say a word. It was our worst mess ever, and he didn’t say a word. He simply started to help us put our waves away.

That was 12 years ago, I reminded myself. But there Dad stood in the front doorway. He was holding a garbage can, a push broom, and a dustpan. “Uh, Dad …” I began.

He didn’t say a word. It was my worst mess ever, and he didn’t say a word. He must have understood that right then I needed acceptance more than condemnation; I had already condemned myself. He just handed me the broom, and together we went down to the driveway.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh