Thursday 15 September 2022

Three Life Preservers and a Rope by Laura Alexander, iced water

 The other day I read about a little girl who fell to her death through a hole in the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d walked across that bridge with my boys.  I don’t remember seeing any holes a child could fall through.  I’m certain the little girl’s parents didn’t see the hole either.  But somehow that little girl is gone because no one noticed that hole in the bridge.   Last month I read a story about a little boy who drowned in his bathtub when his mother left him to answer the phone.  Haven’t we all done that, turned our back just for a minute?  Another little boy choked on his brother’s lego.  Now I have to tell you that with four boys we have approximately 350,460 legos in our house.  Do I know where every single lego is so my one year old won’t find and choke on one?  Hell no.


The day started ordinarily enough. 

After I buckle up Drew, my one year old, I plant myself in the driver’s seat and turn to my three other sons who are jumping into the car.   

“Buckle up everyone.  No buckle, no go.”

I see flailing arms and kicking legs, hear a few grumbles and they are ready.  In the rearview mirror I see four little faces smiling back at me eager for an adventure.

And then it begins.

“Mom, Jake’s touching my seat.”

“Am not, he’s just too close to me.”

“Stop it Jake!”

“I want some juice!”

I turn onto the Richmond bridge, one of seven bridges in the area as I look into the rearview mirror to see exactly what is going on in the back seat. 

“I need to go to the bathroom.” 

“I told you to leave me alone Jake.”

“I dropped my cracker Mom.  Can you stop?”

The baby begins to cry.


Just as I look forward again I see a red jeep coming from the opposite direction into my lane.  I swerve right to avoid him and nearly miss the barrier that stands between us and the Bay 150 feet below.   The car spins and slides and  I struggle to stay in control.  Other cars swerve around us and then we come to  an abrupt halt.  

“Is everyone alright?!” My heart is in my throat and nausea rises up.  

We were almost killed!  What if he had  hit us?  What if I had run into the barrier?  What if we had gone over the barrier into the Bay? 


Once across the bridge I pull over and throw myself out of the car.  Pacing back and forth I force myself to take deep breaths.  My hands are trembling as I try to calm myself.  I stick my head into the back of the car.

“It’s ok boys, we’re just fine, just fine” - more to reassure myself than to reassure them. 

I sit on the curb feeling a panic attack looming.  Oh Holy Jesus, if we had gone over the side of the bridge what would I do?  Deep breaths.  In.  Out.  I don’t think I could save them all.   Would I have to choose which ones to grab?  I resume my pacing.  My mind is going 100 mph.  I stop, I look toward the car at my four beautiful boys.

I realize I couldn’t make “Sophie’s Choice”.  I had to figure out how to keep all five of us alive should we ever shoot over the side of one of these bridges and plunge into the Bay.  I pace, I deep breathe and then I stop in my tracks.  I need to have a plan.   I feel myself calming.   The plan begins to formulate in my mind now that I am back in full Mom mode. 


I would have only moments to get everyone out of the car along with anything I needed to save them.  I must decide on the least amount of equipment necessary.  Hmmmm.  The gears are really turning now.  I stretch and crack my neck and rotate my shoulders.  The boys are all silent now, watching through the windows of the car. 


I would need to have a life preserver on.  That’s one life preserver.  


I look at Zach, my seven year old.  First born, the responsible one.  He was probably big enough to help support Drew, the one year old.  He gets a life preserver.  That’s two. 


My gaze turns to five year old Jake.  Sweet Jake.  Jake is a bit spacey, often in his own little world.  I would have to give him his own life preserver and have him only take care of himself.


And what about Sam, my three year old?  I could hold him.   If we were lucky Sam or Drew would be passed out from fear or shock - that would make it easier to deal with them.


I would need a rope to tie us altogether so that we would not lose anyone.  I would have to use a good knot.  Let’s see,  something that would be easy to tie but wouldn’t come loose.  I think back to my sailing classes. 


Yes!  I thought I could do this if I had just three life preservers and a rope!

This could work.  I was so relieved to have a plan.  I returned to the car where my boys were all oblivious to how close we came to certain death.  It’s ok, Mom is back in control.


When I return home that evening my husband is sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. 


“Jon, I’ve been thinking about what would happen if I ever drove over the side of one of the bridges with all of the kids in the car.  How would I save all of them?” 


He slowly puts his paper down and without even an ounce of mockery he says “And, what did you decide?” 


“I think I could do it with three life preservers and a rope.  I think I could save every one of us if I just had those four things.” 


He looks right at me and very seriously but with a sparkle in his eye he says “Ok Laura.  That’s good.  Tomorrow I will make sure you have three life preservers and a rope in the back of your van.” 


I sleep well that night.  The next morning there are three life preservers and a rope in the back of my car.  And that is why I love my husband.   


About the author 

 Laura Alexander is just starting her writing career at the age of 65. She has been a nurse for 41 years and raised four sons which has given her plenty of ideas for her writing. You can find her work at
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