If you were lucky enough to have flooding in your home, if you were fortunate enough to lose power, or if you were privileged enough to be locked in your house: then Irene did you a service. She came and moved through quickly, leaving before we could fully reach out and touch her cloak. On a day publicized as horrific and presumably tragedy filled, the potential for goodness was expressed through a forgotten vehicle: family. The streets were flooded so no one was going anywhere. Many lost power so there was no Internet or TV and at some point or another your unlimited texting plan was going to be cut short by your phone’s transient battery life. The only source of entertainment was crawling back into the crib you came from and re-meeting the people who were both proximally and socially closest to you.
Yes, in the middle of the torrential down pour the sun was trying to shine through. Once we all realized that there was no way to stop the rain from leaking in from here or from there, it was only a matter of time before the negativity allowed itself to be replaced by “fun.” But this was far from the denoted understanding of the word “fun” we’re used to; this was “un-fabricated” fun or better put: real fun. There was nothing fake about it nor was their any effort needed. There was no planning necessary or dress code required. There was no need to watch what you said or how you said it and all of this because there was no one around to judge. We were home, finally. Not the home we use as a hotel or bank but the home that shelters us from the daily hurricanes we encounter. Yes, they were all a little leaky, both literally in and in this case figuratively, but what “home” doesn’t need a little work.
Of course there was conflict and maybe even tension early on but as the day went by, Irene’s lock on the doors managed to wash much of that away. As fixing leaks turned into family “activities” personalities became puzzle pieces. At first there was difficulty working together. For individual and self-reliant people like us following a chain of command based on age and respect was challenging but paying a little bit of attention to all the moving parts proved key. If you focused enough, you could watch Irene at work...
She was so severe and so powerful that eventually our parents were bound to figure out that regardless of how many buckets of water they filled, they would never empty the basement. And before you knew it, once they arrived at this conclusion, all the attention shifted. They began looking for ways to please -- us. Food, drink, conversation; whatever it took they were willing to do. If you were paying attention you could see the sheer joy in the face of each parent that their children were all around them; not just the young but also those who maybe away at school or usually out with friends. This heightened attention shown to the youth of house inadvertently gave us the power to control the “spirit” in the home. From the other end of the chain of command (which we now controlled) were our younger siblings who were looking to us to provide them with a form of entertainment not controlled by a remote and not always accessible. We’ve always managed to remove or distance ourselves from theses relationships and responsibilities, sometimes intentionally but equally through ignorance, yet now we had nowhere to go. We were not by any means forced to entertain the family but we didn’t know what else to do with all the power but radiate it. Once we accepted this role, that if I was willing to join in on an activity, lead a discussion, or be the prime audience of a conversation, then the “rain” seemingly stopped coming through the “roof” of our “home.”
Time now passed with different feeling. Mundane activities became extravagant projects with the burden falling on Irene: so long as she put forward the effort to keep us together, we could all find our way deeper and deeper back into the security of our un-fabricated safety. The conversation now flowed like the rivers in the street and carried with it a heightened level of enjoyment. Our parents’ stories leaked into out hearts like the rain though the roofs. Our fathers’ poor jokes were more amusing than television while disputes about whether the cereal comes before the milk (or visa versa depending on your stance) became as important as the developing weather reports. The multiple family meals were not only shared by the family but also prepared by the same team. We even managed to “enjoy” the weather by deeming it appropriate to BBQ in the middle of the hurricane. The family joined in on card games, bored games, and even indoor sporting events. All the while, if you were to step back and observe, you would see people, enjoying nothing but each other.
In all honesty I don’t hesitate to say that if you’ve missed the opportunity then I am sorry for your loss because the chances are limited and the experiences rare. Granted it would be arrogant and unfair for me to say that it would be easy to “repair any and all leaks” within the family but you also would misspeak to say that it would be better to “let the house flood.”
I thank you Irene for flooding my basement. I wish you would have taken the power too.
… Letter to Irene
Today was a great experience even though there was a big hurricane it brought us together. We did so much even though we were stuck at home all day. Fun is not only going out with friends or shopping it is about spending time with family. We played soccer, went outside a little, played lots of games, and had a lot of FOOD!!!
I had a great time. Thank you Irene.