This holiday weekend’s theme for me was “it could have been worse.”
On Thanksgiving Day, I went to my mother-in-law’s house. She invited a couple of her friends from the North Shore. They experienced a little wind damage from Hurricane Sandy and had the inconvenience of having their lights and cable out, but it came back soon thereafter.
“Did you get hit?” one of the women said to me.
I told her my abbreviated version because I didn’t want to relive the entire experience. My first floor was gone and my cars were totaled.
“Well it could have been worse…” she said.
“Yes, it could have but it was bad enough,” I said and walked away. I didn’t want to be rude but I had heard this saying way too much during the past three weeks and every time I’d heard it, it had just got me upset.
The next day, I didn’t leave my house. Since the first floor is uninhabitable, the upstairs is a disaster with boxes everywhere. I started to go through the boxes and throw out stuff I really didn’t want to keep. Now that I have no storage and no shelving, I needed to decide what I was keeping and what I was going to discard.
I started with the photo albums. I had about 40 of them from the time I was a teenager through the time my kids went to elementary school. Once they got to middle school, digital cameras became prevalent and I started to store photos on the computer instead.
Out of these 40 albums I decided to toss photos I no longer wanted and keep the rest in small boxes that I could put up high in my closet (so that they wouldn’t get destroyed if another storm hits us).
It was emotional to look at these photos, all randomly placed in no particular order in these photo albums, as if time all happened at once.
That night we had two parties – a 50th birthday party for my sister’s boyfriend and a 60th birthday for a friend. At the first party, my sister’s friends came up to me telling me they were sorry for my loss and explaining how lucky they were during the storm. “Nothing happened to our home and we didn’t lose our cars,” they told me. “Someone was looking over us.”
I was getting frustrated, but I tried to control myself. (What? No one was looking over us???)
When I went to the second party, which was in Long Beach (a town that got hit badly), everyone had the look of depression on their faces. “It’s hard to overcome this,” said one of my friends at the party. “My business is suffering and it’s going to take this town millions of dollars to fix it up.”
“Hey Hilary,” another friend yelled from across the room. I walked over to him. “I had these guys staying at my home and they are looking for a place to crash to set up shop so that they could help people get back in their homes. Do you think you can help?” I told him I would try.
Another couple stopped me and said, “We were so lucky nothing happened to our home.” I smiled and moved on. Another friend told me that her basement got destroyed and in it were photographs of her mother who recently passed away and other family photos. “That was the worst part for me,” she confided.
“I was at my daughter’s house,” another friend told me, “and then my son’s and then my friend’s home. I’ve been shuffling around for weeks. I can’t get back in my house.”
Another friend approached me and told me about the foundation of his home. “Between the house and working 14-hour days, it’s killing me,” he said.
Another friend who had very little damage sat next to me. “Look, it could have been worse,” she said. “I know so many people who had their homes burned down and so many people who lost everything. You have to count your blessings,” she said.
Yes, it could have been worse but it doesn’t make me feel any better. It doesn’t make this town a happier place. It’s just frustrating that it happened and it is a loss for all of us no matter if we lost a carpet, a car, or our home. It was a loss and a loss, no matter how big or small, still hurts.