The Common Good

Darth Vader Goes Swimming and Clarity Floods In

We joined the flood club this weekend. I've heard rumors about this group of people before. The ones with carpet rolled up at the curb, couches that became sponges, and boxes of keepsakes no longer to be kept. The folks for whom words like mildew and mold send shivers and nasty smells all about the house.

I confess that for the first 37 years of my little life we never experienced a flood. From my childhood home to a condo in Denver nothing we owned ever floated unless it was designed to do so. Then came this past Saturday morning when 7 inches of rain came down in less than 24 hours; when sewers backed up into my basement; when the local pool overflowed, all the major intersections in my community were submerged; and when I opened up the basement door to see my dear husband in his hip waders trying to get a pump to work. He was up to his knees in water, surrounded by a swirling mess of toys, art supplies, light sabers, and hockey gear. I was still half asleep.

At that moment I had grossly underestimated how much work it would be to clean off and remove all our stuff from the basement -- 75 percent of my children's toys, dress up costumes, all our camping gear, tools, skis, ski boots, snowboards, carpet, couches -- all of it soaking wet with sewer water. Honestly, the first moment I saw it all, it looked sort of cool.

My kids asked if this meant we could go swimming, and they tried to determine if the water would be over their heads. It got even better as later that day the traffic diverted from places all over town ended up on our block. Semi-trucks to view all day long. I ushered my kids back upstairs and began to take stock of what my weekend would become.

My back aches, my voice is hoarse, and it smells like rainwater and cat pee in my house. But the upside, once again, is a reminder about my stuff and how much of it I have and how much I don't want or need. Part of me just wanted to throw it all away, but that would mean I would have to become highly creative as a parent and make up games and all sorts of cool things like that rather than just tell my kids to play with their toys ... and as I fought back a few tears when I tore open the sagging box of Christmas ornaments, and the bin that held the gloves I wore at my wedding (to which my husband shrugged and paused with a blank look, as if to say "you wore gloves that day?"), I was reminded of how ridiculous all my fretting can be.

There was a better moment, when my 4-year-old told me how cool this whole flood was because it meant Darth Vader could now go swimming. All our Star Wars toys were in the basement. The Dark Side was taking a dip. Optimism at its finest. So I smiled at him with my tired face and aching back and thought indeed, Darth Vader could now go swimming. All was right in the world. My kids by my side, the hubby on the driveway sopping up water, our toys floating all around. Who cares, right? Darth Vader is on holiday. May the Force be with you.

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.

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