In late April 2009, after days of rain, our neighborhood flooded during a heavy storm. Construction in our area had created vulnerabilities that had not existed in the area before by blocking natural run off and our home took in almost a foot of water. We woke up in time to move low lying books to higher ground, then huddled on the bed with two cats, my small suitcase (I had flown in from a singing job in Albany, New York that evening), and the vacuum cleaner. Don’t laugh… it was close at hand and I guess we thought we might need it to clean up, which was pretty ludicrous considering the amount of water about to inundate the house and both of our cars, which were totaled in the driveway.
Water reached the thresholds and rushed in from the front and back doors, streams running to meet each other like a parent and child reunited. Nick, our oldest cat, lost his customary coolness and control and lay smack dab in the middle of the bed with his head buried in a pillow. His younger sister Lisa, or Buki as we often call her, sat on the edge of the bed and watched things float from the other end of the house (including the food bowl). Those few days after the flood were the only time during Nick’s seventeen years that he willingly relinquished dominance to Buki. Two or three days later he would lovingly smack her in the face in the front yard, as if to say, “Okay, I’m back now.” Then he lay down with a paw on the water hose, just to make sure that all this wouldn’t happen again.
My husband and I decided we would do our own reconstruction rather than pay someone an insane amount of money to do it. In the process we learned so much about how a house is put together. Drywall, flooring, plumbing, electrical, tiling, you name it, we have probably done it, unless it involves natural gas lines and air conditioning and heating, which we hired out. The result of this process is that our house is now infinitely more our own than it was before the flood. I textured and painted all of the walls myself, and the shoebox kitchen is now open to the living room, with a window over a counter and a doorway near the backdoor. We designed tile counters, back splashes, tub surrounds and the new fireplace.
For the last year or so we have been renovating rather than reconstructing. It is no question that our home has improved vastly because of the destruction brought on by the flood. That isn’t to say that I would ever want to go through it again, but the storm created space, an opportunity to be creative which nourished us in some way and showed us things we didn’t know about ourselves. It is said that a home is a direct reflection of its owners; I certainly feel more colorful and individual than I did four years ago!