It has rained and rained. Now it is snowing!
Honestly it feels more like New Zealand than Illinois right at the moment.
The cows are locked up off the sodden fields and have no patience when they see one of the ‘good’ bales come out. Not even waiting for me take the strings off and throw it into the feeder.
I wrote you a story from when I was really little:
They found me in the ditch.
I was three years old.
We were driving from the beach to the mountains for a family day playing in the snow.
I liked to ride standing tucked behind my Dad’s shoulder as he drove the car. I had to be able to see, I still do and I did not like to be tied down, I still don’t. So when Dad was driving I was allowed to stand in the front seat as long as I was wedged in behind him.
We were heading up the mountain when a car coming down the mountain hit ice and spun headlong into our car. My mother (who was not wearing a seat belt because she was writing music), was propelled through the windscreen and into the road.
I was ejected straight out after her, twisting and bouncing like a little rag doll through the broken glass and bent cars. No-one knows what happened to me really but they believe that, being tiny, I bounced off the cars, through the glass, across the road and rolled into the ditch. Out of sight.
Miraculously my bothers and sisters were fine. Bruised and shocked. But no major injuries.
My mother and father and me did not get off as easily.
Once the ambulances got up the mountain, Mum, who was smashed to bits, had slipped into a deep coma. Dad was trapped behind the wheel of the car fading in and out of consciousness. Passers-by had taken the other children out of our VW Beetle and were keeping them warm in their own cars.
The two men in the other car were bruised and drunk.
In short order my family was piled into the ambulances and driven away.
The police took the drunks.
No-one knew a child was missing. No-one knew to look. I had rolled out of sight into the snowy ditch.
I was told that a passing car going in the other direction that afternoon saw me in the ditch, my face lacerated and bloody. Lying silently in the snow. They took me to a hospital where it was discovered that I had a broken jaw, dislocated shoulder and needed stitches in my face.
But it was not the same hospital as my family. No-one knew who I was. And of course I could not speak. I was almost four years old.
I was fixed up, cleaned up and laid in a cot. With no name on my chart.
My Grandma and Pa arrived at the family’s hospital, about 100 miles away, the next afternoon, to find a mess. Kids were stashed all over the place. Dad was just coming out of surgery and Mum remained in a coma; she had miscarried, not woken up and was receiving the last rites.
Apparently it was not until Dad surfaced the following morning ( on Day Two now) and counted his kids, that I was discovered missing.
Dad demanded they bring him a phone. The hospital beds had phone jacks beside them and the nurses carried the phones in and out. Dad called Mum’s cousin. Black Jack Stevenson. He was the Chief Detective Superintendent of the NZ Police Force. The best man I ever knew.
I am not sure if he was the top guy yet – he may have been a detective still but he set out to find the lost daughter.
It is a long story really – too much for here but it took a couple of days (no computers, no cell phones) for Uncle John (they called him Jack but we always called him Uncle John) to track me to a little country hospital on the other side of the lake.
When he arrived to collect me he found that I had been screaming at the nurses which seemed understandable.
He thought it would be trauma from being in a crash then having my whole family disappear.
But they told him that eventually they worked out that I was mad about being put in a cot when I was a BIG GIRL and should be in a bed!
I got the bed. And settled to wait.
No name. No words. Just don’t treat me like a baby.
Uncle John said later he was not sure he had found the right child until he saw my wild hair. Full of knots because I would not let the nurses brush it.
Like many old family stories this one was pieced together from the retelling of Grandma (who maintained that they brought back the wrong child), Uncle John (who portrayed himself as the hero galloping in on a horse to save the lost princess) and my Dad (who had to brush all the knots out of my hair).
All these people have died now. So there are no more facts to be mined.
I have three visual memories of the time. Peering through the cot bars at yellow gloomy hospital walls. Playing some kind of slap hand game with Uncle John in the ambulance bay waiting for the ambulance to collect us and drive us to Mum and Dad. And the memory of Dad on crutches reaching down to greet me.
They said they took me in to visit Mum but I did not recognize her.
My Mum remembered nothing of that time.