By Fred Owens
The disaster you plan for is not the disaster you get. Plan for a flood and you will get an earthquake. The most important thing is to be resourceful. Stay calm. Look and see what you have and see what you don't have. Improvise!
Six extra people sleeping in your house. They came last night wearing damp clothes. They woke up this morning wearing damp clothes. Bob says, "We're doing fine, all hands on deck, at least we have our family, but I was wondering if you have a spare toothbrush? Just one will do."
So you rummage in the extra bathroom and find two unused toothbrushes. "I've got two," you sing out.
The electricity is off. Do not -- DO NOT open the refrigerator -- it is bound to be disgusting after four days without power and the electric stove doesn't work so there is no place to cook. But you have a BBQ with a full propane tank, and you can make coffee on it.
"Bob, we can make coffee." Coffee! Halleluljah! Life can go on if we have hot coffee.
"Did you hear the news from Beaumont? Their drinking water is cut off. They have it much worse than us."
Imagine living in Houston right now. You're going to be okay. The electricity will come back on soon enough. Bob and his family won't stay forever. You're whole and healthy and you know other people have it a lot worse.
This is what I have imagined. I have been to Houston a half dozen times and I have to admit that I kind of like it. The weather is so awful that you almost laugh. The traffic is insane and there is no plan. No plan! But there is a good spirit and we saw it this week. For all the disaster there was no contention or confusion or riot or crime. People who normally can't stand each other were lending a hand. Like the man hosting his cousin Bob. "Normally, I wouldn't be caught dead in the same room with Bob. I never liked him at all, and I know he doesn't like me either. But for now, we can put up with each other, and we do have the hot coffee and he does like it strong and black, just like me."
Good for Houston. It's going to be all right.
Why was I born?
This is an excerpt from a book I am writing.
Why was I born? I was born and at first I couldn’t remember why. What was I doing there? What was I supposed to do? There must have been a good reason. I was sure of that good reason even if I couldn’t remember it. I was very glad to be born. I remember that. I was the fourth child and my parents needed more children to love. My brother and my two sisters needed me to love. My friends needed me to play with. The teachers needed me to be their student. I was very welcome and much needed. But still I didn’t know why it was me?
Just being born was incredible, no wonder I couldn’t remember anything. That took time. To find that reason. To say hello and meet the new people. To find a place.
It was in the Owens family. I was the fourth child, the younger brother. We had a dresser in our bedroom. My older brother Tommy got the top two drawers. I got the bottom two drawers. I never thought of it being any other way. Younger brother, bottom two drawers. Older brother, top two drawers.
We each had a twin bed with patterned bed spreads. We each had a window to look out of on the second floor. Tommy could look out into the back yard and the huge oak tree right in the middle, then the white wooden fence that marked off the alley. I could look out at an angle and see the street and I especially liked the cast iron street lamp that twinkled through the leaves of the trees. There were lots of trees, elm trees and oak trees.The house was big and tall, but the trees towered over the house and formed a summer canopy of deep shade.
I was status conscious. I don’t know where I picked that up. I liked to think I thought it up myself, like it was my own invention. We were well off in St. Joe’s. St. Francis parish was even better off, as I already said. And going west you saw where the new houses were built, one story ranch houses in converted farm land, where there weren’t any big trees, just new planted little trees. I thoughy those were the poor people -- no trees, only one story in a house. Not poor like going hungry -- they had good clothes and good cars -- but they didn’t have big trees, mighty oaks and elm trees like a cathedral. That’s what we had. That’s what I could see looking out the window in the bedroom.
This story is about when I was ten, which was the pinnacle of boyhood, when the world changed, changed for the better and changed for the worse. But before that tenth year nothing had ever changed, not since I was born. I played, I watched TV, I went to school. We had really great food. My mother let me eat two big apples a day, in season. I could drink a coke on Friday. It was a pretty good arrangement all around in my neighborhood. The kids went to school and played. The moms were at home. The dads wore white shirts and left for the office every morning.
Nothing ever changed. I can say honestly that I did not know there was such a thing as change. Because it was always that way. Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn sometimes came for a visit. Uncle Ralph came too. They didn’t knock, they just opened the front door a small way and peeked their heads in and said “We’re here.” Then they walked into the living room and mom or dad came out to greet them.
Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn were spinsters. They never married. They didn’t have boy friends either. They lived together their whole lives. Older sisters to my mother. It was like having extra moms, although they were not the least bit maternal. Mom had to clean up messes. If you threw up, your mom had to clean it up. And mom did laundry. I put my clothes in the laundry chute, and the dirty clothes slid down the chute from the second floor down to the basement, where they piled up on the cool cement floor
Then, as if by magic, they appeared folded and cleaned in my dresser drawers. Not entirely by magic. I was dimly aware and even dimly grateful that my mom did this magical work. You could see her down in the basement doing stuff in the laundry room.
When I was small, she dried clothes on a clothesline in the back yard and in the basement when it was winter. But we got a drier before too long and she dried clothes in there.
My mom was generally in a good mood. She went about the house doing things, I didn’t pay too much attention to her except I noticed she didn’t walk too fast or walk too slow, or sit down for coffee or talk very long on the phone. Mostly she just kept moving. I bet there were a lot of things she did that I never noticed. And I wasn’t curious.
But it was always like that. So what made it change when I was ten?
thank you for reading this little excerpt, and see you next time,