Tag Archives: homesick

Staying #NewBernStrong in Exile

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Better days.

I haven’t updated this blog in almost a week. And the past two weeks have been the most emotionally tumultuous I’ve ever experienced.

During these two weeks, we’ve prepared for what looked to be a historic storm. We took all the accumulated junk from outside and got it inside our house or tied down somewhere on the exterior. Lawnmowers, barbecue grills, trash cans, outdoor furniture—our outdoor furniture is now in our downstairs, cobwebs and all.

While my husband and son concentrated on that, I tried to figure out what was most precious to me. What couldn’t be replaced if we left and our house was flooded or the roof ripped off. If you’ve never had to do this, it’s emotionally exhausting. Because nothing you own can ever really be replaced. The sofa the cats clawed, the coffee table the kids ruined by never using coasters, the half-broken rocking chair you nursed your daughter in when she came home from the hospital eleven years ago—you can get newer and better and less broken, but you have these things still because you actually love your animals and your kids and the memories make the faults more beautiful.

We wound up packing our kids, our dogs, our cats, our bearded dragon, some photo albums, my mother’s charm bracelet, a necklace and earrings my son saved up to give me for my birthday when he was ten and a few other odds and ends into our two cars, finally, and trekking to an Airbnb in Charlotte. And then the anxious waiting began.

In the midst of it, I found I couldn’t even finish a sentence. I would start to speak and drift off mid-thought. My favorite pair of glasses (the only ones I brought) broke in half. The dogs don’t like being confined, and I’m constantly worried the cats are going to break or claw something. There’s a stray cat outside our Airbnb who has fleas and I’m worried about my animals getting them. I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee since I left home. And none of it matters.

The worst was hearing of friends waiting for rescue.

The best was when my oldest texted me from his college dorm. I’m so glad you guys left.

Our house made it. We’re some of the lucky ones.

My husband went back home a few days ago, but the kids and I remain in self-imposed exile. We’re watching news and trying to grasp that this is our home. Boats and docks that were peacefully moored when we left are no longer there. Some have been washed out to sea. Some sank. Some are now on dry land. Hundreds of people were rescued from attics and rooftops as they saw their homes flooded, their belongings and memories ripped away.

And in the midst of it, there are rainbows. I hear of neighbors collecting for those who lost everything, businesses giving food to first responders and power company linemen, neighbors organizing to help each other clean up, volunteers at the shelters which remain open while those who lost all look for permanent lodging. These are the lights in the darkness.

We want to go home more than anything, but our power is still out and my husband says stay. At least until the weekend. By some miracle of hard work, our city managed to protect the water so we do not have to boil it, but the sewage pumping stations were flooded and are in the process of being restored.

I know the work will be long when we get back, but I’m eager to begin it, whether it’s volunteering to help others, throwing spoiled food out of our refrigerator, picking up branches or running the book fair I had to leave behind at our school. No matter what, I’m happy I’m still here to do it.

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The Blue Cord: Tale of an Evacuee

Yesterday, my family and I fled our home on the coastal plain of North Carolina. We made the decision on the spur of the moment, and if my son hadn’t started college this fall and I wanted so badly to be with him, we might not have made it. So I know why others stayed.

I’ve heard it over and over. From well-meaning people and authorities and news reporters. Why would you stay? Why would you risk your family’s lives that way?

Indulge me in a little story. It’s a different story than most that you’ll hear about evacuating, but to me, it gets to the heart of why it is so difficult to leave. It takes place after we’d spent days getting our house ready for the hurricane that we anxiously tracked day after day after day.

It takes place after we packed our most precious photo albums and possessions and what we’d need to survive a week away from home into the cars with two kids, two dogs, two cats and a bearded dragon and set off for the Airbnb we’d found that would allow our small farm to take up residence.

It takes place after we arrived safely and told our family and friends that all was well and walked the dogs and fed the cats and ate a frozen pizza at midnight, smiling because we knew we’d see my oldest son soon.

It takes place after I got ready for bed and as I reached into my bag for a charge cord for my phone and found the one I’d brought—and suddenly my world felt like it might just fall apart. A blue cord, that I’d bought because it matched my bedspread so well. It was usually plugged in by my nightstand. It didn’t belong here in this little house and I desperately wished that I’d left it at home.

And that’s when it hit me. Home really might not be there anymore. That charge cord might be all that was left of my bedroom decor. And yes, it’s a trite thing when compared to life and limb, but the nerve-wracking week of preparation and vacillating between staying and going, the exhausting drive to unfamiliar territory where all we can do is wait until we find out if and when we can return home all coalesced for a moment in that blue charge cord I held in my hand and I wished with all my heart that I could be back home.

We know we did the right thing. We heeded the mandatory evacuation order and left. We are not in danger of anything except being inconvenienced as we wait and worry about friends and possessions we left behind. We are together and that is what matters. But every time I look at that blue charge cord, I am homesick, and I know why those who stayed did so. It’s not about possessions or greed or foolishness. It’s about home.

They stayed because they needed to be with the world they knew.

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