Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

Self-control

*This blog installment ends the nine-week series on the fruit of the Spirit. To enjoy the posts again, visit here.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.

 

Crash!

I jumped up from the dining room table where I had been enjoying a conversation with my visiting sister-in-law and ran to the living room window to make sense of what had happened on the street in front of our house. Husband flew outside to investigate, and I followed on his heels. I stood on the sidewalk in my bathrobe and bare feet at 10:20 p.m. on that Friday night and watched the offending vehicle squeal off, its engine revving. Husband sprinted after it all the way to the corner. The car lurched and sputtered, but even in its damaged state, it gained ground and hurtled away.

Dicka watched the shenanigans from the front steps. Husband jogged back and hollered to her. “Grab my phone for me, will you?”

She scurried into the house and out again, handing him the phone. He jumped into his pickup and sped off.

After I called 911 to report the incident, my sister-in-law and I assessed her van, sitting out front. No damage. Next, we checked the other parked cars. The one belonging to our neighbor had been smashed in the bumper, its rear tire now flat, and we later learned the impact had pushed it a car-length up the road. The collision had shattered glass everywhere and strewn large hunks of plastic and other pieces of car in the street—most of which belonged to the runaway vehicle.

Later, Husband told us about the pursuit. The car had maintained its speed even though it had lost a tire and its rim had turned sideways. He followed for a while, but lost sight of it. Then some onlookers pointed him in the right direction. He picked up the car’s trail again and followed the scratches it had carved into the asphalt. The grooves led him over some railroad tracks and back to a location eight blocks from our place. He spotted the guilty car parked in an alley driveway, guessing the driver had disappeared inside the home.

Husband parked nearby and waited for the police. Before they arrived, though, someone from the house emerged with a flashlight, assessed the battered vehicle, and swiped the light’s beam at Husband’s truck. Then the person scuttled back inside.

At last, the police came and gathered more details from Husband. They had received four 911 calls reporting the same hit-and-run, they said. Then they pounded on the door of the house. No answer. They called for a tow truck, and soon the rumpled vehicle was hauled away.

The next morning, Husband gathered up the mound of debris left on our street and tossed it into the bed of his pickup. He drove it to the same house from the night before and unloaded it in their driveway.

“They can throw it away themselves,” he later told me with a shrug. “We don’t have room in our trash can for all that.”

 

Maybe the hit-and-run driver had been under the influence when he crashed into the parked car. It wasn’t the only account that week of reckless drivers demolishing parked vehicles in our neighborhood; the north Minneapolis Facebook pages teemed with similar stories. I shook my head at the thought of restraint running amok and spraying glass and car bits around in the dark. And it reminded me of those who dove into altercations that spilled onto the streets, littering our neighborhood with jagged words and shards of anger. Then I recalled more occasions where I had witnessed a lack of discipline. I thought of parents who left their preschool children alone at the park to play and of those who threw tall kitchen bags stuffed with garbage out of their car windows as they drove. Why couldn’t people control themselves?

But then memories of my own actions that week pricked me.

Did I think I was better because my lack of restraint was quieter, disrupting fewer people? I hadn’t rammed my vehicle into a parked car, but a few days earlier I had gobbled up a stunning amount of tortilla chips in one sitting. I hadn’t stood in the middle of the street screaming obscenities at anyone, but I had coaxed Flicka to binge-watch episodes of The Office with me on a school night. I hadn’t deserted little ones at the park, but I had frittered away time decluttering the top drawer of the buffet when I should have been working. And while I hadn’t chucked my trash out on the road, I had spent more money than I needed to when I was out shopping.

“I had to use the Kohl’s Cash before it expired,” I explained to Husband even though he hadn’t asked. “And I saved 30% with that other coupon.”

He chuckled. “Or you could have saved 100% by not buying anything.”

 

Self-control: the ability to pull the reins back on oneself. Age doesn’t naturally bring it, and sometimes the young ones have it—like my sister Coco who, as a child, saved her holiday candy for months. Knowing my sweets were long gone, she hid hers in her underwear drawer and positioned some rubber spiders to stand sentinel, hoping to incite enough fear to keep me out of her stash.

Maybe we haven’t mastered self-control. Maybe we’re even wrecks with it, hoping to eventually dominate our weaknesses even though we’re nowhere near it yet. None of us has arrived, but with each new day, we all have another chance to practice.

 

 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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