Shannon loves to bring the goings-on in her imagination to life for others. Sometimes one simple thought or prompt sparks an entire story!
I woke up one recent morning to a surprise that made me tear up. Just a small gesture from a friend who had no idea how much it meant to me. I've always been one to take inspiration from the little things in life, but sometimes I forget that it isn't so far-fetched for me to be a part of one of those moments. Even at my weakest moments I am more than I may think or feel simply because we are all a part of those things that somehow seem to inspire others. Believe me, that's no little thing. Neither is a moment that reminds you of that.
I have learned this particular lesson many times over. It never gets old, though, and I hope it never does for you either since we all impact those around us on a daily basis. It could be a lifelong bond or perhaps one casual encounter. Perhaps something we say or do reaches a total stranger and becomes something indelible. We may never find out how we made a difference for better or worse. And then there are times like this when someone reminds us with their gratitude how much even the little things can make a big difference for the best. Those are the moments I live for.
In this case, it was a simple note along with a music video. My friend has known me for about 17 years now, so she knows how much I like Reba McEntire. It probably did not seem like a big deal to share the song with me and the note was just an added bonus. But to me, the note and the song combination provided a much needed boost to my spirits. God and my girlfriends are indeed there when I feel anything but strong or confident. They have the ability to lift me up again just by being themselves. It feels good to know that I can do the same for them, though I may be be totally oblivious to it at times.
It just so happens that she inspired me, too. Not only in my immediate personal life but also by giving my muse a little shove. I've been wanting to do some short stories based off of songs. The song she shared is the perfect song to start with. The story attached to it is based off of one of our "fun, crazy" times together.
The Road Trip
Marie and Courtney sang along with the radio as they traveled through the small one horse towns of Oklahoma. The bland scenery of southern and central parts of the state seemed to drag on endlessly, except for the stoplights along this stretch of the interstate that popped up whenever they came upon a town. Their simple companionship, however, dulled the monotony.
The girls were headed about 18 hours north of their college town, located just beyond the Oklahoma state line in Texas. Marie had family and friends in Illinois ready to welcome them both for a visit. They were eager to explore both Marie's hometown and Chicago together before taking an alternative route back to Texas in order to visit Courtney's family before returning to school.
They drove on, not planning to stop for the night for a few more hours, if at all. They were still undecided about whether or not they wanted to drive straight through. But if they did stop, it would be somewhere in Missouri, closer to the halfway point so they could still make it to central Illinois by tomorrow afternoon or early tomorrow evening. It was not dark yet, but it would be by the time they reached the state border.
As for right now, the sun was blinding. Marie pulled the visor down as they pulled up to another stoplight. She hated that impossible time of day when the sun hung at such an angle that the visor did not do much to aid her vision. It reminded her of drivers ed. Her instructor seemed think she should see better with the sun in her eyes. He always flipped it back up whenever she tried to lower it. It was just her luck that the only slots available for her to drive were after school, just as the sun set. It would be nice if daylight savings time were all year long. Then this time of day would not come at rush hour when more sun-blinded people were on the road.
"It's green," Courtney announced, cutting into Marie's wandering thoughts.
"Hmm? What is?"
"Oh," Marie said and then "Oh!" again as she realized the significance of Courtney's statement.
Marie brought her wayward thoughts back to the moment, except that even that did not make the car go forward.
"What the - shit!" Marie rarely cursed, but it was the only word that came to mind. She slammed her hands on the steering wheel and pushed the gas pedal to the floor. Nothing.
She blew out an exasperated breath. "What the hell. I don't get it. Something is wrong." Stating the obvious seemed the only thing to do at the moment.
Courtney fixed her piercing blue eyes on Marie. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know," Marie answered, pressing the gas pedal to the floor one more time to no avail. Glancing in the rearview, she saw cars impatiently going around her. "I guess we should push it to the side of the road."
Moments like this ought to make a girl panic, and perhaps Marie was inwardly worried. But right in the thick of things Marie usually stayed calm and did not let her emotions show. The emotional reactions came later. As such, she found herself fighting off annoyance. At least she wasn't alone in the middle of nowhere.
Damn. She could change a flat tire, check the oil, pump her gas, and do the basics. Why couldn't this just be a flat tire? That would be too easy. Oh who was she kidding, that would likely irritate her too. Nothing ever went as planned. Ever. And she had no idea what just happened. There were no odd noises that she had noticed. No odd banging and clanging sounds. She was at a total loss of what to do or think.
Just as the girls opened up the doors to push the Ford Escort Wagon out of way a police officer pulled up behind them, turning his lights on to block traffic.
"You run out of gas?" He asked, a little too casually. "What's going on?"
Great. Another man to tell her what to do with the car and what needed to be done that really didn't. Prior to this trip, she took the car to a repair shop chain to have the front end aligned. It was all she could afford, but the guys there tried to tell her they had to do both a front and rear end alignment and that the brakes needed to be replaced. They actually told her the law would not allow them to put an unsafe car on the road and therefore they could not give her the keys back until she allowed them to do the work. It took Marie's boyfriend to get her keys back so that she could take it to another shop that reassured her they could alighn just the front even though it wasn't the recommended thing to do. Now the car didn't pull to the left when she wanted to go straight. But something else was wrong now that apparently had nothing to do with any of that.
"No, Sir. I have no idea what's going on. It won't go forward. I stopped at the light and that was that. But we still have three fourths of a tank of gas."
"There's a repair shop about a mile up the road. I can call a tow truck. And a motel about a mile back the other way." He helped push the car off to the shoulder of the road. "What's it going to be, ladies?"
Marie had no idea what Courtney was thinking or feeling. She, on the other hand, knew full well what emotion she was feeling. Thanks to her stubborn side, fear hadn't had time to set in. What she felt was pure disgust. What a way to spectacularly ruin a road trip. If they spent the night in a motel there may not be enough money to do anything other than turn around and spend the break on campus. It was quickly shaping up to be a spring break to forget. The girls looked at each other and shrugged. As if they really had a choice.
"Thank you, Sir. We need a tow."
He went to his car for what seemed like minutes. What time was it anyway? Marie didn't know anymore. But the officer wasn't gone as long as it seemed.
"I've got good news and I've got bad news," he said.
"Let's have it."
"Well, there's a repair shop about a mile up the road. He's closing now, but he's going to wait for you to get there. And there's a motel about a mile back the other way. You'll have to stay there for the weekend since the shop isn't open on Saturday or Sunday."
"Okay. Thanks again, Sir." The words tumbled out of her mouth with a calmness she didn't feel. Instead, she felt her irritation begin to rise again. Was Courtney truly as calm inside as she appeared to be on the outside?
It wasn't long before the tow truck arrived, making quick work of the job. Before they knew it, they were standing in the repair shop garage. Marie paid the tow truck driver with the money she planned to use for gas on the return trip. The insurance would refund the money for the tow, but that didn't help her now.
Marie called her parents to let them know what was going on. Her dad reminded her to keep the tow receipt for reimbursement. And then Courtney called her parents. They decided that Courtney would pay for the motel with her credit card and that Marie's father would repay her when they reached Illinois. This way they could still make the trip, albeit a few days later than planned.
"Okay, girls, all set here," the tow driver said. " I'm going back that way if you need a ride to the motel."
"Sure, that'd be great," Courtney said with adventure in her voice. Marie noticed it in her eyes, too. She had a calm way about her that somehow kept Marie from giving in to her disappointment. It could always be worse. Marie knew that. But for some reason, her emotions weren't reflecting what she thought.
By the time they were settled in for the night, Marie's mood had mellowed into one of quiet acceptance. She was no longer annoyed, but she also wasn't happy.
As if sensing her mood, Courtney spoke. "It's not that bad, you know, " she mused. "It's an adventure. And I'm glad to share it with you."
So much for hiding her emotions. Marie's eyes widened when she looked at her friend.
"Don't you dare!"
Too late. The pillow came down on Marie's head with a force that knocked her backwards. Laughing, she grabbed the pillow off her bed and let Courtney have it. An old-fashioned pillow fight continued for a few minutes and then they watched a couple of movies and ordered dinner.
The next morning the man from the shop called to let them know the car was ready. He felt sorry for the girls being stranded in a strange town with no transportation. Gratitude welled up inside Marie. Though unexpected and most certainly unplanned, the stay over in Oklahoma was definitely something she needed. It sometimes takes the unplanned setbacks to remind people what's really important in life. It is better by far to go with the flow rather than try to swim against it. And enjoy the time with those you love rather than let the moments pass by worrying about what didn't work out.
Reba McEntire Interview and Song
© 2017 Shannon Henry