alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,
alycewilson
alycewilson

The Birthday Flood

Friday, March 20, 2020

My sister urged me, as a writer, to document these outrageously odd times in which we are living. So today I begin what should become a series -- the Plague Diaries, perhaps? -- of entries, not so much about the mundane details of what's going on in my life, necessarily. I'll be writing about something that stands out. A thought, a significant moment, or other observations.



Today, I was thinking about how my son is experiencing this unprecedented global health emergency. For him, it's much different than it is for us, I'm certain. For one thing, we're continuing our practice of not watching television news in front of him, something we started when he was young because of the very real possibility of violence and tragedy. Instead, we have only talked with each other about very practical realities. He understands why the schools and workplaces are shut down and the new cautions we have to take about our contact with others.

"We're trying to keep others safe," I tell him, "as well as ourselves."

So when the Cub Scout hike planned for tomorrow was cancelled, he only said, "I thought it would be."

To him, these are different times for sure, but distinctly different from my own experiences, as well. He's not the one fretting about when the stores will restock toilet paper -- hopefully before the large pack I bought when my sister visited two weeks ago runs out. He's not the one crunching numbers, trying to figure out what it will mean if the two part-time jobs I do which are currently on perpetual pause don't restart for months, or even forever. He's not the one chatting over messenger with my siblings, trying to figure out how to convince our Baby Boomer father to keep himself safe.

Instead, my son's days are like an augmented summer. Late bedtime, extra playtime, plus a school day's worth of academic instruction, led by his "teacher-mommy." In the past week, I'd guess, he's had more parental attention than he usually gets in a month. And in between our lessons, he gets to create projects on Scratch or build LEGO inventions. Or get Mommy hugs.

I'm sure it's not altogether bad. In fact, looking back from adulthood, these days might seem almost magical to him. Special.

I know this because of my memories of the 1975 flood. Or rather, what I don't remember about it. I don't remember fear, or property damage, or murky water. I don't remember any sense of worry. In fact, I'm not even certain how long we were evacuated, or what kind of condition our place was in when we returned. I don't remember seeing my dad's doctor office after the flood, the one we still lived above, just before our family moved from that apartment to a home across the river. I don't remember any of that.

All I remember is celebrating my brother's birthday at a friend's place. At the time, I considered her my best friend, and I've never met anyone else with her name: Kymbra. Her parents graciously took us in, despite the fact that they had four daughters of their own, including one with special needs. I know that we slept overnight there for at least a little while, but I don't remember where I slept, or how long we stayed.

I only remember that one moment: all of us gathered around a long, wooden table. The room had white lace curtains, which I thought was so fancy. I remember all of the faces around the table -- Kymbra and her sisters, all our parents -- and my brother's face, eyes wide with happiness, as he blew out the candles.

Odd to say this, because I myself was only 5 at the time, but I remember thinking that my brother probably didn't even realize we were there because of a flood. To him, it might have been a special party, just for his birthday. A slumber party that lasted for days.




And now, because I promised myself I'd try to do this every day, I'll conclude with a poem.

The Birthday Flood of '75

No mud, no disarray
only the cake, ringed
with ten faces. My family
and the friends hosting us
for this long slumber party,
invitations courtesy
of Hurricane Eloise.

My brother blows out
the candles on the round cake,
white with yellow flowers.
For me, this is the flood.

No matter how many photos
I see of submerged square-roofed
cars, canoes moored from porches,
roads running like rivers,
I remember none. No mud.
Just cake. And love.
Tags: brother, kfp, kung fu panda, memories, plague diaries, poetry
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