My basement, like many others in town, flooded once again on July 23. I’d just returned home from a writing retreat (which I spent battling writer’s block), found out that all three of my cats were sick (with a stomach bug, which has been recurring all year), and then it started to rain.
It started and it seemed like it might never stop. Right when we realized we had a shop vac that could be used to suck out some of the water that was filling our basement for the second time in a month, the power went out.
There aren’t many moments that you feel as helpless as when you’re standing in the dark, watching the water rise inside your house. Inside – where it most definitely is not supposed to be.
Too many of us know this feeling now. And many of you had it worse than I did. I have friends and neighbors in Forest Park and nearby communities who had between 1 foot and 10 feet of water. They lost expensive appliances like furnaces and hot water heaters that were submerged in standing water. Then there were the irreplaceable items: family photo albums, childhood books, prized record collections.
After I finished cleaning up my own basement, I went online looking for some kind of magical system that would make my home an impermeable fortress. This doesn’t seem to exist – though if you have 10 grand to blow, you might come pretty close.
What I found instead both broke my heart and healed it: the Forest Parkers Against Flooding page on Facebook. There, I saw more evidence of the hardship my neighbors were enduring. But I also found neighbors trying to help one another. They listened, allowing much-needed frustration venting. They provided information that they’d gotten from the village. They shared resources for trustworthy repair and plumbing services. They offered to assist others who were physically unable to clean or repair their own homes.
In my fiction, many of my characters are outsiders. They aren’t very trusting and they often feel they have to shoulder their own burdens. I grew up feeling that way as well. But the longer I’ve lived in Forest Park, the more this feeling has dissipated. There’s no doubt that we’re good at being a community in celebratory times. Every year during St. Patrick’s Day and SummerFest, we prove that we can throw a great party. However, the aftermath of this flooding has proved that we are at our strongest when tested by hardship.
Now, though, we deserve a break.
It hasn’t been our summer, Forest Park. Apparently Mother Nature missed my column pleading for better weather. Or she absolutely has no sense of humor. Either way, it’s time to take matters into our own hands.
I promised myself that I’d finally visit the Forest Park pool this year. Two days after the flood, it was beautiful out. I probably should’ve done some more clean-up or tackled that troublesome writing project. But instead, I texted a neighbor who was also having a bad weekend and suggested, “Let’s see if waterslides help.”
If your summer has been as wet and ugly as mine (substitute sick children for sick kitties and job problems for writer’s block), reclaim it now before it’s too late. Take a day off from your obligations and do what you want to do most.
The best thing about those waterslides? You can scream at the top of your lungs while you’re on them. Trust me, it feels good and you’ll be laughing at the end.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.