September 22, 2011 —
This summer we rearranged our house from top to bottom so that our daughter, Lily, could have her own bedroom. It involved a lot of sorting and throwing out—along with many trips to the Salvation Army and the town dump. My old poem notebooks, the napkin rings and the snow cone maker, all those little Batman toys and even some stuffed animals got the heave-ho. We had the vintage speakers from the record player appraised and gave away a lot of old photographs.
It seems our small, 158-year-old house had not only become a home to all our stuff (needed and otherwise) but also the remnants of my mother’s belongings as well as deposits left from my grandmother, uncles, cousins and the silverware from John’s Uncle Joe’s mother.
It was a hurricane within the hurricane—since we started the actual transport of furniture from one floor to another at the last possible moment of summer vacation just as Hurricane Irene was about to hit. It took a lot of planning to get to that point, but we managed to get the cast-off dresser and my old college desk (later sawed up to make a makeshift bedside table) down the stairs and out to the garage before the rain started. By the time the power went out, we had a path through the stacks of books filling the living room. A person could sit on the couch, along with the lamp and a stack of glass-framed photos, and survey the room full of bags of bedding and clothes, a mattress and box spring set, and the book shelves.
It takes a certain amount of hubris to start this project in the midst of a hurricane, I thought, while hunting down flashlights and trimming the wick of the antique oil lamp. Next came bailing the cellar when the sump pump quit working.
I felt that universal urge to “burn it all and start all over,” but I also couldn’t stop thinking of the many people in our region facing mandatory evacuations and heading to shelters in the wake of the hurricane—or the many people who would go back home to nothing. Then came the added flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee, resulting in more condemned buildings and damaged infrastructure.
Now, and in past weeks, in the aftermath of the historic flooding, people are left assessing the damage, still picking up the pieces. Food drives and clean-up efforts continue as the Northeast recovers with help from everyone from the National Guard to 4-H kids and local photographers who are offering to take family photos for those who lost memorabilia during the storms. Monetary donations are also being accepted through the American Red Cross at 800/733-2767.
As for me and my family, as the new school year starts, we have a refreshing, airy mood in our house—with more space and privacy—as well as a feeling of gratitude for just having this lovely home.