I had remembered my harmonica but had forgotten my toothbrush. Isn't that how it always goes? I was safely at my aunt's house in Fairfield when I came to this unfortunate realization — made even more embarrassing by the fact that I cannot play the harmonica. I suppose that in my haste to grab small items of both sentimental value and practical use, the mouth organ seemed appropriate: if worse came to worst, I could wander the streets with the comfort of my trusty instrument, wailing .
Looking back, it was silly to think I was in imminent danger of being homeless. But my first encounter with something as terrifyingly real as a tree crashing through your house... well, I'm glad that my only serious lapse of judgment was forgetting a toothbrush in favor of a harmonica.
We always read about natural disasters, don't we, but it's tough to empathize with the people who suffer in their wake. Sure, we can read about the destruction and we can say “that's really horrible,” but we have no feeling for just how horrible it is.
It's really hard to look at some newspaper headline in all capitals (saying, in effect, that this is a big deal) and know what it's like. Even if the headline is accompanied by photos of complete devastation, they aren't enough to put us on the scene, to put us in the shoes of the homeowner that now doesn't have a home because of some freakish storm.
And although paled in comparison to Katrina or the Tohoku tsunami, it gave me a glimpse of the sheer terror any disaster brings. Because a tree didn't just fall on the house — it fell on my home, that sanctuary where I was safe from bullies, where I was always accepted, where I grew up to become who I am. To have that sanctity invaded is unlike anything in the world.
The gut-wrenching smash of a ceiling caving in, the tremors that shake both the house's foundation and my own, and the sudden sinking sensation of dread as I wonder where my sisters are, isn't something that's supposed to happen in my home. Those are the feelings that the newspapers don't show you.
But with that blood-curdling smash that can only mean a tree hitting the house also comes a rush of adrenaline — and a giddiness once you realize everyone, for now, is safe. Everyone except our home, which now has a hole in the roof.
I fear that the rain pouring in is going to wash away all the memories these walls hold, from both the physical (like my drawing of a dragon pinned on the sun room wall since third grade) to the intangible (as if rain could leach the tantrums, the scoldings, and the love out of the plaster). It didn't help to think that I had been sitting right underneath where the ceiling fell in two minutes prior to the tree smashing down, having moved only when my mum suggested I vacate that room. (So, readers, listen to your mothers!)
The only remedy is action. We threw a tarp over the furniture and frantically searched for anything deep enough to hold the buckets of rain. After I stepped on a rusty nail (it didn't puncture the skin) and got nervous about all the dust and insulation revealed by the beam of our flashlights, we holed up in the basement and waited for the storm to pass.
When Dad came home, we packed our overnight things (or not, in my case) and began the journey of winding our way through what was left of Brookfield. The town has weathered — an odd word to use, I now realize—this storm and I like to think that the hole in the house will add to it's character. Now, I can't wait to annoy my grandkids with stories about how any storm they've experienced pales in comparison to “The Great Twister of Twenty-Eleven.”
Oh, and my aunt had a spare toothbrush.