This is a story about disrupted plans, emergency phone calls and motherhood. This story has love, destruction, disappointment and heartache. And, for those who need it, this story even has a cute Labrador puppy and a happy ending.
March 31 was supposed to be one busy day — no white space in the little square box on my calendar whatsoever. I planned to check out the brand-new flea market at the College of Alameda, attend a meeting at the Alameda Free Library to help launch a new radio station and hit local consignment stores to find a flapper costume. That was all before 4 p.m.
At 5, we needed to be in North Berkeley to mingle with ultra cool artistic writing buddies. The email invitation read,
March 31st, 1889, The Eiffel Tower officially opens in Paris, France.
March 31st, 1919 Daylight savings time goes into effect for the first time in U.S.
March 31st, 1980, First Wrestle Mania takes place in Madison Square Garden.
March 31st, 2012 First Happy Hour and Fire-Pit Nosh of the Year.
5:00 pm ‘til you can’t take no more. This is your cordial invitation, please respond with an affirmative roar.”
Whoever composes an invitation like that hosts a "not-to-miss" party, so I replied, “ROARRRRR!!” I was really looking forward to it, but knew that we needed to show up on time and head back to Alameda early to attend a 1920s-themed dinner-dance fundraiser for the Midway Shelter at the O’Club. (My husband Si’s definition of “living hell” is when I book multiple commitments for the same evening, but he knows after all these years that there is no netting my inner social butterfly.)
But on March 31 the gods must have been restless. They decided to play craps with my calendar.
1. It rained. 2. They cancelled the College of Alameda flea market. 3. I went to the library at noon to find the radio meeting and after asking several friendly librarians and wandering from one vacant conference room to another, I found a copy of the Alameda Journal with the meeting notice and realized I was one week too early.
When I got home, Si said, “Sarah called. They had a flood at the cottage.”
When he asked her what he could do to help, she said, “Have Mom call.” I dropped my raincoat and purse right where I stood, grabbed the kitchen phone and dialed.
She said she was OK, but her voice was a whisper. I asked if we should come up to Oakville, and she told me it wasn’t necessary. When I asked again, she started crying and said, “Yeah, that’d be great, Mom.” I left a message for my friend in Berkeley saying we needed to cancel, and we jumped in the car.
Sarah had been home with us in Alameda the previous night. (Her fellow, Graeme, was in LA attending a wedding and after she returned to Oakville, Sarah had an hour to get ready for a different wedding.) She opened the door to an inch of standing water, the kitchen faucet on full bore in a full sink, overflowing onto hardwood floors and into every room of the cottage.
Her puppy, Honey Bee, romped around in the floodwaters in Labrador paradise, then looked at Sarah in classic canine head-tilted confusion, like “Mom, why are you sobbing? This is so fun!”
Sarah raced across the footbridge to the main house to get help from Graeme’s mother. Caroline took one look at Sarah and thought the puppy must be dead, so she was relieved to see a soaking wet Honey Bee romping along behind.
By the time Si and I arrived, Caroline and her cousin, Sandy, had vacuumed or swept most of the water from the cottage. Soggy rugs lay scattered atop bushes in the yard, wooden furniture was stacked high on the porch, and the insurance company mitigation team was tossing strips of wooden baseboard and waterlogged Sheetrock out the door and into the front yard.
In the midst of rain and hailstorms, we evacuated belongings and supervised a puppy that alternately wanted to get right underfoot or sneak away for a wine country adventure. While ferrying clothing to the other house, Caroline’s sister, Pam, and I became trapped temporarily in an open garage, waiting for the storm to abate. Sarah ran in under the garage door to join us and started crying again as she stared out into the bad weather. From opposite sides of her, Pam and I reached around and surrounded her in our arms.
A month gone by … the young couple and their canine rascal are still in the main house while contractors make the cottage habitable. Caroline, Pam and their third sister, Gailie – a decorator – are stepping up to help while Sarah continues to commute back and forth to grad school at Cal.
Having been through a few floods of my own, I tell her that she will get past it, and that one day it will just be another "watershed moment" story, so to speak.
Where’s the happy ending? My 28-year-old still needs me to come when she calls. And if I don’t answer, I know I have great backup — loving and supportive women for whom both of us are truly grateful.