The Angel That Gave Her Hope

I was alone on the highway the night before Thanksgiving, with four kids in my care.

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The House That Gave Her Hope

The station wagon was stuffed as tightly as the Thanksgiving turkey awaiting us at my parents' house on Long Island, New York. Suitcases. Toys. Snacks. Road maps. CD player. A crib strapped to the roof. And four children, three of them under six years old.

Everyone was anxious to see Grandma and Grandpa, especially me. My husband had left us just the week before. When the kids and I pulled out of the driveway of our home in western Massachusetts, I didn't look back.

Things were different now. We were restarting our lives. I didn't know quite how, though. Taking charge wasn't something I was used to doing.

By the time we hit the highway it was snowing and the kids were yelling. I hardly cared. All I wanted was to get to my parents' house, to family who loved me. I hunched my shoulders, gripped the steering wheel and concentrated on the road ahead.

Despite the snow we made good time. By 4:00 p.m. we were on I-95, just outside the Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City. Just like that, the engine died. No warning, no nothing. Car trouble—of all things!

Luckily we were in the far-right lane, and were able to coast off the highway and onto the shoulder of the road.

Now what? I didn't have a cell phone. Outside the frost-fogged side windows, traffic whizzed by. I looked for a place off the highway where I could go for help but didn't see one. Ahead, a 20-foot concrete wall bordered the expressway. Beside us was a steep, snow-covered embankment.

I turned to the kids. Luke, eight months old, and Hannah, two, were asleep. "The car won't start," I said to Adam, five, and Jimmy, 13. "You guys wait here and look after the babies. I'm going out to get some help." I said it confidently. They nodded, unafraid, and I stepped out the door.

The thing was, I had no confidence. I waved my arms at the oncoming traffic. Not a single vehicle slowed down. Back when we were together, my husband would have taken charge in a situation like this. I would have been in the car with the kids. Now all they had was me to depend on.

Please, God, give me the strength to make it.

I took a deep breath and walked to the edge of the embankment. It was our only hope. My hands were freezing. I had forgotten my gloves. Looking down through the snow, I couldn't see a thing. Nothing but a vast, white emptiness.

I'd been foolish to think I could make this 200-mile trip on my own. How did I ever imagine I could possibly make a new life for my family?

I turned to go back to the car, defeated. We'd have to just sit and wait for help. It would come, sooner or later. I'd sit in the car, like the old days. I didn't have it in me to do anything else. I took one last look over the embankment.

Far below, a wisp of smoke curled through the whiteness. Smoke coming from a chimney. That meant—a house! There it was, in the valley among the trees. I turned back to the car and flashed the kids the thumbs-up sign. There was hope!

I climbed over the guardrail and scrambled down the hill. Breathless and covered in snow, I knocked on the door. A woman answered. I stuttered out my story: all alone, kids waiting in the car, trying to get to my parents for Thanksgiving, could she help?

"You must have seen the tow truck," the woman said.

I glanced at the driveway. It was as if angels had parted the snowy white curtain to reveal a shiny black tow truck. I couldn't believe my good fortune. God, I guess you are with me today, I thought.

"You're in luck. My son owns a towing business," the woman said. She turned and called his name. He came to the door. "We'll get you where you need to go," he said. "Not to worry."

The children didn't act all that surprised when I returned with a tow truck only minutes after I'd left them. The driver loaded our car onto a flatbed truck and shepherded us into the front seat of his cab.

Luke sat on Jimmy's lap, Hannah on my lap, Adam scrunched between us. "First stop, Long Island," the driver said as we got rolling again.

He loaned me his cell phone so I could let my parents know what had kept us. Mom promised to keep the dinner piping hot for us.

We crossed over the bridge onto Long Island. Half an hour later we were safe at my parents' house, and the tow-truck driver was on his way. The kids and I tromped inside. I hugged my mom tight. "I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't seen that house—with a tow truck, no less," I said.

"You would have thought of something," Mom said. She pointed to the kids playing on the floor, happy and carefree. "Look at them. Not a trouble in the world. Because of you. Because they know they can count on you."

And they could. Because whatever our future held, there was someone I could count on too. Someone who would never leave me stranded.

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