Stories of unusual circumstances, help received, and miracles witnessed are important parts of your memoir or family history. We love to share our memories of these events and marvel at the outcomes. These tales often begin the discussion, “Do you believe in coincidence?” Entire books have been written devoted to describing events somewhere on the out-of-the-ordinary scale. Here’s one of mine to inspire you to write your own or record those that have been passed down in your own family history.
God has come through with amazing goodness in my life
so many times in my five-plus decades on the planet.
And these are just the events I’m aware of! Since my writing and editing sandbox is memoir and family history, I’ll share a personal memory my family still likes to talk about. Come along on the journey with me.
One beautiful New Mexico fall day my husband and I took our three children, all under six, up to our favorite mountain canyon a few hours away for a day trip picnic. We drove an enormous white aging crew cab truck the kids had nicknamed “The Big White Bumpy Truck”. I called it Moby, in a nod to a literary favorite. Yes, I do laugh at my own jokes!
Our much-loved routine was to let the kids unbuckle their seatbelts once we turned off onto the slow-going dirt road that led through the scattered junipers dotting the mesa. We drove with the windows down, enjoying the sharp clean smell of the juniper trees. The kids loved standing in the back seat, riding the bumps and swerves with the old truck’s suspension as their dad carefully navigated the last miles. There’s nothing quite like the screeches and giggles of delighted children.
Down in the depths of the canyon, at the bottom of
yet another rutted, steep dirt road…
we played in the creek, ran around, chased each other, and had loads of fun for several hours. This is how you wear out young kids, right? When it came time to hop back in Moby and head home late that afternoon, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Hubby tried all the tricks in his book to get it to start. We looked at each other as only privately panicking parents can, while the kids played with the dog and ate the picnic leftovers.
Moby’s starter had gone out in a big way and we weren’t going anywhere. Did I mention it gets really cold at night at this elevation in these NM mountains? The nearest town was two hours away. Picnic food reduced to crumbs, only marshmallows and hot chocolate packets left, kids tired and happily grubby, we thought about what to do and prayed.
Hubby started the long hike down the valley to the rocky road back out of the canyon in hopes of hitching a ride and getting help. Not too far down the single track road, he was met by a father and son out bear hunting. Yes, you heard it right. There are bears in these mountains. And mountain lions. And rattlesnakes. They voluntarily cut short their hunt that day and offered to drive him out to Silver City two hours away. He gratefully accepted.
The kids and I bundled up in our coats as the sun moved lower behind the towering pines, and I determined to make this something of an adventure. My parents had instilled this important concept and life skill in my brother and me during many a long summer road trip full of detours and unexpected challenges when we were kids. It has stood me well and helped to create good memories even in the middle of inevitable travel “adventures”.
So, I made more hot chocolate over the fire and we roasted more marshmallows. The rest of the s’more fixings had been gobbled up hours ago.
And I prayed. Boy, did I pray! I learned later that Hubby was praying the whole time too on his parts sourcing mission. Intensely uncomfortable at the necessity of leaving his wife and kids down in the canyon bottom with night closing in, he had no choice but to get a new starter as soon as possible and return to put it in. No tow trucks in that part of the country. No AAA, no phones, nearest house miles away. We’d spent most of our lives camping and backpacking so he held onto that thought.
While cleaning marshmallow residue and dirt off my youngest’s face as the sun dropped behind the ridge I thought, Hmmm, I’m going to try one more time to get this thing started.
“Kids, everybody get back in the car.”
“Dear Lord please just let it start…” I turned the key, nothing. Turned it again, afraid of draining the battery. Nothing. Thought about bears. Prayed again and turned the key one more time, splutter, cough, grind…Glory be, it turned over! I was ecstatic! And was amped up with way too much adrenaline to focus on how terrified I am to drive the narrow dirt roads hanging over these mountain valleys.
I put out the campfire, buckled the kids in and ordered them to sit tight, and began a white-knuckled creep in the one-ton behemoth up the road, straddling ruts, avoiding axle killing large rocks, trying to hug the inside edge of the road. And lovingly commanded,
“Don’t talk to Mommy right now.”
All the while praying no one would come driving toward us from the other direction. There’s no room to turn around, barely enough room to pass, and let’s just say that my backing up skills leave much to be desired. When I gunned the gas and topped that last rise to the mesa I was shaking. I reassured the kids, told them I loved them and could talk again, and just eased the truck across the flats toward the setting sun. We sang a few silly songs and reached the county road on the other side, old Moby still chugging along without any hitch in its get-along.
Heading down the backroad highway toward home I parked in front of a tiny pie and coffee café catering to area ranchers. I left the truck running and prayed the kids would sit still while I ran in, letting the old screen door slam, and begged use of the vintage phone hanging on the wall. My parting words to the kids, “Nobody move from your seat! Don’t touch anything. Mommy will be right back.” I couldn’t shut the truck off or it probably wouldn’t start again. Somehow, I reached my husband who had made it home for parts and help (no cell phones in those days). I told him we were fine, were just going to drive home, and I wasn’t going to stop for anything. Thank you, Jesus!
End of the story, Hubby replaced the worn-out starter that week and we were reminded of the many strings God pulls to take care of us. We ate beans and tortillas for a month to pay for the unexpected expense. I also learned that in spite of fear, I can do more than I think I can by the grace of God. I remain a big chicken when it comes to driving twisty mountain roads but I can do it. Our grown kids still love hearing this story retold and it reminds us of the many adventures we’ve shared.
Want another marshmallow anybody?
What’s your story? I’d love to hear about one of your family adventures!
#familyhistory #memoirwriting #lifestory #journalprompts #familylife