Thursday, March 23, 2006

Betty and Charlie

An unfortunate mishap occurred this morning on my way to the child's school bus stop. It's a mile from our house, therefore requiring vehicular transportation. (Back in the olden days, young Betty used to walk, not to a bus stop, but to the actual SCHOOL. Childhood obesity was, coincidentally, nearly nonexistent back then.)

The accident happened before I was even out of my garage. Although my subcompact Honda Civic is one of the tiniest cars around, I seem to have trouble maneuvering it early in the morning, especially around obstacles like garage door frames.

The side mirror on the passenger side shattered into a million pieces, along with my already minimal supply of serenity. Too stunned to react, I silently drove to the bus stop and parked what was left of my car.

"Mama......Are you. .........CRYING?"

"NO! I'm sobbing uncontrollably! Can't you SEE that?!"

It took a few minutes for me to realize that it wasn't so much the wrecking of my car and subsequent hassle and expense of dealing with it, but it was more about the jarred memory of Betty and Charlie.

Exactly three years ago I had experienced the same problem maneuvering my car out of the garage, with the same broken mirror consequence. At that particular time I was already an emotional wreck, having just been "ditched" by my weekday babysitter, left high and dry, with no notice, without childcare. The rejection by that sitter, coupled with the very tangible childcare problem dumped in my lap had been unbearable. Then, on top of all that, I had wrecked my car's side mirror in a senseless act of incompetence.

Enter Betty and Charlie. They were the grandparents of my child's preschoolmate, Anthony. I knew they were unusual- they were the oldest people, by far, to ever set foot in that preschool. I came to find out that they had adopted Anthony as part of a complex, soap-opera-like family drama. (Anthony had been born to Betty and Charlie's irresponsible alcoholic son's girlfriend.)

Instead of treating Anthony like an unwanted mistake, they sought nothing but the best for him, as demonstrated by their choice of preschool (the most highly-rated in the city). Betty and Charlie socialized with the young parents of Anthony's classmates, fitting in unbelievably.

On the day my sitter "ditched" us, I hauled my defeated self into that preschool, fighting tears, and passed out letters to each parent in my child's class, explaining my situation and begging for immediate help.

When my phone rang that evening, it was Betty and Charlie. They would take my child, covering all of my working hours, until the end of the school year. They had discussed this with the head teacher of the preschool class, who had wholeheartedly approved. My life changed dramatically with that phone call. Hopeless desperation morphed into salvation; rejection into acceptance.

During the subsequent months, Betty and Charlie took us in as family. The day after that phone call, Charlie took my child and Anthony to the butterfly exhibit at the local conservatory, just for fun, before our first scheduled babysitting, and took them to lunch. He wouldn't even let me give him money to cover the cost! It was as if my son finally had a grandparent. It symbolized our acceptance into the family.

A few weeks later, my parked car was slammed into by a van. I was lucky that it happened while Betty and Charlie were in my life. They set me up with a highly-regarded body shop, whose owner they knew, and helped me deal with the insurance hassle. They even loaned me one of their cars while mine was being fixed!

And yes, when I hit my garage door frame three years ago, Charlie went to a junkyard, found a replacement, and installed it. (The Honda repair shop would have charged $500 for its replacement!)

The only sad thing about our experience with Betty and Charlie was that they set a time limit. They gave us their all, but being mature, wise people, they knew they'd have to set a boundary. They have an extensive biological family here in town who, as you might imagine, are constantly needing Betty and Charlie's help.

But what I took away from that experience was a newfound belief in the benevolence of life. I may not be constantly surrounded by people waiting to help out, but most of the time I don't need any help. And when I truly DID need it, Betty and Charlie were there, in spades.


Shankari said...

Hi Betty,

Hope that car is nice n fixed now!

The way I look at it, each time some terrible rejection (baby-sitter and other such happens) new doors do open up. Ok, I'm too wise and cynical to live in fairy tale land- there ain't no Prince Charming coming for me, but the most unexpected and beautiful doors do open up, if only we see them. So fix your side AND rear view mirrors (and look out thru the other windows too :p) and keep driving along. Accidents happen- time limits too are set, but lets drive along...

garnet david said...

What a wonderful story. I hope there are many Betty and Charlies out there for you when you need them. I have a feeling there are.

Betty said...

Yep, we have to keep going- every time something like this happens, I tell myself that this is nothing compared to what could have happened... I don't have the mirror fixed yet, though- it's prohibitive to pay the Honda price, so it's going to take some time to try to find a used mirror and then somebody who's capable of installing was ridiculously complicated last time- who'd think that a side mirror would be that big a deal? But Charlie, with his junkyard conncetions and mechanical skill, rose to the occasion.

Betty said...

Iwouldn't go so far as to say that there are a LOT of Betty and Charlies out there- they were in a category of their own- but my hope is that such angels will appear as needed, in whatever form is called for.

Sideways Chica said...

Here's to Betty and Charlie! I loved this story...even though it came about via the smashed mirror.

Ciao bella...haven't asked in a while, but how is that little chalupa yapper doing? :)


Betty said...

The yapper, I thought, was improving his social skills a bit. Then I discovered a surprise smack in the middle of my kitchen floor this morning, so he's back to his old ways, I'm afraid. The one good thing about this dog is that he doesn't yap- he emits a low-pitched staccato "hmph!" which is actually very entertaining, especially coming out of a Chihuahua. And good news about my mirror- I actually found one online which fits my year and model. They were not standard and therefore are hard to find. Now I'll just have to find another Charlie to install it (Honda doesn't make it easy).

Priyamvada_K said...

God bless the Betty's and Charlies of the world. They make it so much more lively and fun to be in.


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