“I want a vanilla milkshake from the Circle. Will you take me?”
Of course, he would. Bryson never said no to me. He was a kind-hearted soul.
It was an early, mid-June evening in 1972, Dundalk, Maryland. Hurricane Agnes was in the process of making history as she raged through 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Her fury was fierce; she left massive flooding, closed major roads, threatened to rip apart bridges. Agnes ripped massive gas tanks once tethered and now free to float.
I want a vanilla milkshake from the Circle Drive-In.
Bryson and I got into his blue Austin-Healy Sprite convertible. This time he would not call “shift” every time he clutched—his method of teaching me to drive. No, he drove blindly up Dundalk Avenue in a major hurricane while I rode shotgun thinking of my yummy soon-to-be milkshake.
The Circle was closed—well, everything was closed. Disappointed, I sat quietly as Bryson headed back home; the road in front was not visible. Agnes was angry.
Thump, jolt, we were suddenly stopped and precariously perched to a 45-degree angle, passenger side down. Not knowing what had happened, even I was shaken, aware that we needed to vacate this vehicle—fast. We quickly saw our dilemma, an iron manhole cover had sprung free, and the front tire was wedged into the now open space. We needed help.
Looking to our right was a bank of row houses, and the warm glow of living room lights was welcoming us in the home in front of us. We battled our way up the short sidewalk and were grateful to seek some shelter on the covered porch.
Our knock on the door was opened by a brown-haired gentleman who had a concerned look on his face; his kind brown eyes looked at our drenched clothes and hair. Bryson pointed to his car and said he needed to use a phone to call for help. The gentleman turned to call out in a different language to his wife. As she and one of the children came to the door, a child spoke some English and played the interpreter.
We felt so bad, the family had obviously just sat down to eat—plates full, and prayers not yet said. Mom said something to the children who scurried to get two chairs, two plates, two sets of flatware, and created space for us at the dining room table. Bryson was directed to the phone, where he called his brother, Lynn, and explained our dilemma and where we were sheltered.
The mom appeared with large towels and proceeded to wrap us Momma Bear in a bear-hug-like style. We were asked to join the table. Not wanting to intrude any longer, we said we would be happy to wait on their porch for help to arrive.
Momma and Pappa Bear would not hear of it and gently, with much kindness, motioned us to sit; our plates were piled with food. A slight twinge from me as I saw her put some kind of meat on mine. Yikes, what should I do? (No meat nor turkey for me.) I cast a sideways look to Bryson, and he nodded a secret nod: he would find a way to switch my meat for some of his veggies. If the family noticed, they did not let on.
I do not remember how long we were there until Lynn came to get us. But, I do remember the kindness of these strangers who brought us into their home, shared dinner with us, wrapped us in dry towels, and wrapped our hearts with love.
Agnes’ anger could not reach us; we were sheltered in the thoughtfulness of strangers.
Why did this long-ago memory pop into my mind just now?
The news of Hurricane Laura wreaking havoc and destruction, and yet I know, there will be strangers reaching out to one another and offering meals, shelter, and dry towels.
Be kind, be grateful—much love to you.