The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Where have I been?

It's been almost exactly a month since I last posted.

I have not dropped off the face of the earth, nor have I lost interest in sewing, or talking about sewing, or ranting about sewing. I do, however, have a good excuse (for once!) for not posting.

In general, I try to mostly keep this blog on topic. Sites that are supposed to be about a certain subject and then devolve into nothing but chit-chat on the author's daily life bother me. There isn't anything wrong about chit-chat on the author's life, but I feel cheated, because the site promised one thing and delivered another.

There are some things, though, that feel so momentous to the author of this site (me), that I can't seem to keep my thoughts from drifting back to them. (Or taking almost 4 straight weeks off of posting a single word.) So while you may not have any need of reading what I'm about to talk about (it's not about sewing, and you may not care where I've been), I'm going to write about it anyway. (But, don't worry, it's not about the finds on my latest shopping trip or a cute thing my pet did this morning. Slightly more momentous than that.)

I live in the north-eastern part of the U.S. In late June, there was severe flooding (the rivers crested on June 28th). The peculiar thing was that it was flooding the highly affected the rivers, but not so much the creeks and brooks. Living out in the middle of nowhere, we saw our local brook rise considerably, but nothing out of the ordinary. I've seen the brook higher during spring melt-off, when all of our snow turns to water and runs off. The rivers, on the other hand, rose to the point they were beyond any sort of control; they spilled over flood-walls and ruined houses that were no where near the flood-plains of the river.

So, in the beginning, it didn't really affect me. I was still high and dry, and I rarely come out of the middle of nowhere to the beginnings of somewhere. About two weeks after the flood, however, things started to change. We were contacted, asking if we would be willing to volunteer in the clean-up after the flood.

Having never experienced a flood first hand, the first reaction we had was "What? It isn't all cleaned up already? It's been two weeks!" No, it is not all cleaned up. And in the beginning there were a lot of volunteers, but they had dropped off dramatically. Some of that was probably due to the fact that most people do tend to stop thinking about disasters after the first two weeks (unless it directly effects them), and part of it was due to the volunteers they did have burning out.

So on July 18th, a small crew of family and friends took the half-hour trek out. We made it clear we didn't want the easy jobs--it would be much easier for them (the church organizing the clean-up) to find people willing to do the easy jobs. If we were coming all the way out to help, we wanted to help the people who needed it the most. The dispatch ladies took us at our word; we asked for hard jobs, and we got hard jobs.

And who is we? Mostly girls and children (that is, people under the age of 18--the youngest we ever took was 11). My 4-years-older-than-me brother was the only man in our crew on the first day. Other than him, there was me, two other girls, and 12-year old boy.

And what is a hard job? Moving water-logged furniture out of a finished basement, with no direct opening to the outside. Including a table, couch, several easy chairs, a pool table, an ancient freezer and all the carpeting.

All in all, the 85-year-old widow we were helping didn't really think we'd get much done, as everything would need "a group of men" to get it out. Needless to say, she was pleasantly shocked when we did get it all out--and tore out all the ruined wooden paneling besides--by 6 pm. Never underestimate a good work ethic and a determination to get things done (also known as a good dose of pig-headedness). The pool table came up in pieces (my brother "disassembled" it with a circular saw and a sledgehammer). The freezer also came up--my brother harnessed it up with a strap; he pushed, we pulled, and up the stairs it went. The rest of the furniture was carried up between me and my brother. The soggy carpet (in some places you could pretend it just smelled like river mud, but in other places it smelled distinctly of sewage. Joy.) we sliced, rolled up, hooked the strap around it, and hauled away. Hard work, to be sure, but doable.

After that, we usually managed a crew of about 10 people, but it was still mostly young women or children. Sometimes we'd have an extra man or two (besides my 4-years-older-than-me brother), but we were never a, shall we say, physically imposing crew. We worked Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the first week, and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the second week. Over those six long days, I have accumulated a lot of stories--sad stories, that make you want to cry, stories so gross it would make you want to gag, even a few funny stories. (If you ask, I'm sure I could be easily persuaded to tell a few.)

But mostly, we worked. The dispatch ladies were very good at finding the place in the most need and/or the most work--usually both. After the widow at the first house had stated nothing could be done without a group of men, we joked that we had all been made into men. It doesn't take a genius to see that we were only joking, though. My brother was a man, and he could bounce back easily. We weren't men, and there were bound to be consequences, even if we could do the work.

The last Wednesday that we went out, we had a crew of 13 people--All of whom, besides my older brother, were young women or children. We got to the house at 9:30 in the morning, and took about an hour off for lunch. By 3:30 pm, we had moved 5 dump-trucks worth of trash out of the house. We know, because we stood around and gawked when the road crew came by to pick it, and counted how many trucks they filled.

I slept for almost all of Thursday.

My body had held up for the work before--sure, there had been the odd dream or two, but I was able to do the work each day. But now, my whole system crashed. I lost almost all appetite--on Friday I ate a small bowl of Cheerios for breakfast, no lunch, half of a large apple for afternoon snack, and only a small amount of dinner; each time, I felt full. I couldn't get anything done, I kept staring into space.

This persisted throughout the weekend, but by Monday, I was ready to work again, and we went one last time. We almost might have not bothered; the second half of our crew was also exhausted (they didn't sleep all of Thursday, or perhaps they might have had a bit more energy), and what had been easy to do on the first day had become quite difficult by July 31st. (My older brother, annoyingly, had bounced right back, and didn't get what was up with all these tired people.) Many people couldn't focus. We still put in a day, but it was a day of light work: we tore out some walls and ripped up some floors. We did the work, but it was clear this was our last day.

That was Monday. Now it's Friday. I have been trying to get caught up a little bit on some of the things that piled up while I was otherwise occupied. On Thursday I helped some neighbor's get their hay into the barn (everyone's been quite delayed in getting their hay made, due to the frequent down-pours), and I seemed to have all of my strength back. So I have bounced back, if not as quickly as some people, and I do hope to post more soon, if possible. I know you're all on the edges of your seats.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you're back. And kudos to you for your community service!

9:02 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Glad I'm back, too! I really do have another post half-finished, but I can't ever seem to get more than a paragraph done at a time, which frustrates me to no end.

7:45 AM  

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