The rains came pouring down, unrelenting, continuous and streaming over all of metro Detroit. The day was gray and heavy, the air thick with moisture. It just kept coming.
So what, we thought. Rain. We’ve had it before, we’ll have it again. The worst part would be that my evening master swim was canceled (although by the end of it all, I seriously could have swam through the streets of my town – no exaggeration).
But it was bigger than we thought and more than most of us could handle. My husband went outside to sweep away the water trickling in to our basement. When a distraught young woman pulled into the driveway next door in a hybrid that was steaming and smoking and making odd noises, my husband went over to help her.
She was baling water out of her car with a mason jar. He grabbed a saucepan from the house and helped her make more progress. Her car was stacked high with pillows and papers. “This is the worst day of my life,” she cried. He discerned that she was moving back home at that moment and didn’t ask more.
Cars pulled up on the street. Some drove into our driveway and the driveway on our other side. Two got stuck in wheel-high water in the street. Finally, one person got out and abandoned the car. Taillights blinked through the night on the quiet street.
In one car, a woman rolled down her window. “Come inside,” I called to her, finally outside with my husband in sweats, rain boots and a raincoat that did little to stop me from getting wet. “I have two babies in the back seat,” she yelled.
I waded over to her, the murky water up to my thighs. Her seat sprang back toward one of the little boys and got stuck, pinning his legs. He cried out in pain. My husband and another neighbor ran over to help wrest the boy’s legs free. The woman, the boys’ grandmother, climbed into the backseat and together we pushed the seat up and off the child.
Then she handed him to my husband and his twin brother to me through the window. The boys whimpered, looking around at this neighborhood under water. Our neighbor helped the woman climb through her window. They waited inside with towels and my children offering them cookies until the boys’ father came to get them.
It was, in short, unbelievable. I gulped back tears by the magnitude of what was happening around me. Friends posting on Facebook pictures of their drowned basements. The girl with the hybrid car walked to her parents’ house over sodden grass. Another woman left her car on our driveway and texted with my husband in the night to assure us that her car would be retrieved by 6 a.m.
This morning, it is eerily quiet outside. The water is gone. As if it never happened. Except the remnants are there, swirls of dirt and debris in the yard and on the driveway, the trail of what happened, a silent reminder. There are pebbles on my driveway as if we were a river that has receded.
We were lucky. Our basement had some moisture but nothing like our friends. Complete destruction. My little guy was shaking with fear last night. I held him close, reminding him that he will always be safe, I will always see to it.
Except, we are never really safe. We can’t spend our lives worrying about it, but as soon as we think we have it all under control and understood, everything falls apart.
We are not in control. These belongings, these homes, this life, it’s all a loan for us to use toward making the world better. A heavy rain comes and we are reminded that it’s just a house, just possessions, just a car, just clothing, just whatever – fleeting. We can live without it if we have to, though we often don’t want to.
We are so used to our creature comforts. I look around my beautiful new house and think of how much effort and money and thought and passion went into creating this home. I love where I live and I believe the illusion that these walls will keep me safe, nothing bad will happen here.
We do our best to secure our lives, but we are still open to the elements.
In the night, my little guy had a nosebleed. He lay against me, tilting his head back to stop the flow. Drops of red hardened on the white bathroom floor. Eventually, it stopped. Eventually we all went back to sleep.
This morning, the neighborhood is silent. Cars carefully navigate the streets. Highways are closed and state troopers are asking drivers to stay home until they can clear up the madness.
The gratitude is deep. We are ok. We have another chance to start over this morning. We are alive. Our houses are standing.
I’ll work from home until my children go to their father for a week. The cycle of life goes round and round. Soccer camp is canceled for today; the field is under water. So we’ll have lunch together, just me and my three kiddos, because all we ever have is the love in our hearts and the gleam in the eye of someone close.
And really, that is all we need in the end.