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Natalie Wood’s Very Own Guardian Angel

As Natalie Wood opened the door and stepped into her house, she was carefree and gay as only an eighteen-year-old can be—a song bubbling out of her, not a trouble in the world. But she walked inside and felt a catch in her throat. There were three strangers standing there, and a crisp-uniformed nurse.

And two others—

Her kid sister, Lana, weeping as if her heart would break . . .

Her mother, daubing at her tear-reddened eyes . . .

“Where’s Daddy?” Natalie cried, knowing it must be her father. Everyone else—everyone else who was familyand home—was there.

“Father had a heart attack.” Her mother choked out the words between sobs.

“But there’s no real danger?” Natalie asked, turning to the men she knew must be the doctors, asking the question more because—well, almost because that was the question to ask—not at all because she expected to hear anything except Of course there’s no danger!

Then Natalie knew. Because the doctors didn’t answer; just looked at young Lana—and instead of words there was just the look of such great pity. “Daddy will get better!” Natalie whispered, crying softly, looking into her mother’s face. “I know God won’t let daddy die . . .” And then Natalie drew upon the strength of her greatest faith—a faith that began when she was only nine . . .

She remembered her mother had given her a picture of two little children crossing a broken bridge, and in the background of the picture a guardian angel was watching over them. Her Mother had smiled and said that someone was watching over her just the way the children in the picture were being watched. Natalie had loved looking at that picture, knowing that the guardian angel would get those children safely across the bridge. And through the years that picture never lost its meaning. It still has a treasured place on Natalie’s bedroom wall.

Now, as she prayed for her Father, she recalled how her guardian angel had been by her side, watching over her, just two years ago when she was sixteen. Natalie was driving her own car—the first she’d over owned—and loving every minute of the feeling of freedom the car gave her, the feeling of freedom she felt knowing the could just get into it and take off whenever she felt like it.

But this time she was hurrying home from visiting a friend she hadn’t seen for years, a friend who was treated like a child.

“Now you may go into the next room,” her friend’s mother would say. “Now you may chat. Now you may listen to records.”

You may do this. You may not do that. Natalie had to suppress an impulse to scream at the girl’s mother, Why don’t you leave her alone? She’s no prisoner! She’s human being.

In desperation, Natalie suggested to the girl that they go to a movie.

“I’m sorry,” her mother vetoed the idea tartly. “Jane may not go to a movie.” No reason. Just—no movie.

I love you both so much”

| Natalie kept thinking of the senseless discipline her friend had to live through—and she realized as she never had realized before how lucky she was by contrast.

Like most high school girls, Natalie had been going through the usual teenage stage of self-pity and delusions of restriction. She was so sure her parents didn’t understand her . . . and how often she’d lay to them, “Oh, you’re so old-fashioned!”

This was the thought uppermost in her mind as she gunned her car across the twisting uphill turns.

Sometimes, she thought to herself, as her car raced through the tunnel at the crest of the pass, you go along loving your parents and appreciating them, and you never let them know it. It’s very important to let them know it.

So important at that moment that she couldn’t wait. She pressed her foot harder and harder on the gas.

A narrow escape from death

Suddenly, about a half mile before Sepulveda intersected with Ventura Boulevard, a sharp curve loomed up at Natalie and she realized too late that she had been driving too fast. She jammed on her brakes. Too hard, too fast—and they locked. Her car was out of control! It spun round and round and round like a crazy top.

I’m going to die, she told herself, and I won’t have a chance to tell them how much I love them!

The steering wheel kept spinning around as the car lurched ahead. Natalie was thrown from side to side. Then, suddenly, for no reason that she knew, Natalie threw herself on the floorboard.

There was a terrific jolt as the car bounced off a guard fence along the side of the road, and then crashed against a giant tree.

Natalie sat up slowly, amazed she was conscious, with no bones broken, with not even a scratch.

As she staggered to the shoulder of the road, she found herself, through her numbness, thinking of the picture of the guardian angel watching over the two children crossing the bridge. A faint, dazed smile found its way to her trembling lips.

Not only was her survival a miracle, she thought—it was a jackpot of miracles.

To begin with, a two-by-four plank from the fence had shot through the door, cutting clear across the seat. If she had not thrown herself to the floorboard it most certainly would have killed her!

When she clambered out of the car, and looked over the side of the road, her face turned ashen. She saw a sheer drop of two hundred feet down which her car would have plunged—again bringing certain death—if it had not crashed into the tree!

If there had been so much as one car on the normally heavily trafficked Sepulveda Boulevard, a head-on crash and almost certain death would have been unavoidable!

If there had been a car directly behind her when she slammed on the brakes, a fatal crash would have been inevitable!

Tears streaming down her face

Natalie looked at the 1949 Olds. It was pleated like an accordion! Not even one wheel was still on!

Again, she had the strange sensation that she was being watched over. How else would she have come out of that?

She walked over to the nearest telephone booth, and called her mother.

“Mom,” she said, “now don’t get excited. I just had a little accident on Sepulveda a few blocks above Ventura. Could you come and get me?”

“Are you all right?”

“Of course, Mother,” Natalie answered, not even realizing that the tears were streaming uncontrollably down her face.

Thank You dear God”

That evening, Natalie told her folks the full story—about how her visit to her friend had made her realize how wonderful her own parents were, about how she couldn’t wait to get home to tell them how much she loved them.

Finally her father said with an affectionate smile, “Well, Natalie, do you think you’ve learned your lesson about driving too fast?”

Natalie nodded vigorously.

“Oh yes, Daddy. You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll never drive like that again! I just feel terrible that the car has been completely wrecked.”

Natalie was sure it would be years, if ever, before she would be permitted to have another car.

“All right,” her father said, “we’ll go out and buy you another car tomorrow.”

“You’d—let me have another car?” she asked him, not believing it was possible.

“Why not? I’d say you’d be an even better driver now than you were with the other car,” he smiled.

At night, as she lay in bed, the accident unfolded again in Natalie’s mind. As she thought of what could have happened, as she thought of the impulse to throw herself on the floorboard, as she remembered how easily she could have been killed or crippled, she whispered, “Thank You, dear God, for letting me learn my lesson without being hurt.

“And thank You for giving me the chance to know how wonderful Mother and Dad are.”

Then, as she lay there, suddenly she wondered if God had saved her because, in the greatness of His mercy, He had known that she faced death and that the only thought in her heart was that now Mother and Dad would never know how very much she loved them, how grateful she was for their love—and He had taken pity on her.

Please don’t let my daddy die”

Now—as Natalie’s Dad, who had been so understanding and had put such faith in her when she had smashed the car—lay at the point of death from a heart attack, she walked slowly up the stairs to her room. She knelt beside her bed to pray. She looked up and saw the picture of the two children crossing the bridge and then she lowered her eyes and prayed. “Please, God, let me have my Daddy. Don’t let him die, dear God. Don’t let him die.” And then she paused. The prayer was all wrong—somehow it was all wrong. She was asking God for something. Always, it seemed to her, she was asking God for something. When she was a little girl, it had been, Please God, let me have a new bike. Or—I want new skates, God. Please give me skates. And now she was asking God to spare her Dad—asking Him who had already given her so much—to give her something more. God had been merciful to her—but now she was presuming on that mercy. She buried her head in her hands. “Forgive me, God,” she murmured “I want my Dad,” she whispered, “but only if it’s Your will. Only if Youwant to save him.”

Her father’s life hung in the balance for a number of days. And then came that day when the doctor smiled and said to Natalie and her Mother, “He’s going to get well. The crisis has passed.”

Natalie hugged her Mother tightly. “Oh Mom,” she said. “Oh, Mom.” And that was all that she could say, because then both of them were crying—crying and laughin’ at the same time.

Natalie was too happy. If she couldn’t share her happiness with someone she knew she would burst.

The strength of His protection

That night, she called her friend—her very best friend, Nick Adams—and they went for a drive in her Thunderbird. She told him all about her Dad, told him that she could breathe again because now she knew that he was going to live.

“You know, Nicky, I never realized just how lucky I really am,” she said. “Look at this car I’m driving. Look at the places we can go—all the finest place. And we meet such talented, interesting people. Look at the home I live in.

Natalie breathed deeply. She puller up to the curb and stopped the car.

“Let’s shut our eyes for a few seconds and keep them closed,” she suggested.

They did—and felt a great peace.

Natalie opened her eyes and looked around her. “Just suppose, Nicky,” she said, “just suppose we could never see and of this again—never see these trees, of these canyons, or the snow on the mountains. “Suppose’”—Natalie’s voice was no more than a whisper, “suppose we would never again see someone we loved—someone like our own—Fathers.”

And here Natalie lowered her head. She had not forgotten that other Father, the one up above Who had given her what she most wanted in all the world—her Dad’s life. She murmured a silent prayer of thanksgiving to Him. She felt again the strength of His protection and knew how well she was guarded and watched over. And thank You, God, she said silently thank You for my guardian angel.



Natalie can soon be seen in Warner Bros. NO SLEEP TILL DAWN and MARJORIE MORN INGSTAR.



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