This was #Sandy knock, knock, knocking on our door. (About 2 PM, Monday, the 29th) Right when she began to huff and puff and surge. We don’t know what the house looks like now, almost twenty hours later. After the high winds. After the evening surge and high tide.
As a college junior, I heard a story that is helping save me from sadness and anxiety now. That’s a funny thing about stories, isn’t it? You never know when they’ll help change and/or save you, and you never know which ones you’ll need, so please ladies and gentlemen, listen to them all.
The storyteller was a tall, hunky Irishman, a larger than life enigma who was infatuated with me at that moment. We were doing what we usually did together, hard drinking and listening to Warren Zevon, Pink Floyd, Rush and Zep. Talking. Telling stories.
I don’t now know why he told me the story about the girl who danced as her house burned, but I remember feeling awe, respect and a little envy.
His eyes took on that slightly unfocused, soft and warm look they did when he told stories, and then I was watching a young woman he knew being tapped on the shoulder as she was dancing at a party. Her friend delivered bad news…Word came that her home was on fire, burning down at that very moment. Firefighters were there, but it didn’t look good. Fire was too big and fast for them to do much.
The Irishman paused and looked directly at me, then. “What do you think she did?” he asked me, obviously very interested in my answer.
“Uh, I don’t know,” I faltered, afraid of guessing wrong. He didn’t linger on my indecision, meeting my stuttering with a gleeful grin.
“She walked over to the stereo, put on Burning Down The House by the Talking Heads, and kept dancing. People were pulling at her, trying to get her to stop and run to the fire, but she just kept dancing. ‘Why the hell should I run over there?’ she said. ‘Tears can’t put out the fire, so I’ll dance when are where I can, while I can.'”
I still remember my feelings when he finished. Awe and respect at her reaction and envy…because he obviously saw her as a heroine, and it was the first time his adoration had wavered from me in the two weeks we’d been together.
Now, I sit here in safety, writing these words and have no idea what we’ll find when we get back to our house. The question isn’t IF we got water in the first floor, but only, “How much?” Yesterday, when I saw that picture above and realized the worst was yet to come, I broke down for a few minutes. The smell of cinnamon, cloves and apples coming from a pan of spices simmering on our stovetop — how long before we smelled that in our home again? Where will we live if our downstairs is entirely destroyed? The kids’ school….Michael’s work…my work….how to manage.
Then, I heard the Irishman’s voice rising up like the surge that was likely going to destroy my first floor in minutes once the PM high tide hit — the Irishman’s voice full of compassion, awe, respect, love and gratitude for knowing a woman who would rather dance than cry in the face of devastation. A woman who cranked up The Talking Heads rather than the drama. Once again, telling me her story, a story she lived many many years ago and he retold many many years ago — a story that reached out to me with a heroine’s arms and legs moving to the beat of life in spite of life.
A little while later, I found Kevin Smith’s Facebook post about his own dance with floodwaters and I felt even stronger. A little while after that, I felt a small, strong hand squeeze my arm and looked into the whiskey-brown eyes of my 9-year old son (his father’s eyes) — “Mom, stay positive, OK? It’s not going to be as bad as you think. Everything will be ok.” And when I logged on to my iPad a few minutes later, I saw he’d changed my background scene…to a giant wave rolling and ready to crash down. An act of faith, defiance, heroism…? He’s like that. An old soul.
By the time the tide rose again and the surge sent (so I hear) over four feet of water rushing against my house, I was planning on what to wear on the drive back. I’m going to look FABULOUS.
I bought myself a pair of awesome boots, and a Free People top and leggings to wear to Michael’s appearance at NY Comicon with the Comic Book Men. After a summer of being in pain, bloated and enervated thanks to a rotten appendix (which eventually came out, but for a long time posed a painful mystery that was impersonating a much scarier ailment), I wanted to look like the spunky, cool sidekick Michael deserved on his biggest day so far of being a Comic Book Man.
This is what I’m going to wear as I stride across the threshold of Stately Zapcic Manor. (Well, ok. I may change into my rain boots for the striding part.)
My accompanying theme music for our return? Dunno. I’m thinking on it. Carmina Burana? (sp?) I Can See Clearly Now, the Rain is Gone? We Are the Champions?
Whatever the song, the story is the same — in the face of uncertainty and loss, we can behave any way we choose and think any way we choose. Thank God, The Goddess, The Universe, The Great Spirit and every other manifestation of The Force that Stories of courage and strength have my back. And thank you to the storytellers. I pray that I am a worthy listener.
Hey #Sandy. Let’s dance.