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Monday, July 1, 2013

All I Really Need


A few weeks ago, I was alone at home with my three dogs when the weather abruptly began to change. I stepped outside and looked to the skies, unease skittering down my spine. A dark bank of clouds rapidly skirted across the sky, blocking out the sunlight and turning the late afternoon to a false twilight.
Wind rattled the trees and kicked up little whitecaps on the lake, and the air temperature noticeably dropped as the first raindrops hit the ground. Behind me, the dogs fussed and wined, dancing back and forth in front of the door.
I wasn’t quite worried yet—it is summer in North Carolina after all, and we know a thing or two about thunderstorms.  I took a few minutes to hurriedly secure the furniture on the dock, to tuck away a few gardening tools, and to tip over the wheelbarrow so it didn’t turn into a birdbath. But as I brushed off my hands and started to head inside, a sound arose that stopped me in my tracks.
The tornado sirens.
I have lived in my neighborhood for eight years now, and I have never once heard those sirens outside of the once a year scheduled drill.  Now, as they wailed into the growing darkness, dread pooled in my stomach and I raced to the house.  There, I grabbed my computer, my purse, and a lantern and herded the dogs into the basement.
The reality of the moment hit me as I watched the unsettled skies churn through the basement windows. What if this really did happen? Did I have everything I needed? No—I needed a few more things. I was dressed in a tattered denim dress from high school that only came out when the doors were locked and there was no threat of company. It was sleeveless and short—was this what I wanted to be stuck wearing if everything else was destroyed? And my flip flops would be treacherous if I had to navigate a debris field.
After another look at the skies and a moment of listening for anything unusual, I sprinted back up the stairs. Once in my closet, I snagged my tennis shoes, a pair of jeans, and a sturdy t-shirt.  I started to leave when I thought about the possibility of  being wet and cold if anything went drastically wrong. So I grabbed a hoodie. But right next to it was a pretty, lightweight gold cardigan that may be a comfort if I had nothing else. And the sleeveless navy and white polka-dot top that goes with it was hanging nearby, so I snagged that too. Oh, and yoga pants were a must—I couldn’t sleep in jeans, if worse came to worse! With the sirens still ringing the alarm and with my arms now laden with appropriate clothing, I grabbed my favorite coral flats (they don’t sell them anymore!) and dashed back down the stairs.  
When I hit the main floor, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be without food in the event of an emergency. Bundling the clothes and shoes in a big ball in one arm, I quickly added bread, peanut butter and jelly, and the new box of This Bar Saves Lives granola bars to the stash. Oh, but there wasn’t any water in the basement! A water bottle got tucked beneath my chin.
As I lumbered toward the basement doors, struggling not to drop anything, I spotted my photo album from childhood, filled with all the irreplaceable Kodak moments of yesteryear. Biting my lip as I peered out the living room windows at the angry heavens, I shifted my armload of stuff until I could grasp the album between my elbow and ribs.
As I struggled down the stairs with the things I would need to start a new life, a certain scene from a certain Steve Martin movie suddenly came to mind. And then it hit me: Oh God—I was The Jerk!
"Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this. [picks up an ashtray] That's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp. - The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all *I* need. And that's *all* I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one... I need this. - The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I'm some kind of a jerk or something! - And this. That's all I need.
[walking outside]
The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair. And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.
[dog growls at him]
I don't need my dog."
So yeah – I totally failed the emergency response drill. Thank goodness all ended up being well, though a tornado was spotted 5 miles north of me. In the future, I’ll remember that all I need is my healthy self and the dogs. And my computer. And those coral flats.
SO what would YOU grab if your house were about to be destroyed? And be honest – I can’t be the only one who wanted a PB&J!

23 comments:

  1. We had a chimney fire here a few years ago, and I had a similar experience. I grabbed the kids and the cat and stashed them safely outside. It was night, and few days before Christmas. (Youngest promptly climbed a tree and stayed there, having a grand time directing all the firemen)

    When I went back I grabbed my laptop, some pictures and all the scrapbooks and photo albums I could. Valiant Husband very wisely grabbed the dirty clothes hampers from everyone's rooms. Then, because it was Christmas and the kids were still young, I grabbed up a few of their Christmas presents. I remembered to grab my purse.

    I stood outside, watching the fireman tramp through the house and thought the same exact phrase, This is all I really need.

    It was a strange experience.

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    1. Very clever of Valiant Husband to grab the hampers! Dreadful timing (Christmas!), but thank goodness everyone was all right!

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  2. It's very scary. My high-rise building caught on fire in 1994. Before 9/11 it was the largest fire in NYC history-26 alarms. It happened at 4am and we woke to breaking glass. We took nothing except my 22 month old daughter and our cat, who I had to coax out from under our bed ans she was scared to death! We then ran down 16 flights with our cat in an athletic bag and holding our daughter. I just took my handbag and my husband took his wallet, That's it.
    We lost everything. Eight apartments were burned out and ours was one of them. We didn't get back in for 18 months. It was horrible.

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    1. 26 alarm?!?! Oh my goodness, Nancy - how horrible and terrifying! I'm so relieved that your little family was okay. I can't imagine how difficult that time must have been for you. I'm glad you pulled through, and it probably helped to really define the priorities in your life.

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  3. I'm pretty sure that I would grab my cats, my laptop, my keys, and my purse. Other than that, if there was time, I'd grab extra clothes and shoes. Most of my pictures are digital these days so I wouldn't worry about that. But...I guess we'll wait and see. Lol. I will not be grabbing peanut butter though. Yuck!

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    1. I am glad to say our wedding pictures are safe and sound in our safe, BUT I think its time to scan those puppies!

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  4. I shudder at even the thought of tornado or fire!!! I have too many books... that would be what I'd mourn the most of the material stuff... but as long as I could save my 3 dogs, the BF, purse and Kindle, I'd be ok... as much as it would pain me, everything else is replaceable. But I'd still be doing a mad dash to save what I could! (as long as it was safe)

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    1. Yes, mad dash is exactly where I ended up at in this, lol. But yes, all that *really* matters is our loved ones. After that, the purse/wallet are great, as are computers.

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  5. Since we live in an area that has many tornadoes, I've thought this through. What would I grab if I had minutes-my kids, my wallet, my computer, a flashlight, weather radio, cell phone, matches, first aid kit and water. These are the things I need to survive and to keep going after we sift through all the debris. Everything else can be replaced right down to my favorite pair of yoga pants, lol. The pictures would be nice but the memories are what has made me who I am so they'll always be with me. Oh, and I'm assuming my husband is right behind me!

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    1. Matches - man, I don't think I even have those anywhere in my house! Since I never use candles, I never think about it, but that'd be super helpful in a catastrophic situation.

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  6. My husband and my kitties. Forget the rest of it. Not worth it.

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  7. We recently had weather where I was waiting for the sirens to go off. I was trying to figure out how to carry 3 laptops and two external hard drives, along with my phone and MP3 player, and purse, all downstairs in a rush by myself. Spotted a collapsible fabric box that is pretty much perfect laptop size and I felt much, much better after that, lol. That box is STAYING right where it is.

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    1. I had a similar thought that a lightweight carryall would have been super helpful. I may stash a few of them around the house after this!

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  8. Erin
    You crack me up! I thought this post was going uber serious and I was so worried for what could have happened and there you go, get me laughing at this whole visual! I swear he brought his thermos in The Jerk...I digress! Other than my son who I did Cram under the stairs with in a particularly violent NC thunderstorm, convinced a tornado would tear down our home, I would grab my laptop....I know, I know...what about my emergency kit?! I just remember last time I had my son, laptop, and phone.

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    1. We used to have an emergency kit, but it got lost in one of the moves. I should probably get one packed and ready!

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  9. I did this a few years ago. Horrible storms and tornadoes came through (one close town was hit by 2 different tornadoes back to back). That is also the first time my neighborhood was actually mentioned in the alert as being in the path of the tornado so it was kinda scary. I turned the TV real loud so I could hear it from the other room and hoped the power wasn't knocked out and huddled in the laundry room with my son with pillows and thick blankets around us. We had our tennis shoes on, comfy clothing, cell phones, and my flash drives that hold anything from pictures to novels to works in progress to family recipes, and the dog. The cats scattered and I don't know where they were hiding in the house. The two of us couldn't have wrangled the four animals alone, especially when one cat hates the rest of the animals. Luckily the tornado died out before it got to us.

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    1. Man, our old cats were NEVER cooperative. The dogs are more than happy to listen to mom, but the cats wanted nothing to do with my frantic escape to the basement. I always worried they would get hurt in a situation like this!

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  10. I am the type of person that often lives in disorganized chaos, but if a strong storm were to hit all I would need to do is grab my backpack from the closet. The back pack is contains backed up copies of all of my photos on 5 different flash drives including photos of my childhood and all the way to back to great grandparents(I spent months scanning every photo I own), a change of clothes, pj's, toiletries,and a book, and $50 cash. I would then grab my trinket box off the shelf along with the cross from my grandmother's funeral. Last but not least I'd grab my lap top and pets and head for the hills.

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    1. Wowza - now that's organized! Way to be on top of things. We have one of those big ol safes bolted to the foundation, and I have my Time Machine backups in there, sealed in plastic in case of water, and wrapped in cotton in case a fire melts the plastic.
      At least I have internet backups of all my novels and writing stuff, but I need to work on the pictures, too!

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  11. I'd grab my kids, hubby, & pets. I figure everything else can be replaced eventually. Since I have all my writing & photos backed up in a safe place, I wouldn't worry too much about my laptop. But if it was close, I'd grab it too.

    Someone pulled the alarm and ran through the hallway discharging the fire extinguisher in the middle of the night when we were in New Orleans. I thought there was a real fire, because the hallway looked smokey. That time I grabbed everything in the safe - keys, phone, money, IDs. Oh, and my bra! I didn't worry about putting it on before leaving the building, but seriously. I can't live without my bra. LOL

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    1. Not that my bra was in the safe. :D

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    2. LOL - yes, a bra is definitely a necessity!!

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