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Janice Crow: ” Remedies, Right of Ways, and Rolls”

 Remedies, Right of Ways,  and Rolls

I’ll spare you the details.  You probably wouldn’t like butterscotch pie anyway.   I know you wouldn’t be interested in ham baked so tender it melts in your mouth and the red-eye gravy that goes with it, or slow-roasted turkey, dressing, and giblet gravy over a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.  And I know you’re much too sophisticated to swoon over homemade yeast rolls too hot to handle and dripping with butter.   So I won’t discuss Thanksgiving dinner.  I will, instead, address what used to happen afterward… in the old days. 

Years ago when family was still a thing,  after the table was cleared and before the second wave of dining began,  the games came out.  Whether it was plastic “men” tapping around a Sorry board, the click and pop of  Trouble,  or a never-ending game of Monopoly (a game not intended for those of us punching a mental time clock), it was always great fun.

One Thanksgiving we were introduced to a new card game, or at least new to us.  It was Mille Bornes (pronounced meel born).  It’s French for “a thousand milestones”.   It’s a traveling game.  The idea is to see who can go 1000 miles first.  Sounds simple enough.  You must draw a “roll” card to be able to even start on your journey, then you can play various numbered mileage cards to collect “miles” until you’ve traveled, virtually, of course, 1000 miles.

The hitch here is that while you’re “traveling”, others in an attempt to pass you up, can play their dastardly cards on you.  You can be going along just fine, minding your own business,  when suddenly someone plays a speed limit card on you and you’re limited to 25 mph while they zoom on at 100. Where is your “end of limit” card?   They can play other hazards on you as well,  like “stop”, “out of gas”, “flat tire” or even “accident”.  Before you can travel further,  you must draw the remedy card (i.e. repair, gasoline, spare tire) and then wait to again draw the “roll” card in order to proceed.  Sometimes it seemed like I was stopped forever before I got the appropriate card to get back on “the road”.  Meanwhile, your opponents are zipping along at lightning speed adding mileage and pulling ahead of you…that is, until granny with a sly grin plays a hazard on them as well.  

Then, of course, there are the cards that everyone wants, “driving ace”, “extra tank”, “puncture-proof” and “right of way”.  These cards are called “safeties” and prevent your opponents from playing certain hazards on you.  For example, if you have an “extra tank”,  they can no longer play the “out of gas” card on you.  Safeties make for smooth sailing.  There are very few safeties, so count yourself fortunate if you draw one. 

I hadn’t thought of that game in years.  Then suddenly one night I ran upon a tremendous traffic jam on the interstate coming home from St. Louis.  Traffic was at a dead stop, then a crawl, then another dead stop.  It was horrible.  I felt so trapped and helpless.  I was totally alone…except for a few thousand other folks in exactly the same fix. I heard myself exclaim, “If I could just get a ROLL card!!”   Funny how traffic jams work on the claustrophobic.  It became quite clear that all lanes were closed and they were bottle-necking everyone off onto an exit in a very sketchy part of town. “Great”, I thought, “I have no idea where I am or how to get home from here, my night vision is not good, and this is a really scary area.”

Immediately off the exit was a Cracker Barrel.  Aha!  A beacon of hope… a beacon of comfort… a beacon of bacon.  I said to myself,  “I’ll dive in here.  I can grab something to eat, rest a bit, and try to pull myself together.  Maybe in an hour, the traffic will be on the move again, and hopefully, my car will still be there.”  So that’s what I did.  I had a nice meal, swigged sweet tea, and looked around the shop for a bit.  It was a nice diversion. 

Finally, relieved to see my car still there,  I headed for the interstate.   Nothing had changed.   Panic set in as the police again directed us through the grass onto a dark service road in the heart of North St. Louis County.  My heart was pounding like a trip hammer.  After a few minutes, though,  I caught a glimpse of a street sign with a name I recognized.  I wasn’t sure how far I was from home, but I knew if I kept picking my way north and east I would eventually cross the Mississippi back into Illinois.

Ah…my roll card at last. Believe me, I didn’t let any grass grow under my tires.  I was racking up miles as fast as that little Corolla reasonably could.  Finally, at 11:00 p.m., I pulled into my driveway.  A trip that would normally take less than an hour took four.  I can’t tell you how relieved and thankful I was to just be home.

You know, it would have been great if I could have come straight home with no slowdowns, no detours, no problems, but life played the stop card on me.  I was thinking just today how fortunate I was.  I could have been the one up ahead involved in that terrible collision.  Instead, I was merely inconvenienced.  A couple of days later in my own driveway, my car battery bit the dust.  What if I had been 50 miles from home and alone on a dark road like I had a day or two before?  God is good.

We sat around the table year after year playing Mille Bornes.  We would groan as someone played a “flat tire” or “out of gas” on us, then break into laughter.  We kept playing, hoping for the remedy card that would allow us to roll on.  It was all just part of the game.  We understood that, and just enjoyed each other’s company along the way. 

 But it’s odd how we get annoyed or even angry with God on this journey as life plays hazards on us.  We don’t get that promotion we counted on.  Our house deal falls through.  Our best efforts go unrecognized.   Our career seems to have stalled or taken us down a dead-end road.  We feel as if we are sitting still while others around us speed on. There are times when it seems you just can’t get there from here.

What if, in those moments,  we could just smile and say, “Oh well.  Any day now I’m going to break out of this jam and roll on.”  Yes, I know….easier said than done.  If we could realize that God may have allowed the slow down or the stop to prevent us from rushing headlong into something not meant for us, or maybe to prevent us from settling for something less than His perfect plan.  He may have allowed delay or even failure in order to make us realize we need the remedy…Jesus.

We are always looking for the safety cards, those guarantees in life.  There aren’t any…at least none this world affords.  Jesus is the only thing we can be certain of and the safety He offers is steadfast and sure.  You can travel life’s road with its limitations and hazards, passing every milestone… perhaps slowly, but with confidence,  knowing that someday it will all be okay and we will “roll” on safely Home.  In the meantime,  I pray for your safe travels and a hazard-free Thanksgiving. 

Staff writer Janice Crow – Singer – Songwriter

Janice Crow

Janice Crow is an accomplished singer/songwriter.
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