My coffee is already cold, but I want a sip anyway. I’ve earned it after running around for the last few hours getting everything ready for the day.
I feel carefully for my Chewbacca coffee mug with my right hand, fully aware at how many times it has ended up on the van carpet or in my lap. No. Not today. This shirt is far too white and I need the caffeine.
I look down.
“Did we just hit that car?” my girl says from the back.
“Shit,” I reply.
“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”
The van in front of me, the one whose bumper I’m snug against now, turns on the right blinker.
“Shit,” I say again.
“What’s going to happen?” my boy asks.
“I don’t know,” I say.
Then I roll off a few more “shits” and he goes quiet.
Everyone is watching me. I’m sure they are screaming at me as I hang my head in shame.
It was just a mistake.
“Get off your phone!”
I wasn’t on it. It was just a mistake.
“You don’t deserve to drive!”
It was just a mistake.
The light turns green and I follow the brown van into the parking lot of a mortgage company. I am shaking now. I’m going to be late. The driver is going to yell at me. My insurance is going to go up.
“Sit still,” I tell the kids. “I’ll be right back.”
The driver is another mom, clearly dressed for morning carpool with pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. There is a little girl in the backseat and a small Chihuahua. She waves to me and the dog licks the window.
We meet at her bumper and stare together for a moment.
“I see nothing, let’s check your car,” she says with a smile.
“I’m so sorry,” I say.
We walk to the front of my van and the license plate is a little wonky, but it is fine. This could have been so much worse. I start to apologize again and she cuts me off.
“I say we just forget all about it.”
“I really am sorry. Is your daughter OK? Was she scared?”
“She is fine. Everything is fine,” she says. “Really. Don’t worry about it. It was just a little accident. It is OK.”
She fixes me with a motherly look of forgiveness and I tear up.
I hug her.
She hugs back.
“Thank you,” I say.
“You have a great day,” she says and walks away.
“You too,” I say after she is already out of earshot.
She gives me a final smile and wave before driving off. The little girl in the backseat is waving to my kids and the dog is still licking the window.
I hop back in the car and take a deep breath to stop my hands from shaking.
“Everything is going to be OK,” I tell the kids.
“They were nice,” my girl says.
Yes they were.