JEN'S ZEN ~ This and That

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In the blink of an eye he was there, and I found myself staring into the face of That.

It was a Saturday in October, a few years back. With my husband out of town, the kids and I had spent the day around the house. We were kind of taking it easy, kind of tackling the 8,532 things that always need doing, but with music playing, enjoying an easy, slow, catch-up-kind-of-Saturday together.

Around 7 p.m.-ish, we’d all hit restless, bored. We were done cleaning and whatnot, but not feeling like a movie and not ready for bed. A friend had posted on Facebook about a local spot to get pumpkins for cheap, with an honesty box on the side of the road.

“You guys wanna go get some pumpkins?”

Bam! A flurry! My kids were jumping around excitedly, and we were suddenly, unexpectedly, off to get pumpkins! Heading out for a mini-roadie, music jamming in our van as we traveled further along the country roads – sure enough, there it was! A large trailer sitting by a house, loaded with pumpkins. My kiddos were clamoring to get out of the van fastest, and I spotted the honesty box, too. Good deal. Goofing around, climbing about the trailer, my kids were searching for just the right pumpkin to choose. I was eyeing them myself, too. This one will look nice on the porch, and this one in front of the garage, and only $2! Nice! We were having a blast.

And then he’s there.


This man, very near to us in the dark—this silhouette of a large man in a thick flannel walking down the driveway toward us.

Immediate game changer:

We are on a desolate country road

with no one around, at dark,

and this large, shadowy figure of a man

is walking toward us.

My mind, suddenly racing, is saying, “It’s just the man who owns the house. He’s a nice man coming to chat, watching over his pumpkins for sale …” While at the same time, I find myself looking around for anything, a stick, a tool. Protection.

I felt my keys in my hand and instinctively put one through each finger, forming a makeshift weapon my father had shown me long ago, in case, God forbid, I ever needed it.

“Hi, there,” he says, 10 feet away from us and coming closer, smiling. Grinning … ?

Keys jabbed in my hand, eyes in “Mama Bear lock-mode” on both the approaching man and the precise whereabouts, down to the angle and distance out of arm’s reach, of each of my children galloping about.

“Hello …” I hear myself say, voice tight. “… err … nice pumpkins you’ve got here.”

If there’s such a thing as calm-panicked, of feeling precisely two things at the same time, that’s what I felt.

Calm: He’s a nice man. He just lives here, these are his pumpkins. Don’t freak out. Why are you freaking out, though? This is okay. You’re just getting some pumpkins.

Panicked: We are on a country road. There is NO ONE around. He could gag me, drag us into that house and NO ONE would see us. My phone is in the van. I never even called anyone to say we were going. NO ONE even knows we’re here!

Calm: You’re freaking out. This is fine. This is fine.

Panicked: A mama wolf, if she senses danger, does not teach her cubs to play courteous! I sense danger! Run, kids! Run until you find people! Stay together!

“You need a hand?” he asks.

My oldest has already slid the van door open, trying with difficulty to get her pumpkin inside as he walks toward her to help …

My keys are in my hand, death grip.

And … the man helps load our pumpkins into the van.

And … I hand the very helpful, harmless man the money.

And … we leave, completely fine.

Do I even need to say that my family won’t be visiting any country locations solo at dusk on a whim to break the boredom without a second thought, or without at least letting someone know our whereabouts, like, ever again?

Probably not.

What I need to say is this: That.


That feeling that kicked into my gut as that man approached me and my children.

That sense that my children may be in danger.

That determination and that absolute knowing that if something horrible would really have taken place, my hand was gripped so tightly around those keys that I had indentations in my fingers and—I who prefers mellow, who intends no harm, who takes deep breaths before even saying hurtful words, or at least tries to every single day—I was prepared to attack.

I would have stabbed that man, gouged his eyes out. Kicked. Punched. Spat. Dug. Screeched. Screamed. Clawed to the very death, no doubt, if needed to defend and protect my children.

And you would have, too.


Because That comes with being a Parent.

That instinct, That fierce love, That wicked protection in the eye of any storm.

We Parents all have That.


Well, and This:

“I got the biggest pumpkin!”

“Nu-uh. Mine’s is bigger than yours.”

“Mooooom! He said his pumpkin is bigger than miiiine!”

“Can you turn the radio back up?”

“Mooooooom! My stem broke …”

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 Breathe…


Jen W. O'Deay