The Night the Deer Hit the ‘Burb: Extreme De-Cluttering

It was on my de-cluttering challenge list: CLEAN OUT THE ‘BURB.ย  I knew, from a recent, cursory glance at the condition of the back seats (there are a lot of them, you know, in a Suburban) that there was an unusual amount of clutter in our vehicle, even for us. Remember the wrestling tournament in Kansas that we went to, lo, these many (many) weeks ago? Well. In the very back seat, there were still books–clothing–blankets–and snacks–from that trip, still wedged there. That trip was nearly a month ago. Oiy.

Of course since the adults in the family ride in the front seats, usually, we don’t see that embarrassing collection of quietly molding snack foods, petrified french fries, wadded up tissues, lost library books, misplaced toys, and whatnot (gobs of whatnot) that is the habitat of the very back seat of the ‘Burb. But. All that was going to change. With my Lenten De-cluttering Challenge, it was a simple thing to add a clean-up of the ‘Burb onto my list. Which I had, so I knew it would get done.

It would be akin to childbirth: painful and gory, but glorious and totally worth it afterward.

After I de-cluttered our ‘Burb (and I knew it wouldn’t take any more than my allowed 20 minutes to do so, especially if I could get little Mack to scrabble about underneath the seats for the Lego pieces, pencils, crayons, coins, rubber bands, and marbles that resided there) I knew that it wouldn’t be so hard to keep it neat.

And then, last night on the way home from a movie, we hit a deer. Or rather, the deer hit us. To be precise, several deer hit us. There were three or four of them that rose up out of the ditch and dashed across the road in front of us. I suspect that we hit more than one, though only one was left dead in the ditch, next to the pieces of our grill and our bumper, our Chevy insignia from the front end, and our front headlight.

We were all belted in, so we were able to walk away, a bit shaken, but with nary a scratch. Well, I had to scramble out across the driver’s seat, with nary a scratch, because my (passenger) door wouldn’t open, due to the fact that hood had been pushed back into the top of the door and had dented the door pretty badly.

Yup. Deer can do real damage to a vehicle, even one as heavy and stoutly-built as our poor 2004 Suburban. I could make a human parallel here, about the heavy and stoutly-built part that is, but I’ll refrain. Under the circumstances.


Takeaways from this experience:

  1. Always, always, always buckle your seat belt. Before you start the wheels rolling. Unfortunately, I can imagine quite clearly what would have happened (I spent much of that night imagining it, over and over again) if we hadn’t have been buckled in. I would have gone through the windshield and collided with that wretched deer in mid-air probably, and would have ended up next to her in the ditch. Little Mack would have been thrown who-knows-where, bless him. Bryan would have been thrown into the steering wheel, or right out his window. I don’t know. I am in such astonishment when I hear about fatal crashes where the seat belts weren’t being used. Why not? In a heartbeat, a deer can jump out in front of you. Or an oncoming car can swerve into your lane. You don’t always have time to react.
  2. Life Is Such A Gift. Although I do look forward to meeting Jesus and spending eternity with Him, there are blessings on earth that are easy to take for granted, if you don’t remember this simple fact: Life is a gift. God has given us such riches! Riches that we, perhaps, don’t even appreciate. I blush to think about what I complain about, what trifles occupy my mind some days, when God has given me so much: my beautiful, funny, sweet children. My patient husband. My absolutely astonishing grandchildren. The stars and the moon to gaze at, at night. Birdsong in the mornings. A beautiful world to live in. It’s perilously easy to complain about the disappointments of life, and we complain aplenty: about the weather. The wind. The rain. The drought. The condition of the roads. Pretty much everything. But there is simply so much good that God has given us here on earth.

[Tweet “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.–James 1:17

the night the deer

3.ย  You never know when it’ll be the last time. This has been a theme that has been in my heart a lot lately, especially as I sift through all the clutter and detritus of the last few years of our lives. When I found those plastic pants in the kitchen closet–from little Mack’s baby days–I wondered about the last day that he wore them, and if I realized that it was going to be the last day. Probably not. The same thing with a baby bow from Amalia’s hair that I found in the junk drawer. Or the lost pacifier I found in a file drawer. Or: a ride in a faithful old car. There’s not time for you to note the date, or to appreciate the fact that you won’t be in this spot in your life again.

Ever. Ever, ever, ever.

the night the deer

4. Don’t put off getting right with God. Our elderly neighbor Orvella in Story City, Iowa, used to remind me soberly that “you’re only a breath away from eternity” and it’s true, although we tend to stay so busy and distracted that we forget. Sometimes we may forget for days or months or years at a time, that life on earth is such a brief thing. Then something happens to remind us.

[Tweet “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14]

I was surprised at how emotional I was, for days, about the fact that our Suburban was totaled. After all, it’s an old vehicle, and was pushing 200,000 miles. It didn’t owe us a thing. It has some quirks–an electrical problem which is too expensive to fix keeps the ticking blinker sound going nearly all the time.

the day the deer

“Tick tick tick tick tick tick . . . ” Yup, it can be annoying, though Amalia and I have coped with it best just by making up the “Endless Ticking Blinker Sound Song” and singing it loudly, when it starts to get to us. The ‘Burb also drips oil and leaves big spots if we park it anyplace too long. It has a few dimples and dents, and is beginning to rust in spots.

But it is the car that we had just a few years ago, when we still had six children under our roof–for that brief, exasperating summer when little Mack was a newborn and our oldest, Matthew, was home from college and struggling with missing his True Love, who had up and gone on a trip to Japan for the summer. And who didn’t write. Because his letter to her had gotten lost in the mail. (True story.) We did a bit of travelling in the ‘Burb, all eight of us, that summer, for the one and only time. Ever since then, we’ve watched Matthew, and then Andrew, and then Bethany, spread their wings and leave home. Timothy is very close behind them. It all goes so fast. That’s not a clichรฉ. It’s a fact.

the night the deer

This car represents our family all together under one roof. It is our Young Parent Days car. Our “we’re a family of 8 and so happy of that fact” car. I know that big families are a bit of an oddity these days, and often not welcome or looked upon favorably, but I was (and am!) always immeasurably proud of our big, noisy, funny, beautiful family. This Suburban was the vehicle of our young parent days, when we had a new baby, and all six of our children were still living under our roof.

But. Not any longer. We towed the ‘Burb to the mechanic’s shop the next day, and we looked closely at all the damage. It could have been worse. Lots of people hit deer in our area, and some times all you get is a cracked bumper (that’s what happened the last time we hit a deer) and other times, much worse. We were blessed to escape “much worse.”

The next day was Sunday, and thankfully the car dealership where we towed the ‘Burb was closed, so only a few passersby witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of our cleaning months of detritus out of our beloved vehicle, that afternoon. I found white candles from last year’s Christmas Eve service, Gentle Reader. Melted crayons. Enough Legos to build a life-size model of the ‘Burb, no kidding. It was a brutal and painful reminder of how messy my life is.ย 

the night the deer

As rattled as I was by this experience, it wasn’t lost on me that this was the best clean-up of the ‘Burb that we had ever done. ๐Ÿ™

But–things are getting better on that count. Every day that I do my 20-minute De-cluttering challenge for Lent, I chip away at the clutter and the mess and the STUFF that has been dragging us down for years. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

So that’s the story of the night the deer hit the ‘Burb. So long, faithful vehicle.

On another note, and speaking of seizing the day (we were addressing that, right?) please remember to enter my current giveaway: for a copy of the fabulous new edition of The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.ย It’s so easy to enter, and you can enter every day, if you’d like! This copy is signed by the authors and would be a wonderful gift for yourself or possibly a beloved baker in your life. Mother’s Day is coming up soon, you know! Enter today!

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26 thoughts on “The Night the Deer Hit the ‘Burb: Extreme De-Cluttering

  1. peppylady (Dora)

    I haven’t hit a deer and there plenty of deer here. My brother in law hit a moose and it just roll over the vehicle no real damage just left some hair.

    My mom came from Nebraska in the Scottbluff area. Father in law came from Kearny Nebraska.

    Hope your day is bless and the coffee is on

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks Dora, the coffee is on and it’s always nice to hear from another Nebraskan! Where do you live now?

  2. rose/cookinmom

    Glad to hear you all are ok! We missed a buck by a hair, driving late at night one night and scared the peeeeee out of us!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Rose, we had stopped watching for deer (actively) because deer season is long gone, but we’re looking again!

  3. Mary Howe

    Glad everyone is okay, every night we have to drive home through a state park, lots of deer everywhere. We have to really be on the look out . For the raffle question I just love eating fresh bread right out of oven with homemade butter. Love your blog

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks Mary! During deer season, we scan the ditches constantly. It’s not deer season now, so those deer really surprised us!

  4. james young

    We are here (close by) , have seen said Burb and marvel how much damage a small, soft animal can do in collision with a vehicle – – and what it can cost to repair the damage. At the same time we are thankful that you are all OK and that you were in a sturdy vehicle, not some tiny tinfoil wonder.

  5. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Amy, you are exactly right. I won’t give you the details so I don’t take away from your experience, but my husband, my son and I are all lucky to be alive. And, sometimes, seatbelts and airbags are not enough as I lost a beloved relative that day. I was with her the day before when she and I were shopping at a farmers market and she asked a vendor to hold an orchid plant which she would pick up “next time”. Next time never came. When something like this happens you very quickly learn what is important in life and what isn’t. Sadly, over the years (the accident in question was almost 11 years ago) I’ve forgotten many of those lessons. Thank you, thank you, for reminding me.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Alana, it would be good for me to have a wake-up call like this on a daily basis. It’s so easy to forget how precious life is, and how brief it is, also. Preferably a wake-up call, that is, a bit less violent. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate what you have to say.

  6. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    It’s those little moments that remind us that we don’t know how long we have on this earth- or when and how we will so depart…
    Which makes many of us work even harder to leave this place just a little bit better each day, because we don’t know if we can come back tomorrow and finish the job…

  7. Chef William

    I agree with you about the end times. I keep hearing that we are living in the end times so it is more important than ever that we draw closer to God. I believe that we are living in the end times from birth. We never know when we will check out from this life so end times could be a minute from now or it could be a few years from now. The point being that we never know when our end time is, so we don’t want to wait to “catch the last train to heaven” because if we wait to find God, we might miss that train, then where are we?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Good point, Chef! As the Bible says, even the angels don’t know when the very last days will be. We ought to live as if every day was going to be our last.

  8. Angela Dawn

    Thanks for sharing. I’m glad everyone was okay (aside from the deer!) The reminder that Life is a gift, and we don’t know how many more moments we have before we are face-to-face with our God, is always needed.

    Hearing you reminisce about your family all being together under one roof, and the ‘burb being representative of that reminded me of my last few years at home–I’m the oldest of six and the year the littlest was born (21 years between us), we got a Suburban so we could all do a few family road trips together. There was a real sense of all-together-ness and comforting family security about traveling together! I hope to give my little ones those kinds of memories.

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