Life During Stormtime

(Originally published on MOLI 8/19/8)

Yesterday was supposed to be my son’s first day of kindergarten — a banner day in any parent’s lifetime (even if their child already has three years of Montessori under his belt). But Cole’s other mother — Nature — had different plans. Tropical Storm Fay has delayed his entree into public schol by two days so far. It’s so Florida, I have to laugh.

Of course, he and the 599,999 other South Florida kids affected are delighted — while their parents, many of whom still have to work, struggle to find child care. At least most households have not lost their power. I’m sure an inordinate number of Dade and Broward youths have been sucking in an ungodly amount of MTV and the Disney channel. Thank goddess for the Olympics, which gave us something new to watch together as a family last night, curled together on the bed, eating popcorn — until the rain knocked out our satellite receiver, doh!

Ever since I watched one of the first gusts of Wilma topple the majestic avocado tree in our backyard, I’ve loathed hurricanes. The tree was the soul of our backyard, which is in turn the jewel of our house. Its bountiful fruit, as sweet and buttery as chocolate, were the envy of our neighborhood, with whom we always shared. We built our pool around its base, in an elegant kidney shape; I even picked out coping tiles to match the luscious, dark green of its leaves and peels (which, come to think of it, is a similar shade to the background of my MOLI profile). When it fell, my heart broke.

The tree landed in the power lines, miraculously not taking them down. We were able to free it, pull it back up, retie it, and bury its roots. It survived. It yielded no crop in ’06, a small one in ’07, and this year, it has been full of fruit again.

Yesterday my husband tied it to a ponytail and palm: trees helping trees. Fay has been long and strong, but not nearly as fierce as Wilma. Wilma turned our island into Venice, with storm surge creating a river mere feet from our front door, and tore down scores of trees. A picture of an apartment building a mile away, across from the public school that someday — tomorrow? — Cole will attend, with curtains and shades fulttering from its punched-out windows, was the cover of The Miami Herald the day after Wilma. It has taken three hurricane-free years for our neighborhood to begin to look something like it did before that storm-filled year — although there are still holes in the sky where trees once stood, and for-sale signs in a neighborhood where property values had been shooting upward.

Yesterday I ventured to Collins Avenue, next to the ocean. When I tried to leave the Walgreen’s, an outburst had turned the street into a wind tunnel. Sheets of rain were blowing sideways. I was stuck. Eventually, I ventured out and pushed my way through the horizontal water. The wind whipped the car door from my hands and it was all I could do to pull it shut. The old man in the car in front of me gave up on his door, letting it fly open as he ducked into the store, undoubtedly to pick up some necessary prescription, like heart medicine.

Palm fronds littered the streets on the drive home, and a street sign lay fallen. Even the young man carrying a surfboard took shelter behind a building. (In a Herald photograph, a cop explains to one man why he can’t wakeboard in the street.)

The pool is full of leaves and roiling as if Michael Phelps were cutting a swath through it. Out front, the bougainvillea and palms against our front fence are a dangerous wind-whipped gauntlet for anyone venturing down the sidewalk. Me, I’d walk down the middle of the street. But the tree stands tall and amazingly, we don’t seem to have even lost that many avocados.

If you want a glimpse of Fay in Miami, our friends at Shake-A-Leg have baycams at their website. It’s been a comparatively mild storm. And honestly, having just returned from vacation, Cole and I needed the extra days to get prepped for school. But we’re ready now. Can the wind please stop?

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