Thursday, March 12, 2020

Stocking up

I realized a few days ago where my astonishment at “stocking up” comes from. I’ve been seeing all the advice to be sure you have enough food and medication for two weeks, and wondering how other people live. I always have at least that much and I realized that this is why: 

When my mother was twelve there was a big flood in her hometown that lasted two weeks, much worse than any before, but a creek ran through the middle of town, so lesser floods were not unknown. Usually my mother and her parents and her brother lived in their rather large house alone. My grandfather was a grocer and could bring home anything needed when he came home at the end of the day so they didn’t pay much attention to “stocking up.” When the water began to rise my grandmother sent for her mother and two sisters to come stay with them, because my great-grandmother’s house was in the lower part of town, and she sent her cook home to get her bed-ridden octogenarian mother, because their house, too, was much nearer the creek. My brother’s best friend contrived to get himself stranded on the wrong side of the creek so they could be together. That makes ten. I can’t remember where the other two people came from, but there were a dozen of them. 
The waters rose, and my grandparents’ house was above the water, but only just. It came up to the porch steps, but not into the house. Across the street the court house was similarly surrounded by water. My mother could watch men in boats arrive there every day after the first few days, and build a fire under a huge iron kettle, and make soup, which they then rowed or paddled off to deliver to people who had no food, or who had no means of heating it (this was 1929.) My grandmother needed no such assistance. She fed a dozen people for two weeks with what she had in the house. The day before the water went down enough for people to go home they had three meals of ham and biscuits and strawberry preserves. The morning the water went down enough to leave they had biscuits and strawberry preserves, but they could have had that for several more meals if necessary. 
I don’t even think about keeping enough food on hand for emergencies. It’s just something I automatically do. 

The second week of the flood an airplane (1929, remember--airplanes still rare and exciting) flew over and circled the court house and tried to drop a package on the court house lawn, but missed. The package did not land in the water, fortunately, but on the second floor porch of my grandparents’ house. It was typhoid vaccine.

This flood is the reason that town still has an ordinance that prohibits anyone from operating a motor boat on the city streets. Too many people went too fast and the wake broke a lot of plate glass windows downtown.