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The question I’ve been asking myself all day is why someone didn’t steal my minivan. I gave them every opportunity. After all, I left my keys in the ignition overnight.


Of course I didn’t do this on purpose. I hold myself above reproach in these matters. In fact, I often scold my husband and his father for forgetting their keys in our front door. On more than one occasion, I have returned home to find their chains dangling from the lock, inviting one and all to rob us.


Payback’s a bitch.


I sensed something was awry as our three children wriggled into their raincoats and boots this morning, swinging their backpacks and sprawling on the floor, while I fruitlessly searched for the keys. Our 6-year-old twins were feuding. Jane, 2, was whining for the breakfast that she had earlier refused. All I wanted to do was get everyone in the car, to school, and out of my way. But I couldn’t find my key chain anywhere.


My first instinct was to blame my husband. He must have put my keys in his pocket when he took our dog for a walk last night and then worn that same jacket to work, stranding me at home with our kids. “Where are my keys???” I texted him.

“Are we going to be late?” Georgia cried, her voice rising in alarm.

“Yes,” I said, “we’re going to be late.”

She and her brother dissolved into tears.


Then I suffered a torturous epiphany. Throwing on my boots and raincoat, I dashed through the downpour. The minivan doors were unlocked, which I rightly interpreted as an ominous sign, and I spied the keys inside. When I tried the ignition, it wouldn’t catch. The minivan was dead.


The day before I had left our slumbering toddler in the vehicle while I let the twins into the house after school. When I came back out a few minutes later, I must have reinserted the keys to roll up the windows, ferried Jane inside—and forgotten all about the ignition. As I trudged through puddles back to the house, I could hear the three kids crying.


“Are we going to miss the whole day?” Georgia wailed.

“I’m not even sick or anything, and I’m not at school,” bleated Griffin.

“To your rooms!” I hollered, as I dialed AAA.


Fortunately, we had joined the automotive club about 10 days prior, in some freakish twist of fate. And now I needed some roadside assistance.

“Are you in a safe place?” the lady asked at the other end of the line.

“I’m in my house,” I admitted, over the screams of my children. “But I desperately need to get out.”


She dispatched a technician who took another hour-and-a-half to show.

“I accidentally left my keys in the ignition overnight,” I muttered, embarrassed, when he finally arrived. “Has anyone else ever done that?”

“Of course,” he lied.


But I appreciated it. And I was thankful for the jump, heeding his warning to leave the minivan running for at least another 30 minutes. “Don’t let me turn off the car when we get to school,” I instructed the kids and then parked illegally in the front circle with my hazards on. I scrawled an incoherent note that read something like, “Car on because of battery issue. Back in a minute.”


“Is anyone even going to be able to read that?” Griffin asked, peering at the paper through the rain-smeared windshield. But after Jane and I delivered the twins to their classrooms, we returned to find the minivan still revving, unmolested. I felt like celebrating. So I drove to our neighborhood pharmacy to pick up a prescription and a couple of chocolate-dipped pretzels. “This is a yummy treat,” Jane said. Then I heard someone calling after us.


“Don’t forget these!” cried the clerk, lifting my key chain off the counter.

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