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August 28, 2011

In 1985 Hurricane Gloria took down six trees in our yard, took our electricity and with it, with the candle in the bathroom, took much of our house, too, as she left burning walls in her wake. Gloria took our belief that home was safe, which stung, but stung deeper since we’d already lost our belief that anything else was safe. Daddy needed only to make it home, after all, and when he didn’t, home became condensed, as if the beacon had been too narrow. Two years later, Gloria took our photographs of Daddy, took us out of our house for months, and took my memories, painting them over. But Gloria left me with this: wet spring green leaves on soaked grass; sharp clangs as hung items hit vinyl flooring; smoke alarm; sister screaming; Mom on knees crawling under smoke; my mother’s sooty dress my curtain; the cat peeking her nose around the corner, mewing her way to Mom’s safe shoulder. Home narrowed further, to mother alone. Gloria left me with an imprint of a color, that spring green bright, a color I saw again in the bits of Japanese Stewartia leaves that stuck to our windows ten floors up during Irene. Gloria was different. I was a child during Gloria, didn’t understand what they said on the local news. Mom had some method of heating that did not require electricity, and large battery-operated lamps. Canned goods were already in extensive supply, and trees falling on our house were a real concern. But Gloria and Irene in some ways were the same: we who in the north don’t often see storms like this did as we were told, preparing for the loss of electricity and against the loss of property and life. We knew to be concerned. We didn’t know about or care about naysayers or storm riders or accusers of overreaction or media haters. We just wanted to be prepared, then and now. And as with Gloria, some in Irene’s wake are relieved, some disappointed, some as I write still observing their local river’s metamorphosis into a frothy waterway unlike anything they’ve seen before. In the wake of Irene, I find I’m apologizing to J for how short-tempered I was yesterday evening, as the sky darkened and the wind picked up and one of my only two childhood memories reanimated my body’s jerky movements and urge to stare outside and circular steps to check this room and that room. Yesterday I made tens of proclamations to him, weary but understanding, that the candle in the bathroom should sit deep in its vase, flame licking only glass walls.

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  1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Gwen. I can only imagine the automatic alert response that you experience when the sky gets eerie-dark. Like all animals, our bodies know things before our minds do!


  2. Terrific level of emotion in this piece, and it’s so universal. We felt the same way when tornadoes were ripping up trees and houses where I live in Tennessee.


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