Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wash Away My Normal

Water is the building block in our survival, but as I'd seen many times in news footage around the world, it could just as easily unleash its wild force to devastate nations. She's a tricky one, our liquid love, but I've learned one thing in my dealings with her - no matter how she travels your way, whether through a peaceful pass of a glass to quench your thirst or a ferocious flood to level your status quo - it is her journey we are on, not vice versa.

My lesson came quietly on a Tuesday morning in March 2010. We heard and saw nothing until a single splash. We both stood.

"Something fell."

"No, I heard water."

We discovered we were both right. There was brown water past the first step of our basement and a bag of laundry had fallen into it, but there was so much more down there than laundry. It was a finished basement with a living room, a bathroom, an office and the laundry room with a pantry and a workbench.

As a child, the basement was the realm of my brother and I. The office was a playroom with a floor to ceiling bookcase. In the living room we'd watch cartoons and Star Wars over and over again. We'd play hide-and-go-seek, build enormous forts, play video and board games and hang out with friends.  Besides our backyard and the outdoors, it probably holds most of my childhood memories.

Here it was in all of its disgrace.

I had to look at it. I had to know what was going on. Where did this water come from? How were we going to get it out? But through it all one question kept penetrating my brain:
How did I let it get this way?

Because without all the sewage and water causing things like The Monster At The End of This Book, to float by me I was faced with one harsh reality - this basement was a mess long before the flood. 

In fact, truth be told, I was a mess.

Besides storage bins my husband moved in with and had yet to deal with, the basement was largely filled with my memories. Memories I was hanging on to with a clasp of desperation that no longer held sentimentality or love; only fear. Fear of complete and utter loss of all that I ever loved. This house and all it contained was the last place that evidence our family of four ever existed.

During the cleanup I was on a turbulent ride down memory lane, filled with happiness, nostalgia and loss. I had no idea how to face everything, or what to do with it. Then, without warning, I found two  bins of baseball cards that my father and I had collected together. That was our thing.

I stared into one bin. How could I let this happen?  I remember collecting all of these... and yet, I haven't looked at them for years.

More water came - salty, cleansing tears - I realized that's what I had always been missing. Seeing and holding the cards didn't make the memories any more real than they already were.

Memories and relationships are forever - things hold no domain over them.

There was so much water that week - rain, flood, tears - but it was all cleansing. It was a painful, brutal and merciless cleanup (my wedding dress was destroyed), but, without question, I needed it. The year that passed since has been one of change, renewal and upheaval. Learning to let go of my past in order to embrace my present was exactly the lesson I needed.

This post was written for a RemembeRED Prompt.
This week we want you to recall something in your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful.

A positive from a negative experience.


  1. I LOVE this! Our basement is unfinished yet I worry all the time about my precious treasures tucked neatly inside plastic bin after plastic bin lining our walls. My wedding dress and my daughter's flower girl dress (from my wedding) are among these memories. I'm so glad that this ended up being a freeing experience for you rather than one of loss.

    - Emily

  2. How devasting this must have been at the time. I'm glad it brought you to a better place.
    This is what I'm living with now. Boxes and bags of past lives. Your post couldn't be more timely for me.

  3. Oh wow. I can't imagine how devastating!!! I'm so glad you have the photo. It's exactly as I pictured from the way you had written it, but yet, I didn't believe it would be THAT bad!

    So glad this prompted a cleansing experience for you! Visiting from TRDC!

  4. This is beautiful, Nicole! I love the opposition in the post leading up to cleansing. I'm sorry you had to go through that, but you're so right about memories being the most important thing!


  5. I hope that a few of the folks whose lives have been turned upside down from the tornadoes can read this! When life gives you lemons....

  6. such great storytelling, but so sorry you had to go through this too!