A tsunami warning evacuation makes what is important very, very clear.
When you’re preparing to leave a house that you may never see again, even your favorite jeans or your movie collection is something you can definitely live without.
One toothbrush can be enough. Apples suddenly seem like a delicious luxury. All the diapers in the house are necessary.
I prepared myself to lose a life’s worth of pictures, memorabilia, wardrobe, books, music, and whatever forgotten Christmas wrapping paper lurks in our closets. The idea that we might be starting over from scratch actually didn’t sound horrible in that moment. I filled the car with practicality instead of sentiment.
Just in case it was just a small flood of water, I picked the computer up off the floor and put it on the table. I looked through my bottom shelf, filled with cookbooks, and picked out The Joy of Cooking, Momofuku, Baking Illustrated, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Dorie’s book, Baked, and Veganomicon and put them up higher too. I’m a materialist cook. What can I say.
We loaded the kids in last. Our most important things. The things we love.
After parking up on higher ground towards the mountains, I listened to the radio in the dark and felt a strange kinship with the people who called in to the station asking the same dumb questions, the kind you want someone else to ask. We heard updates of what had happened in Japan and we all held our breaths when the time of the first tsunami was supposed to hit. I felt part of a strange network of stress and relief through those airwaves.
If you’ve lived on the island your whole life, like my husband has, you have a certain bit of skepticism for all the work that goes into preparing to evacuate. No evacuation has ever turned out necessary, in his lifetime. After the first wave did not hit, there were people heading back down to town and even walking along the beaches. Waves actually increased in size in different areas along the island chain over the next several hours, but it didn’t hit in our bay. Since the word ‘Tsunami’ still has shock value for me, I waited until scientists told me that the worst was most likely over. I don’t put that kind of authority in my own instincts. I’m ok with being wrong in this case. Give me a few more false alarms and you can save me from my own apathy.
When the sun came up we stretched out of the car and ate chocolate granola bars and string cheese. The kids were happy to see the morning.
We lost sleep, time, and a good deal of patience.
The waves that hit our island were a nuisance instead of life threatening.
We had hours of advance notice.
We were together.
We are lucky.
I already told Jake, he is not allowed to go surfing today.
I don’t care if the waves are epic.