Friday, November 16, 2007

The Earthquake Story

Yesterday I was feeling blue and decided to give myself some kid therapy. You know, there are a number of kid evasion therapies: bath, book, blog, chocolate, shopping, a TV show, hiding in the bathroom with a sudoku. This time, my plan was to persuade Levi to perch on the kitchen counter and chat with me while I mopped the floor, Jesse and Haley napped, and Logan and Roscoe were at school. I figured this plan would be good for some laughs, as you never know what will pop out of Levi’s funny little mouth, plus I’d get a clean floor out of the deal.

Levi, for some reason, wasn’t jazzed on my plan, so I lured him by promising he could choose something from the treat bucket and that I would tell the story of THE EARTHQUAKE.

This is, I think, one of the classics of our family lore. Here’s how I remember it. Fam: please correct and amend as needed:

One afternoon (after school? was it summertime?), my mom wanted to run to the store. She left me, around age 9, home to babysit Joe (4ish?) and Nancy (1ish?). Joe and I sat on the playroom couch watching cartoons--Spiderman, as I remember--and Nancy was napping in her crib in the room she and I shared. Mark (5ish?) drove to the store with mom. (I bet Mom's thinking was to separate the boys rather than leave both of them at home.)

Suddenly, the TV went black. An earthquake. A big one that shook books and dishes off their shelves and even left one exterior wall of our house rubble. California children are well trained, so I popped Joe under the kitchen table and retrieved Nancy from her crib. As I remember, a picture from the wall had fallen across the top of her crib like a lid. By the time Nancy and I got back into the kitchen, the quake was over. We all three walked to the front door and I peaked through the door’s window. I could see other people from the neighborhood walking outside and standing on the sidewalks--I guess to commiserate about the quake and also to get away from any potential falling objects. Seems like I also remember one particularly tall palm tree across the street swaying from the quake--but maybe that happened later.

Soon I looked down the sidewalk and saw Mom, with Mark in tow, running toward us. Apparently, the store she was in had become one huge mound of stuff as everything shook its way off the shelves. As a mom now, I can hardly imagine how she felt about having three little children home alone at that inauspicious moment. Isn't that your worst fear--that you leave them alone for a moment and that's when a catastrophe hits? She and Mark plowed over and through the stuff and jumped right out one of the store’s now-broken display windows. Fortunately the store was only a few blocks away, so they ditched the car and ran back home. So, phew, Mom’s home.

I remember a long afternoon followed. On the one hand, we worried as we waited for Dad to come home. No cell phones! On the other hand, the neighborhood had almost a festive feel--at least for us kids. Everyone sat out on the front lawns and visited with each other.

Dad eventually made it home after some adventures of his own, and Mom and Dad cleaned up and tried to put the kids to bed. But the aftershocks got worse and worse through the night. I remember huddling with Mom up against Mark and Joe’s bunkbeds and becoming totally freaked out. I think Mom tried to sing us to sleep.

Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood went outside and slept on the lawns. It seems so counterintuitive to go outside in the midst of a natural disaster, but I guess falling objects are the main danger. I’ve always thought that I can remember little Nancy toddling around the front yard in the dark chasing swells of earthquake across the lawn. Now could that possibly be true?


  1. A while back you asked about false memories. And this is mine. I could swear that I remember this earthquake - and sitting under a table. But that couldn't possibly by real. I'm sure it's just that I've heard the story too many times. I'm mostly sure of this because I can also picture the store that Mom and Mark where in and all the fallen stuff around them. And obviously I wasn't THERE too!
    But thanks for saving me Ang. What a good big sister.
    And, yes, this is my biggest fear as a Mom. For me it goes like this though: Me and the kids are in a public place. Someone tries to snatch Naomi. I chase after them and wrestle her from their grasp like a good mom. Then I realize that it was all a ruse and really they were after Asher and Isaiah who I have just left abandoned as I ran after Naomi. So I saved one but I sacrificed the other two. Talk about a recurring nightmare.

  2. Well - here are a few other details I remember. Mark and I were at the 'dime' store buying the fabric for the Batman and Superman costumes, so it was in the fall afterschool. You are leaving Josh out of the story - he was watching TV with you - so you 'saved' three children. My most emotional memory is rounding that corner and seeing you standing there on the front sidewalk with Nancy on your hip, Josh hugging your leg and Joe standing nearby. You looked just like all the other mothers in front of their houses, except in miniature. You were in complete control!
    I will have to check my journal for the dates on this so we can see just how old everyone was.

  3. Now who's having false memories? Josh wasn't born til we moved to Fallbrook!

  4. Well regardless of false memories, it was a fun story to tell to my girls as they got ready for bed last night, so thanks!

  5. What a cool story to tell your kids! I love a good earthquake! ;)