I started cooking first thing in the morning – something I don't do, ever. I cleaned the house, made the beds in all the rooms, put away all the toys around the house and in my son’s room, and cleared the odds and ends that were piling up around the house. I did the laundry. I cleared the dirty dishes in the kitchen and ran the dishwasher. I dusted, scrubbed, and mopped. I was waiting, getting my cocoon ready.
Then, I tackled a pile of loose receipts, assorted letters, statements from banks, mutual funds, and credit card companies, tearing up and throwing away most of them and saving a few for the tax folder. I wondered about my ability to prioritize. Is that what I should really be doing now? I gathered our passports, birth certificates, marriage license, insurance papers, and whatever receipts I could find for all of the items around the house, and put them all in a plastic bag.
I sat down to catch my breath. It wasn't even 9am yet.
A couple of days earlier, I had taken photographs of the exterior of the house. Now, I took photographs of the interior. Then I continued cooking, simultaneously making chapattis and boiling water for pasta for my son. Chapattis would last for a couple of days without refrigeration. My son and I then went upstairs, loaded batteries in all our flashlights and the boom box. I pulled out the water bottles and the canned food (remnants of the last elevation of the terror alert a few months earlier) I had stored in a closet upstairs. I lowered the temperature in the refrigerator and the freezer to the coldest setting.
I turned the TV on to see what was in store for the night. I made myself some tea and read the newspaper. Unable to concentrate, halfway into the tea, I headed back upstairs. All my photo albums were in the fourth bedroom that we had converted into a study. Just a few months ago, it had taken me two whole weeks to sort, chronologically organize, and insert 13 years' worth of photographs into albums. All the negatives and the new-fangled photo CDs had gone into a cardboard box that was perfect for the purpose.
I dumped all of the toys out of a plastic tote in my son's room into a basket and carried the tote into the study. I arranged the photo albums and the box with the negatives and the CDs in the tote and lugged it two floors down into a cedar closet (that’s used to store seasonal clothes and unused suitcases) in the basement. Of all the things in the house, those were the items I regarded as the most precious. I was worried more about possible tornadoes that night than I was about flooding.