Day Sixteen

My mom lives by herself in Florida and only makes it to DC for a visit once or twice a year. So, I try to come up with some exciting things for her during her visits. Although she swears that just the normal day-to-day of my household is excitement enough for her. This visit, I have to admit, I outdid myself. And I didn’t even try.
First, we accidentally happened upon the rolling 9/11 motorcycle tribute after shopping on Friday. It was something I never would’ve gone out of my way to see and it was so moving for both of us. Then, Irene came knocking on Florida’s door which necessitated many phone calls and Weather Channel watching to ascertain that there was no real threat to mom’s house.
And lastly….. (insert drumroll here) the earthquake. I mean, how can you top a 5.8 quake for adding a little zing to vacation? Not that we even realized what it was when it first began.
Because my children treat each meal as a visit to a restaurant, with a menu full of options and a waitress to serve them, mom and I ended up being the last ones to eat lunch. We were both perched on stools on opposite sides of the center aisle in the kitchen. Not two bites into a fabulous tuna sandwich, I could feel the center aisle vibrating. I assumed that mom was jiggling her leg and her knee was bumping the bead board. Within a few seconds we were both looking at each other and realized this was a sensation not generated by a human.
I don’t know what mom was thinking, but I thought it was a gas line. We had a natural gas explosion in our old neighborhood years ago and the sound was the same. The rumble here was much stronger though. I could hear everything in my cabinets clanging against each other.
Mac ran into the kitchen and yelled, “Earthquake!” with Reed right behind him. Drew flew down the stairs and we were all in the middle of the kitchen. Now there was no mistaking that this was indeed an earthquake.
What followed next was a scene right out of a Three Stooges Movie. Everyone was talking at once. First we all moved to go outside, but I was worried that the deck might collapse so we shuffled back into the kitchen. I ushered everyone into the basement and told them to stay in the bathroom door jamb. I walked around the house with the phone feeling like I should call someone or do something but ended up doing nothing.
Then just like that, it was over. I gave the all clear to come upstairs and I have never seen my kids so scared. The earthquake last summer was a good test run but was not as strong. It also arrived at 5am when we were all half asleep. Well, we were all wide awake now and on high alert.
My neighbor knocked on the door to verify that she wasn’t crazy, we had just experienced an earthquake. Even as sure as one might have been in their own mind, that verbal confirmation from someone else was comforting. None of the local channels were announcing anything so we were left to wonder where the earthquake had originated and how strong it was.
It didn’t take long for the news to catch up. We turned on CNN and they were taking full advantage of having Wolf Blitzer right here in DC to give an eye-witness report. They don’t have a bureau in, say, Peoria so it was fortuitous that the earthquake was ratings minded. Wolf’s been around the block a few times and even he looked rattled. Or maybe he just didn’t have on his in-studio makeup.
I flipped through the channels to get different perspectives while the kids walked around and checked for damage. Headline News had a representative from the Geological Society who had a model of the earth’s plates and their constant shifting. Snooze. The Weather Channel had all but forgotten about poor Irene, relegating her to a small graphic in the bottom corner of the screen. Where was Jim Cantori in his weather resistant yellow rain slicker yelling into his microphone above the howling wind? Nowhere to be found. All earthquake here. Back to CNN which was featuring a press conference from Mayor Bloomberg. Why was the mayor of New York speaking about an earthquake that happened three states away? Show me the Mayor of Richmond, that guy at least has a horse in the race.
I settled on Fox 5 because Sue Palka lives in our neighborhood and always mentions what is going on in Gaithersburg. In my corner of Gaithersburg, the kids were obsessed with aftershocks. Having been warned through the various broadcasts to expect aftershocks, Reed wanted to know when they were coming. He also refused to believe that I had no idea–that no one did really– and that we would have to wait and see.
There was a lot of pacing and questions. The only visible sign that anything had happened were a few pictures askew on the walls or face down on a shelf. Given that the kids were having trouble settling down, I knew I should be focusing on the less tangible effects. Their imaginations were working overtime. So, back to Sue Palka who was telling us that we actually have earthquakes every day we just don’t feel them. The shifting or quaking, she adds, help the earth’s surface stay stable.
And then, she says the magic words. “We had an aftershock a few hours ago and will continue to have them for days.” Reed and Drew look at me wide-eyed. The fact that we already had an afershock that went completely unnoticed is just the salve they needed.
“Earthquakes are awesome,” Drew says. Their renewed confidence and sense of calm let them shift their focus to me and my lack of earthquake preparedness.
“Why did you make us go in the basement?” Mac inquires. “That is for a hurricane or tornado.”
“I don’t know, it seemed safer than outside on a deck that might collapse,” I respond.
“Well, you are supposed to go outside,” he counters. “See all those people on the news are outside.”
I was beginning to get a tad defensive here. Everyone was safe, what was their beef? “I don’t know. Those people were in buildings they have to evacuate. It’s different in a house.”
Mac stared at me knowing he had exposed a chink in the armor. I had panicked. I had no idea what to do. He was onto me. Just then I looked at the tv and Sue Palka had a graphic on the screen titled “IN AN EARTHQUAKE” and the last line says… “Stop, Drop and Cover”. That’s right ladies and gentlemen if you are in a house, you stop where you are, drop to your knees and hold onto something that is sturdy and covers you. Like a table. Sue Palka saved me again!
Loving tivo at that very moment, I paused the broadcast to emphasize that we were not supposed to be outside. If you are outside you move to a clear area. Inside, I was not too far off base.
“hrmmph” is all Mac could say. The frozen graphic spoke for itself so I said nothing. I let the kids go back to live television and changed the station ready to put the earthquake coverage behind us. Mom was in the kitchen unsuccessfully attempting to get an update on the hurricane and any effects it may have on her flight the next day.
I walked in and plopped down on a stool right where I was when this all began a few hours ago. The kids appeared to be back on terra firma, but mom and I were exhausted. It was a lot to take in for someone who didn’t usually have much shaking.

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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