I spent last weekend trying to dry out memories.
Remember that pre-Halloween torrential downpour that left most of South Florida under water? My guest bedroom, where the water rose six to eight inches, was one of the soggy sites. We lost a sofa bed, a coffee table, a giant rug, books and board games, a box of clothing, some important newspaper clippings and souvenirs. The clean-up was annoying and exhausting, but it was nothing I couldn't handle … until I discovered that the flood had destroyed the entire collection of my kids' elementary school memories.
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Years of art projects, stories, journals and reports, carefully tucked away in two plastic artist portfolio cases, had turned into a soggy mass. Some words were literally washed away from the pages.
I've never really felt victimized by Mother Nature before. I lived in Broward when Hurricane Andrew hit, so lucky neighbors' guilt was the worst emotion I had to deal with in 1992. There was the time I lost my album collection to a flood in my Fort Lauderdale apartment, but I eventually moved on and only experienced the occasional nostalgic pang for certain album covers.
Nothing prepared me for the crushing sadness I felt when I opened those portfolios and tried to pull apart the soaked paintings and notebooks lumped inside.
Those delicious, innocent years, preserved on paper and tucked away until they could be admired again as sweet reminders. Scribbles and drawings, so monumental at the time, waiting to be rediscovered and worshipped.
"Oh, remember when you did this when you were only 5?!"
I still have some of my own school projects saved by my mother. I don't remember making them or what I was thinking or doing at that time in my life, but their presence assures me that I was indeed once young, pure of heart, loved.
What will remind my children?
After I had a good cry, I went and broke the news to my daughters. They handled it unbelievably well. They spent the afternoon sorting through the mess, trying to salvage what they could, laying it out on the patio to dry.
We admired all the paintings and their running colors. We laughed over the torn contract my oldest daughter had drafted and forced her younger sibling to sign when she was 7. (#1: "Stay 5 feet or more away from me at all times." #3: "Do not play Barbies while I am reading.")
And we giggled over the story my youngest wrote after she learned that my husband and I are six years apart in age (which when you break it down in kid years means that I was in second grade when he was in middle school.) She called it "My Mom Married a 7th Grader."
We took photos of what was still recognizable.
Around 4:15 p.m., the sky grew dark and it started to rain on the still-damp artwork we had spread out.
"Well, at least it wasn't a fire," my 11-year-old said.