chapter  8
28 Pages

Crucibles of Experience

Elaine’s phone rang around four in the morning of Christmas Day, nearly 15 years before she won a Pulitzer Prize for her storytelling. She was working in a newspaper bureau, writing about the happenings in small coastal communities. She had a 16-month-old son, was seven months pregnant with another, and her husband was away on tour with a band. A local fi refi ghter was on the line. “I’m sorry to wake you up, but there has been an accident, and I know you’d want to know,” he said. She bundled up, strapped her son in an infant carrier and headed out. The scene was grim: A car had gone off the road and into a canal. “This mom and dad and two little kids had been driving from Nashville, where the mom was a waitress, to go spend Christmas with her mom, and they were driving all night,” Elaine recounted. “Mom fell asleep at the wheel. There’s my friend the fi refi ghter, and all of the rescue crew team, and the state highway patrol, and they are all out there and they are all crying on the side of the road. When they pulled the-went to pull the bodies out, the mom and dad were both turned over in their seats trying to unbuckle their kids from the car seats.”