When you do something, you really go all out, don’t you? This is not always a bad thing, as you’ve given me some really amazing gifts. Let me give you a few of my favorite examples:
- My son of course is the biggest, best, and most beautiful. The rest of my family isn’t too shabby either. Every single one of them drives me insane. I mean, off the wall, batty insane. How is this a good thing? For every time they make me want to run away from them, they make me laugh so hard I could cry. Sometimes I do. They are my world.
- My friends. How cliché…my family and my friends are my best gifts from you. Pssssh…whatevs…haters gonna hate. Bottom line though is that while I’m not always a good one, the friends you’ve given me have rarely let me down. So, you know, thanks for that.
- My past. Saaaaaay whaaaaat?! I know, I know, it’s been strange for me to wrap my brain around that one too. Without my past, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. I’m not done evolving, and I’m not done going places, but I’m pretty darn proud of how much crap I’ve plowed through to get here. (Did you get the farming reference? I live around a lot of farms. FARMS. Plowing? Crap? Mmmmmk.)
- My place of residence. The place where I rest my head every night. The place I arrange into not a house, but a home. A home for my son to grow up and form the past that he’ll be writing about some day. It’s a home that my grandmother can feel safe and cared for and at peace in during the last years of her life. It’s a home that’s not a NURSING home, which is her worst nightmare. It’s a small house, nothing fancy. It’s got rooms and walls and carpets that are dirty, because the previous owners put white carpet through the whole house. WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT? By the world’s standards, it’s not a particularly nice house. For the three of us though, It. Is. Perfect.
So why, you ask, am I thanking you for these things, Life? I’m thanking you because this past week you preserved every one of those things when you could have ripped them away from me without so much as a how do you do. Yet, here I sit, in my house, with my son fast asleep next to me, his sweaty right leg thrown over my thigh. My niece and nephew are peacefully reading in the room across the hall, and my parents are across the street, resting from a day of grandkids and cleaning up after the land hurricane.
- Wait. What? Oh yeah, that. Life, WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!?? Friday night you threw a heck of a curveball. On Thursday afternoon we were pleased as punch to hear that our good friends Jane and Barry needed some dog sitters for two of the most awesomest dogs that this earth have ever had the privilege of being pooped on by. Rowan had I had just finished a three day stint out at their incredible house by the river, and I think our hearts were still there….floating around in the woods and frolicking by the campfire. To add to the wonderment, my niece Alisa, was staying with us, so she’d get to share in the joy. So we packed up (well, I packed up, and not very well mind you. In my excitement I forgot to pack any extra clothes for myself. THANK GOODNESS I remembered the chocolate and cookies though!) and hit the open road!
We arrived to the kind of welcome only dogs can give. You know, boundless love and energy, and a few sniffs to the crotch. After acclimating Alisa to her temporary home, we lotioned up and dove into the river. It was a perfect day for it too; brutally hot. Thank you for that sun that burned our shoulders and warmed our lunch. Thank you for that humidity and stillness that drove us to spend hours wading in the water and searching for smooth rocks. It was ultimately that weather that would later cause me to huddle in the stairway with my child weeping softly into my neck, but it couldn’t take away from what that day had given us-perfect memories.
After a campfire and marshmallows and too many mosquitos, the kids bathed, and played with trains, and bickered too much, I read them some stories, and tucked Alisa into bed. She instantly fell into a deep sleep. Rowan and I wandered down the hall and cuddled together while I did my nightly meandering around the internet, and he sing-songed himself into a happy relaxation. The dogs were worn out from their day and sighed contentedly as they drifted off into a near oblivion.
Rowan was fighting sleep, as he usually does when he is overtired. I was deep into Pintrest when the lights flickered and then went out. This happened the last time we were there due to a thunderstorm. I glanced out the window and saw nothing but blue sky and a woodchuck that was waddling up the driveway to, I can only assume, chuck wood. Surprised, I jumped out of bed, alerting my little boy. Fully awake now, he clung to me and together we went out to investigate.
I’ve never seen the weather change so quickly or so drastically. My gut reaction was panic-rightfully so too. A sound so foreign and so loud filled every space surrounding me that my human brain could not process it. (Later I was to learn that tornados had touched down not far from us.) The sky instantly turned shades of grey and black with bold streaks of lightning as my only way of glimpsing the steps in front of me. Great, the apocalypse, I thought. And me without a clean change of underwear…
I rushed my precious child inside, and stood in the dark visibly shaking. Sensing my fear, Rowan started to cry. At this point I can’t recall the details. I was so filled with a feeling of dread and doom that I don’t WANT to remember the details. Even thinking about writing about it almost sends me into a panic attack. Post-traumatic stress disorder, much?!
I was appointed the task of protecting two small children and two dogs that didn’t belong to me, and I had no clue how I was going to do that. I was completely and utterly out of control and I was sure we were all going to die. And it was going to be my fault for being unable to protect who and what mattered the most. This is where the details get a little sketchy. To summarize that time period of about three hours in one word: terrifying. I went back and forth between throwing two very sleepy, very frightened children, and two damp and excitable dogs into my little Ford and making a break for it -or trying to organize that same entourage and gather them under the house for as long as it took for whatever it was you were throwing at us to pass. Life, at that point in time, I was very disappointed in you. At the very least you could have given some hint of what you had tucked up your sleeve. Instead, you literally left me in the dark, a baby on each hip, pleading for our lives. You’re like a scumbag deadbeat dad. I’m so taking you to court for past child support. Life, you can be a real JERK sometimes!
On the other hand, do you have any idea how humbling it is to hear a three year old pray for your life? No, no, not his life, YOUR life. He bypassed his own primal instinct to protect himself, and instead held open his hand and offered me his own, priceless prayer. My kid….my kid….he is the epitome of all things wonderful.
As you’ve probably already surmised, we made it through your storm. The next morning the sun shone brightly, and the little world capsulated in the river house seemed all right. After finally being able to get through to my parents, reality hit like a ton of bricks. West Virginia was in a state of emergency after the hurricane left almost of all of it, and some surrounding states without power, without water, and with much damage. The wind had ripped up trees, torn apart houses, and downed power lines. The lightning had set many fires and the chaos of it all left residents bewildered and lost.
Here we are, seven days later, still no power, in the midst of a heat wave, all the food in our refrigerators thrown out, no gas for cooking-no gas for cars. Yet, we thrive. Life, you can’t get us down. Neighbors have been helping neighbors. We’ve hosted our elderly back-yard neighbor for many meals, dad cooking on his grill. In return she’s brought us ice. (The stores have a very limited supply and are rationing it out when it’s there.) People are helping each other clear up the brush and downed trees and siding from their houses.
I went and got my nephew after the storm, as he is diabetic, and needs to eat certain amounts at certain times. Without a grill or any other way to prepare meals, the options were limited. I will openly admit it hasn’t been easy with three kids and not even a fan to cool our overheating bodies. We’ve swam in the pool, thrown water balloons, ran through the sprinkler-anything to beat the heat. The heat is kind of beating us back. The kids have fought and bickered and tattled and I’ve come close to wanting to crawl into a cave and stay there for a month. I’m tired. I’m hot. I miss electricity. I miss the internet. We were close-the internet and I. I feel so abandoned.
All this being said, you may have tried to show us who was in charge around here, but I think we proved it’s not you. Life, you are powerful and ornery, but we have such a strong will to survive, that we will. My three children are learning to live without TV, video games, or lights. They’ve figured out how to read by candlelight and lanterns, how to set up miles of hot wheels track on the porch and launch cars into the bushes. They’ve learned to get out crayons and play-doh without being prompted. They’re ok with being bathed in the pool, or with water heated up on the grill. They’re good with peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day, and cereal with powdered milk. They know how to push each other’s (and mine) buttons and make each other cry, but Rowan, Dylan, and Alisa have never been closer. Thank you for that.
We’re ready to get back to our “normal” routine, but we’ll continue to live outside our comfort zone for as long as we need to. Thanks for giving us a little dose of humility. We’ll always remember the summer you reminded us that you can be a lot simpler than we often make you out to be.