Sunday, August 26, 2007

Near Miss

Friday afternoon we leave the house to buy a steak at the butcher for Daddy’s dinner.

For this short walk in 75-degree weather, Eleanor has decided to wear her Minnie Mouse costume over her sundress and a jean jacket over that. She cries for me to fasten each button of the coat. She carried a stuffed dolphin and his bottle. Mia carries a decorative umbrella. I have a milk crate full of leftover bud vases, each wrapped in newspaper to drop off at the florist on Ridge that posted a flyer about wanting old vases to recycle. I also grab a continuing ed catalog to read at the park.

The streets are full of debris from last night’s storm. Mature trees lie splintered, betrayed by their top-heavy branches, their weak roots.

There is absurdity and miracle everywhere – dismal elms on their last legs stand unscathed. The downed trees often have solid cores. Why do some fall and some stay unright? A purple Rose of Sharon in full ruffled bloom seems to have lost not a leaf, not a blossom. Behind it rests a snapped giant. Through the litter left on a smashed car you can just see the cheery sign “Courtesy of Knauz BMW.”

A hundred year old willow lost a limb that cruelly sheared off half the tree house it once wore like a stiff tutu around its trunk.

Two trees on the parkway fell toward a red brick house built in the 1920’s, landing in a V on either side of the main section of the house. One lies on the one-story addition, the other on the front lawn. Alberto, the father, says with a tired smile, “We are all okay. My wife is okay. She was very frightened. She was home with the children. You see that second floor dormer? It is stucco. Through that window you can see the crib where the baby was sleeping.”

The workers on the roof stand mere feet from the window. They cut the trunk into short sections, carry each away on a wheeled cart. You suddenly feel the mass of the giants around you, realize the weight suspended above your head as you walk under this diminished canopy that last week seemed so protective and sheltering.

Eleanor must stop to rest. I take off her extra layers, add them to the milk crate. We walk in the gutter when trees block sidewalks on both sides of the street. Big grade school kids climb in the branches.

At the parochial school playground, we look at a stone sculpture of Mary standing on a wolf-headed snake and a crescent moon. Nora says, “I have to poo-poo.” Oh the dreaded words. Where are we? Do we go home? I know there is no hope of a compassionately unlocked door at this school. Across the street is a park where there is a trash container with a lid. I ask a nanny for a wipe and make a nest of leaves for Eleanor to squat over. She pees, as does Mia. That’s all, thank goodness. They clean themselves with maple leaves.

We play at the park. The colors seem brighter. Disaster can do this.

“Five minutes!”

Nora runs to me crying. She has three red bites on her thigh. It looks swollen and she is sobbing, “Boo boo bunny!” Wasps? She stops crying after a few minutes on my lap.

We leave her extra clothes, the umbrella, the stuffed animal at the park. I take up the red crate again. It has become so heavy and pointy against my hip. We go on.

On the block of the grocery store, Mia says “Ow!” and sits down on the pavement. I sit with her. She takes off her shoe to show me a blister on her heel. “Is that my skin?” she asks about the little white wrinkle. Sitting down on the cool sidewalk with her felt like a victory and I am inspired again. “Let’s bend down the back of your shoe like one of your Crocs!” It works. She is pleased.

The grocery is closed. No Power says the sign on the door. The butcher is one more block down, past the intersection where the stoplight is out, cars creeping and lunging through like guilty schoolboys. I know now there is no fresh meat for Daddy’s dinner, that the vases I have lugged half a mile are going home with us.

“The first thing to go is the sense of humor,” our Montana backpacking guide said between stories of hypothermia and heat exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, this may have been a different story, a disaster story. Today, we’ll go home and tell Dad what a big adventure we had.


Kristen said...

It sounds like it was an amazing and terrifying storm. I keep looking for new photos of fallen trees online. Thanks for sharing yours. Glad to hear you and yours are well.

Cindy Fey said...

Thanks, Kristen. We drove by your house and saw no damage, no fallen limbs. Whew!