I’ve been unpacking all the boxes that have been in storage for the last few months. After the basement flooded last October we wrestled with contractors and insurance folks until finally March rolled around and this time carpenters flooded my house instead of water. They tore everything out and then built it back up again, better than it was before to be honest. It was all Bionic Man over here. Now the previously finished, then flooded basement is again finished and it’s lovely, I’ll tell you.

The unpacking is happening now.

This past weekend I sorted through the books and the plastic guns and the random things that lived in drawers in that basement before the flood and then in boxes while the repair happened. I was given some advice that I ought to throw out anything I didn’t miss in those 6 months it was all packed away in the storage locker and I considered that. I really did. I went into the unpacking with this in my head at least on some level but as I got into the boxes I found it hard to commit to let things go.

To keep myself motivated and maybe entertained I put some video music channel on the TV and I sifted through my stuff. I would paw through a box, thinking about letting go and dump it all back in. Unsure of why it was so hard to give things up. It was then that this live version of Jason Mraz in Hong Kong singing “Lucky” with a young singer named Gem came on the television. The audience was excited when she came on. They were enthusiastic when they recognized the song but they went crazy when in the second verse Jason Mraz shifted from English to Mandarin.

And that got me to thinking about language and about connection while I sorted through all the familiar things before me.

It was striking to see that connection played out right there in front of me on the television. I imagined then what it must be like to be standing there hearing a favorite artist singing a favorite song then suddenly being aware that he is speaking in the language of the land, the language I know the best. It was as though he reached through the crowd and grabbed hold of the listener saying, “I know you. I know who you are.”

We want to be known.

I thumbed through the many pages of kid art work I’ve kept, the receipts, the piles of photos and the dusty and abandoned scrapbooking gear. It takes a long time to pack and unpack and repurpose and redistribute stuff because I just have to put my hands on it. Here was the language of the land, here was the connection. We want to be known.

I watched Jason Mraz and that lovely Chinese singer and I felt lucky because I realized that all the stuff in these boxes told the story of me, the story of my children, the story of my marriage. This etched glass was from Dave’s mother. This book came to me through a friend. This pile of drawings came from Miles. This scrapbook, unfinished but optimistic shows photos of births and old houses and first steps. This box of old LPs, this set of plastic army soldiers, this box filled with board games, each was a treasure, each a story, a flood of memory, a roar of recognition.


Can’t complain…


This morning I woke to the sound of rushing water, which sounds far more poetic than the reality. I sat in bed for only a moment, listening to the water rush, wondering if it was rain or someone in the shower already at this early hour. I walked softly to the stairs and listened again realizing the water was rushing in the kitchen. I swore loudly as I stepped bare feet into the half-inch of water that had accumulated in the kitchen, held in check only by the porous nature of the wood and the next realization of the dripping sound in our finished basement. Tiptoeing through the water I slogged to the basement stairs and swore again as I watched the water dripping quickly from the light fixtures and air vents.

First, stop the water.

The sound was coming from the refrigerator so I kneeled in the water reached under the sink and shut off the source. The rushing continued, but slowed. I gathered every towel in the house and began to sop up the water, knowing it was already too late for most of the basement ceiling. I focused on the pond in the kitchen. I considered calling Dave in Los Angeles. I thought about Miles’ “family day” at 9:30am, that I was supposed to read a story about my grandfather and my mother, flying for the Civil Air Patrol in the 1950’s. I wrung out water, I swore more loudly, I woke the children with my panic and methodical work of bailing and drying and swearing.

I moved on to the basement and cleaned up what I could, but water finds a way, through the drywall, through the ceiling fixtures, through the venting. The drywall was bubbling and I moved what I could. Some books were already ruined. I didn’t linger there, choosing instead to rescue the couch by moving it away from the ceiling fan, choosing to save the laptops on the table under the bubble of water ready to burst above it, choosing to rescue anything movable, anything still dry, anything at risk. I would have to get the kids ready for school still. I would have to change my clothes at least for the presentation at Miles’ school. Life goes on.

I don’t have breast cancer.

On Wednesday I had my first mammogram. I know, I waited too long. When I turned 40 I was in flux, between doctors. When I was 45 I was in flux, coming back to Chicago, getting life back together. I waited til now, when there was a lull of sorts, near the end of the “deductible” deadline and I made an appointment. The results were back right away. Everything looks good, better than good, the best possible. I don’t have breast cancer.

When I talk with people sometimes I’ll ask how they are and sometimes they’ll say, “I can’t complain” and I’ll nod and agree. I can’t complain. My life is good, overall, things are good. I don’t have breast cancer. But the truth is I can complain and I do complain- often, daily, sometimes hourly as I sop up the water that drips from the ceiling above my head from the broken water line to my refrigerator. No filtered water for my coffee this morning. No saving the books I read to my children when they were toddlers. No dry towels for a shower this morning.

I don’t have breast cancer. I’m thankful for it, tremendously, because maybe part of the reason I waited so long to get that baseline mammogram is that I thought I might have it, because so many of my friends have walked that in the last 10 years or so. I’m thankful for being healthy and for my children being healthy so I can’t complain. But that’s not really true. I can complain and I do complain and i will continue to complain because that’s normal and that’s human. I’ll complain and I’ll swear and I’ll be ungrateful. That will happen because my memory is short and my life is complicated. I”ll forget to be grateful while my basement is flooded and that’s natural. We’ll be okay. We’ll work it out. Everything will dry out and we’ll only have lost some things. I can’t complain. I won’t complain. I don’t have breast cancer.