The Spill Factor

Written: March 2006

Stuff falls out of my car. I pull up to the curb of a school in the large maroon buffalo that is our GMC Suburban. A son gets out, and a stray object will tumble out with him. Empty water bottles, school papers, mittens, paint balls, cups, wrappers, plastic army guys – whatever the object -- they group together, settle by the doors, and wait to come spilling out. It’s either the physics of our vehicle, or a conspiracy of objects that creates this phenomenon. To an extreme, it makes me feel like there is a flock of molting birds inside our four-wheel drive. The door opens, and a cloud of wayward ‘feathers’ blow out like storm.

It’s only a mild bother to me. But, depending on the day, and whether the escaping object bounces, flies, or rolls out, the spilling can be an embarrassment to any one of my four sons.

This unpredictable ‘spill factor’ is most disconcerting to a middle school son; less so, to a high school son; and even less, to a grade school son. A middle school son will typically retrieve the object, roll his eyes at me, and hope nobody has seen this awkward moment. Grade school sons simply run and grab the runaway item, bring it back, toss it in, and wave, “Bye Mom!!” High school sons just ignore anything that falls from my car. Unless it’s something of value, they just keep walking. Today, my freshman and junior sons, Andrew and Ty, got out of the Suburban, slammed the doors, and started laughing to each other. They turned and looked back at me. Confused, and wanting to know what was so funny, I silently mouthed to them through the windshield, “What?”

The last time this happened, they were laughing about barn flies. We pulled out of our driveway on a bitterly cold morning and realized that about 50 flies were temporarily frozen to the ceiling of the car. We had been at a friends’ ranch the night before. It had been a warm fall day, but was cooling down fast. The small swarm was apparently seeking heat and came in through the open sunroof. In the dark night, they had all frozen in suspended animation. That morning, it was creepy to look up and see a bunch of motionless flies clinging upside down directly over our faces. But the ride to school was short. So we just looked at the stiff little creatures and talked about how odd it was that flies should behave this way.

The guys got out of the car, tossed their heavy backpacks over their shoulders, turned around, looked at me, and started laughing. That time, they didn’t respond when I mouthed, “What?” They just waved at me lovingly, and headed off. Later, I found out they were guessing what I would do when all those flies woke up. For the record, there was no screaming when they warmed up and woke; there was some wild flailing, and dangerous driving, yes – but no screaming.

This morning, however, in answer to my silent windshield question, my two handsome man-children chuckled, and pointed under my car. They silently mouthed back to me, “A pot-a-to.” It was easy to lip-read. Today, a potato fell out of my car.

I didn’t expect the potato. There weren’t any other potatoes in the car. It was alone. I had no idea it was there, lurking by the door, waiting to tumble out. The rogue potato was a surprise -- to me, and the people who watched it roll across the parking lot only to be kicked away like a soccer ball, by Andrew. And, that unexpected brown russet got me thinking. This sort of spilling-out isn’t specific only to my well-worn Suburban. A lot of unexpected things spill out of daily life.

Yes, it’s usually humbling to me, and causes differing responses in my sons, when people see our life-stuffings and trash fall out, roll away, or blow around freely in the wind. But today’s errant baking potato experience has value, because I’m making a link. Lately, it’s apparent to me; life inevitably exhibits something that looks exactly like this ‘Spill Factor’. My life, lived in context of family and community, usually has something unexpected tumbling out of it. And today, that potato caused me to pose a question, “What typically spills out of the contents of my life?”
I don't know. Hopefully, it's something better than a potato. But this I do know, when something is spilling, it merits attention.






Laura Parker said...

Love it love it love it! thanks for writing. love the new pics and descriptions of the boys. love the title and the spill factor article. so true. loved the final question you posed. can't wait to read more!! love you. L

KELLY said...

You are awesome . . . I am so excited that you are sharing your beautiful writing on a blog!! I will be pondering the question and praying for Him to identify the things that are spilling out so readily here!! Love you Kel. Thanks for sharing!!!

Carol Pollitt said...

Wow - this is going to be great! Thank you for sharing your gift of writing, your family, yourself. I will also be praying about the question you posed...can't wait to see what God says! You're the best!

scottnkandi said...

K.. I feel so blessed that God has put you in my journey of faith. I am so grateful for your words. Love ya, K