Hatches not quite battened
We’ve got a hurricane headed our way, and my Yankee boyfriend (who did not grow up on a barrier island) is very blasé about it all, while I’m remembering all kinds of big, messy storms. I was a senior in college–thus, away–for the hurricane that practically decimated South Carolina in 1989. I didn’t come home until Christmas, but even then I got lost every time I tried to drive somewhere. All the landmarks were gone, the trees were gone, the sky was wide open, a house had flown through the air and landed on top of our beach house, it took my mother/brother/sister/stepfather days with bulldozers and chainsaws to cut their way down the driveway of my stepfather’s house in the country to the road, my grandmother’s phone didn’t work for a month–that sort of thing. I missed it. In a strange way, I wish I’d been there for the storm, because I honestly have a hard time picturing how anything, in a few short hours, could possibly have done that kind of damage. Coming home months after it was over and seeing how devastated things STILL were was shocking. “This is an ugly place now,” my stepfather said, looking out the kitchen window at the splintered wreck of our pecan grove, and he was right. The country around Charleston is gorgeous again now, of course, but it’s not the same. You can’t ever fix trees once they’re gone.
But I’ve been there for smaller storms, lots of times. When I think of hurricanes I think of boarding up the windows, leaving the island, coaxing the animals into the car and driving somewhere inland–my grandmother’s house, say–and spending the night in the basement, boiling hot because the power is out, with the dogs miserable because of the wind and thunder and lightning (my mothers beloved 135 pound long-haired German Shepherd spent all of one hurricane in my poor brother’s lap, licking his ear), and then coming out to see trees down and mud everywhere and trash and mess and screens ripped off the porch and water where it shouldn’t be and all the adults shaking their heads, calling the insurance company if the phones work, getting to work cleaning up. There’s all manner of fascinating stuff washed up on the beach. The shells are great for a day or two. People are outside, friendly, and there’s a suspended holiday feeling about it all. You have to watch out for snakes and poison ivy picking up branches in the yard. It’s always hot as hell and sunny the day after a hurricane. Nobody goes to work, and if school’s in session it’s cancelled. There’s an excitement about it all, or at least there was, back when I was a kid and didn’t worry about insurance and water damage and all the boring adult preoccupations that ruin everything now.
Provided a tree doesn’t fall on my house, I should be okay. Actually, I’m not even in my house right now. The children are still with their father–they’ve been gone nearly ten days, and I miss them horribly. Yesterday, in a massive funk, I drove a hundred miles to see my boyfriend, who promised to fix me supper and fetch me tea and rub my back. The thought of getting in the car and braving the rain (my car’s air conditioning works sporadically, which means the windshield defroster also works sporadically, which means sometimes I’m driving in pouring rain with the windows half open and rain spattering all over, cursing as I swab a porthole-sized area of the windshield in front of me with a sock while I try not to hydroplane into neighboring cars) was terrible. As much as I wanted to be cheered up, as much as I knew he would cheer me up, as lonely as I knew I was, I couldn’t make up my mind to leave. I knew the storm was coming and I knew I’d have to come right back. I also knew leaving him would make me sad all over again, even though the children would be back shortly after my return. I moped around the house indecisively all afternoon. Should I stay or should I go?
Then Korinthia sent me this in an email:
As someone who has had to live through two deployments, my vote is it is always worth the hassle to spend time with someone you love. Because things can change so quickly and irreversibly and life can be cruel, so you take the love when you can get it.
I’ll be damned. She’s right. And here I am. Getting home might be interesting, but what the hell. It’s only weather.