Those who know me well know we have moved – a lot. As a kid, I attended 3 elementary schools, a junior high and 1 high school – in different counties. Sigh. And that does not count the houses we moved around in, still staying in the same school district. From my birth until I moved out on my own after high school, we had lived in 7 homes. And since I moved out and went to college, going through roommates as they married, and then my husband and I moving around…I have lived in more than 40 places in my lifetime. Crazy as that sounds. My husband and I have been married 34 years and in that time we have lived in 10 homes. Can I say that I hate moving? I really hate it. And this house, when we were in the process of purchasing it, I nick-named it my “casket house” because I plan to move out of here in a box. A pine box. I cannot even fathom the idea of packing things up and going anywhere else. Truly.
This past Friday, we had a 7.2 earthquake here in Alaska. And five minutes later, 5 miles apart, a second one at 7.0 – so they say. All I can attest to is that it is, by far, the strongest earthquake I have experienced in my lifetime. And I grew up in Southern California. This was far worse than any I lived through there. The shaking and movement of the earth is so different. But this time, I did not even run around. I sat at my desk, as I was in the process of paying bills at the time it struck. I sat there, hanging on to my computer and a rather large statue of St. Rita I own. The artist who made it was a friend of ours and I have owned this statue for many years. This statue is about 3-feet tall and very heavy, made of plaster. Anyway, I clung to this statue and was praying out loud – “Lord, please stop this. Lord, please protect us. Lord, please stop the earth from shaking. Lord, forgive me my sins. St. Rita intercede for us!!!” On and on I lamented. It really seemed like an hour, but they say it was no longer than a minute or so. I could hear crashing sounds in the house as things fell and broke. As it slowed, and I was sure St. Rita was safe, I ran down the hallway to check on my slumbering son to be sure he and the dog were okay. The power flickered and went out. This was 8:30am. In Alaska, in November, it is pitch black at 8:30 in the morning. So I used my phone’s flashlight, as we made our way around the house, assessing damage.
The biggest loss was to a crystal bell collection I had. Over the years, I had quite a collection. But as we had kids, and their friends, we lost bell after bell to one accident or another. It was down to just a few. But one was my grandmother’s from New Zealand, one was my mom’s, and the smallest one was mine, received as a wedding gift. They fell. Hard. And shattered in our bathtub and all over my bathroom floor. I lost them all. And in the kitchen, my mom’s ginormous crystal vase fell off the top of the refrigerator. I thought it had shattered. I was so sad. It was older than me. And it was high quality crystal. But instead, the little pieces all over the floor were the crystal squares I used to stuff it to hold the lavender branches in place (decorative plastic, clear, tiny squares used in floral decoration). The other disaster was a bottle of walnut oil had tipped over and was slowly dripping between the stove and refrigerator. The dog was quick to help clean it up! LOL!
Oh, I found a 12-year-old bottle of Scotch had fallen, head first, into the trash can in the pantry but was safe; a few essential oil bottles toppled; some things in our linen closet fell to lower shelves; dishes in cupboards fallen over. But the biggest mess was sweeping up the glass and mopping up the oil. It was nothing. We were completely cleaned up in less than an hour. During that time we were in complete darkness. And the house started to get cold. Hot coffee had already been brewed, so we sat and drank hot coffee. It was unnerving to feel the many aftershocks. There have been, quite literally, over 1500 measurable aftershocks. Some have been in the 4s and 5s. It keeps you on edge. But all in all, we, personally, came through this event unscathed. But our state was not so lucky. Roads. bridges, stores, homes were left in heaps and piles of ruin and mess. The clean up will take months. Our new governor was sworn in today, but the biggest news is the highway was moving. We only have one main highway between Anchorage and the Palmer/Wasilla area and thousands upon thousands of people use it every day. And part of it was missing and some of the bridges and on/off ramps fell off. Seriously. They fell off. There are holes in roads that are wider than my house.
We felt so blessed, and so on Saturday, we met with some dear friends for coffee, catching up (including hugs and lamenting over the damages, and thanking the little restaurant we were in for being open!!), and then we chose to go home and decorate for Christmas. Our kids and grandkids had far more damage to their home, losing light fixtures and their refrigerator (luckily we do live in Alaska and food can just be put out in the snow) and lots of other things. More importantly, their nerves were frayed, and so they came over to decorate our tree and let the kids run around and have a giggling time at grandma and grandpa’s house. It was heaven. Everyone had a short escape into normalcy, ignoring the details of the disaster facing us all. Decisions to be made; actions to be taken; things to repair and clean up. But for a couple of hours, kids running around grandma and grandpa’s house, climbing step ladders and finding some Christmas Joy.
Do I care all the ornaments are in the range of where a 5- and 7-year-old can hang them? I could care less. Blank spots are actually a reminder of who helped decorate my tree and I have found myself just smiling at how some ornaments are bunched together, next to a hole where there are none. It brings me more joy and peace, at a time when we all need it. The fact that this year we had planned to use all our old ornaments was perfect because my grandchildren hung ornaments their dads had once helped me hang up. How cool is that? We laughed a lot. Their dad, our oldest son, played pranks on me, by helping his son hide matchbox cars in the branches. They thought they were so funny. LOL. And we let them play with our unbreakable Nativity sets. It was so fun. It is the sort of holiday afternoon my husband and I fantasized about when we moved up here, to be closer to our son and his family. My husband remarked that out of a disaster like this earthquake, came the blessing of grandchildren’s laughter, joy, and boundless energy. We are blessed.
We hunted and we hunted for my international Santa collection. We wanted our grandkids to see them all. We tore apart boxes in our garage even today. We cannot find it anywhere. Thanks be to God I save all my Jim Shore Santas in their boxes. Because I have all but one of those. I am missing a Jim Shore collectible a friend gave me. Ironically, I have the box, but not the statue that should be in it. And that is where I come back around to moving. I have realized I am missing quite a few things that I have had over the past 34 years of marriage. And today we tore apart the garage, looking and looking, but not finding. And it made my heart contract just a little bit. My sons used to tease me about my Santa collection. But for me, it was a reaffirmation of the gift of Christ. His presence in our lives in the lives of His saints. Trust me; St. Nicolas has interceded for us more than once on this journey of parenthood!! And I lament that I cannot share them with my grandchildren. But that is me; not them.
It is one of the reasons I am done moving. Parts of my life are scattered across three states, in boxes lost along the way. And I am done with it. But on the other hand, I have learned to be less attached to my things. Am I sad about the last of my crystal bells? Yes, I am. Am I sad about my Santa collection? Very much so. But I have friends who lost far more in the mere minutes of the earth shaking this past Friday. Some friends are actually just throwing entire rooms full of broken things away. Several are planning to vacate the state, because this undid their nerves. So many are still sweeping, sorting, throwing broken parts of their lives away. And they are done. Still others are seeking emotional/psychological counseling, because they are having a hard time handling this. And I sit here, looking at my beautiful tree, and I count my blessings. I know the Lord has watched over every step we have taken in our lives, bringing us to live in this exact spot. And He watched over us on Friday, and He watches over us every moment. Maybe someone else needed my Santas in their life. Maybe I need to be detached from my things so I can help others with perspective and remain calm in the chaos. All I know is on Friday, while the earth shook quite hard, I felt peace; I felt safe; I felt loved; and I felt God in control – not me. And now we clean up the mess, and we move forward. Without some of our things, whether they are shattered on the floor or lost in a U-Haul truck somewhere across America.