« Previous  
 Next »

Labun Jordan: Flood Loss

08/31/11 7:55AM By Helen Labun Jordan
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) In the midst of news reports on the hardest hit regions post-Irene, Commentator Helen Labun Jordan is thinking of the most common flooding experience; the loss of personal property that held sentimental, not monetary, value.

(LABUN JORDAN) As Vermonters tally the impact of this weekend's flood, I'm lucky. My only list is of the food I made with friends from a backyard harvest we collected as the storm arrived  then turned into pesto, salsa, elderberry juice and crab apple liqueur.

I wasn't so lucky in last spring's flash floods. Then I shared with my friends the common post-storm accounting of property lost. It began like this:

"I now realize why it's a bad idea to make up for failed housecleaning in the moments before a party by dumping all stray items into boxes and stashing them out of sight in the basement. The fact of the matter is: basements flood. And sometimes they flood before you remember to reclaim the things you've hidden down there."

Unfortunately, that basement was also filled with the last of the unpacked boxes from my old house, the ones that held my life in artifacts from babyhood to college.

I lost my diplomas but not my Princeton Beer Jacket, thank goodness. I lost the little books my mother made from cardboard & wall paper samples before I learned to write, she'd take dictation as I told about the adventures of my teddy bear and then I'd scribble in the illustrations. Later I became my own scribe. I found one story labeled as written by my sister and edited by me; based on memories from that time I have to assume the editing process involved a great deal of hair pulling and some amount of biting. There was the playbill from La Cebolla - a musical about onions written and performed by a group of Newbury kids had composed and performed one summer; a treasure box I'd filled with willow buds back when I believed their soft shells were unicorn's fur caught on a tree; the board game Piggy that I'd invented after reading Interstellar Pig, neatly folded into a game box alongside the typewritten letters I'd sent looking for a publisher. More things than I had ever realized that I cared about were gone underwater.

I wished I'd insured against this loss - at least some of the papers could have been saved with a simple digital back up. Later, a colleague who had actually made an online archive of family mementos, warned that it's a good instinct, but months of tedious cataloging quickly taught him just how much more important it is to enjoy the moment. The sad side of this truism is that there's also no such thing as a foolproof archive; some moments are simply gone once they've happened.

My experience was with the most common flood loss: property whose value lay in the memories it held. And I learned that sentimental things are still just things . . . the difference is that we replace them through creating new moments to value, even as records of past ones disappear. Today I'm so fortunate that my memories include being safe from the storm, plucking basil leaves at the kitchen table while the rain fell outside.


comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter