Saturday, September 17, 2011

After the Flood

Like many New Jerseyans, our house took some direct hits from Irene and Lee. After living with a completely dry, finished basement for the last 12 years, this time, it flooded twice and then our ceiling leaked, and our finished basement became finished in the other sense of the word. As in, kaput. Granted, we didn't suffer one iota as much as the folks in the hardest hits parts of the state, like Cranford (see Eileen's post, below) or Paterson. My heart goes out to the people in those areas, and, considering the complete devastation of their homes and belongings, I can't really complain. Relatively speaking, losing our basement wasn't so bad.

Still, I lost something in the flood that, as a writer of children's books, makes me awfully sad. I lost most of my longstanding collection of children's books. I have...make that, had...hundreds, maybe thousands of books. I'd been collecting them for decades, since I was a kid. My own kids have added reams of new titles to that collection every year. Three days post-storm, I got home from being stranded in Colorado to find them soaking wet and soiled, ruined. I'm not talking about them being ruined by the clear, Poland Springs-kind of water, I'm talking about the brown, smelly, yucky kind. These books clearly had to be tossed.

So lately, I've been throwing out everything from Rick Riordan to Carolyn Keene. So long, Caps for Sale. Nice reading you, Polar Express. Unwind, Artemis Fowl, The Thief Lord, all gone.

It is a drag. On the other hand, ruined book collections can be rebuilt, for the most part. As for ruined homes and lives, it's not so easy. My thoughts turn to those folks now. I wish them all a speedy recovery, and lots of financial aid from FEMA!

Paper Waiters, did Irene and/or Lee affect any of you, too, from a children's book writer's perspective?


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your books! The first time our basement flooded, during a hurricane a year ago, all of my son's wooden trains were destroyed. For some reason I found this more devastating than the destruction of our carpeting, the hours of cleanup we had to attempt on our own, or the financial burden of re-flooring our basement.

    I live south of Baltimore, along the Chesapeake Bay. We were hit hard by Irene, and the basement indeed leaked. We lost more toys, but it wasn't too bad. We told each other that we were lucky.

    Then, on September 6, when I was 37 weeks pregnant, my husband took me to the hospital because I'd been having terrible headaches. They did bloodwork and decided to deliver the baby immediately, because I have a history of preeclampsia. (I'll spare you the details.) My baby was born healthy and perfect, and my husband was able to spend the night with me in the hospital.

    Then, the next day, Lee hit. The following morning, my husband woke up to a MORE flooded basement than we'd encountered during Irene. He spent four days sucking water up in a shop vac -- just to have MORE water pour into the house a few hours later, as another band of storms came through. After witnessing the birth of his third son, my husband didn't get to see him for another four days, when I was released from the hospital.

    And I had to bring a newborn baby into a house that reeked of mildew.

    My husband and my father-in-law spent the entire weekend cleaning out what was left in the basement, scrubbing walls, sucking up water, and spreading baking soda everywhere. The basement is finally clean. The stench is gone.

    I still think we're lucky. We have each other, we have our health, we have a perfect newborn son.

    But I'm pretty damn sick of rain. :-)

  2. I had no power, no phone, no internet -- ranging from two days for power to five days for phone/internet.

    And I had my sister staying with me.

    So it definitely bit into my writing time, when I so much wanted to write.

    But -- and I totally mean this -- I can't complain.

  3. We were lucky. We had a finished basement too -- now kaput as you say. Because the power had been out for so long, we checked and found the carpet floating at 5 a.m. In a panic we ferried things upstairs, and were able to save the important stuff, like old photo albums (including our wedding -- very pre-digital!) that I had stacked on the floor.

    I'm so sorry about your books -- I also have an extensive collection of children's books and it would be heartbreaking to lose them.

    Mostly I lost a week of potential writing time cleaning up. But I did get to know to my neighbors little better, as we all stood outside, waiting our turn for the fire department to pump us out, and sharing news about available generators, mildew strategies, etc. And the basement is certainly less cluttered. In the best light, I hope I have gained some insight into a difficult situation that I can use my writing.

    Still praying and wishing the best to everyone who was seriously affected.

  4. Hi Brigid: Wow, what a story. First, congrats on your new baby boy! Second, we have something in common. My first son was born right after Tropical Storm Floyd hit, 12 years ago, so I brought him home to a flood-ravaged house, too. Makes for twice the fun, don't it?

    J.A.: Welcome back to the blogosphere. I'm glad to hear you're up and running again. You're not the only Paper Waiter who lost power--maybe that's why they haven't posted lately!

    Julie: I love how you see the bright side of the storm. I, on the other hand, know my neighbors all too well already.

    Best to all, and happy cleanup!

  5. We spent Irene in a 90 yr. old cottage/house on the ocean in Maine. During the height of the storm, the house creaked, groaned and seemed to shift in an alarming manner, but it came through okay. The surf was pretty amazing. I concentrated on doing a puzzle - too nervous and scared to read. Who knows? Maybe the experience stirred my emotions enough to set me off on a writing binge days later.

    At home, we were incredibly lucky - our neighbors checked our (unfinished) basement almost daily and all we had were small puddles around the edges in spite of four days without power and the sump pump not working.

    I did lose a couple of expensive perennials I had just planted, they were drowned, but that's nothing compared to the loss of precious childhood possessions and facing a nasty, smelly clean-up.