Thursday, May 26, 2011

After The Storm

Fact: When a tornado rips up a giant swath of your hometown, even if your home in particular was untouched, your routines will be changed. 

Our bedtimes are nonexistent.  Our days are fully unstructured.  There is no place to go, except on the horseshoe-bend road that wraps itself under our city like a fishing net.  This is the road to my parents' house, and it allows safe passage beyond all signs of tornado damage.  (Unless it becomes flooded, which tends to happen with days upon days of rain.)

But once there, what do we do?  We speculate and read the news and watch press releases.  We hear stories from family who rode out the screaming winds as they flattened themselves beside a bed -- there was no time to crawl all the way under -- and looked up to find the roof missing.  We talk about all the things we wish we could do to help, but have no way to accomplish.  We laugh sometimes.  We make large meals with our flowing electricity, inviting those who have none to come partake.  We shush the kids as the new death tolls are being released.  (And then we doubt the honesty of those numbers.)  The doors open and close all day long, family and friends passing through for minutes or hours at a time.  We clean up our bitty messes on kitchen counters and den floors, all the while wondering how the gargantuan, multi-legged, horrendous mess of our city will be repaired.  We become a shrunken-extended family: together under one, whole roof.

When it rains, which it has done for far too long, we stand at windows and shake our heads.  Haven't they had enough?  The adults come and go, finding ways to help their neighbors or digging for salvageable items from their used-to-be-homes.  The kids watch too many movies, become too argumentative, too tired, and too bored.  But there is nowhere else to go. 

I won't take them into town. 

Any route would be circuitous and lengthy, but without exception, all roads bisect the path of damage.  There is nowhere I can take them, short of a highway voyage, that would shelter them from seeing firsthand what's become of our world. 

It doesn't have to be forever; they see news coverage when they're not running, screaming, with their cousins and friends, through the packed house.  They hear us all discussing the particulars.  They question the tornado's power.  But to drive past it?  To look at the nasty result of its carelessness?  Even I can't speak in its presence.  Driving by the rubble is painful, and just plain difficult: traffic won't allow for distractions on the newly cleared, but still congested and unmarked roads. 

So we keep on playing, and when the sun finally comes out -- on the fourth day post-tornado -- we soak it up like a lover's gaze. 

We play in the puddles and squish in the mud

and capture the caterpillars

and remember why it's good to have fun.

Even if we have to re-learn how.


  1. So, so glad that you are ok. Remember that this too shall pass. When I was younger, I was in the Teton Dam break. I have some good memories about helping others and working together to change the damage. Your girls will have things that they will also learn in this time of trial. And you are right, it is still important to have fun.

  2. And that is the best that you can do for you and your fam. Thinking of you Sarah...
    We had the kids in my building taking shelter for over and hour this week while sirens went off. Some of them were an absolute wreck because their parents spoke too much about the devastation in Joplin or allowed them to see too much on t.v. Small children can't handle that.

  3. I so wish that I could make your burden lighter. That raising children after the storm is not only more challenging, but even more filled with love. You are already an amazing mother and I have absolute confidence that you (and Justin) will make the very best of this situation. I also wish that I lived closer so I could help out in some way. You are in my heart, and in my prayers. I hope that you know that!


  4. You seem like your handling this terror with such grace: shielding your children, fostering community and connection all around you, and continuing to create beauty in times of desperation. You inspire me, Sarah.

  5. Tears filled my eyes while reading this. I just try and imagine if that had happened to our town, I can't even fathom it. Please know that you and your town are in my prayers.

  6. I am praying for Joplin and all those affected by this horrible time in all the different ways.

  7. Oh. My. I'm so glad y'all are ok. I didn't realize y'all were in Joplin. We've been praying for your town.

  8. That caterpillar picture says it all: life is fragile and family gets you through. So beautiful, if tragically so.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?