Here around Momma T’s table we have much for which we are thankful on this day for focusing on giving thanks. There’s usual stuff; family, friends and a warm home, but this year there is a new perspective on it all.
We are now 11 days out of the disaster that changed the lives of our friends and neighbors in our small community. On Sunday, for the first time since the tornado passed through, I saw the destruction first hand. We drove down the main business thoroughfare in town on our way to Kroger at the other end of town.
The first thing I noticed was the traffic, there was a lot more of it and it was moving slowly. The next thing I noticed was the blue tarps on roofs of businesses and homes. What I saw next was space. Suddenly we were in the middle of town and all around there was space that hadn’t been there before. Space, not because there was “more” of something but because there was so much less. This space is where the tornado crossed from the south side of the highway to the north.
My mind was trying to figure out what was what. The Auto Parts store was gone, there were shells of houses exposed to my view that I didn’t realize were back in there, but I couldn’t quite place what had obstructed my view before that. The golf course buildings were gone. A restaurant boarded up. The Georgetown Apartments looked like Lincoln logs that had been scattered by a bully, and a very long line of cars with residents waiting their turn to go in and salvage what they could stretched along the side of the road. Windows blown out of more buildings, and on and on and on. All of the pictures and all of the videos I had seen had not prepared me for what I was seeing with my own eyes. Then suddenly everything looked normal again.
It kept gnawing at me, that spot right in the middle, where I saw the houses that I didn’t remember seeing before. Where was that? I couldn’t place that area in the order of things. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I drove by it again that I realized, that spot, is Gillman St. the entrance to a neighborhood I’ve driven to and through many, many times in the 20 years I’ve lived here, but this time, it didn’t have any familiarity to me in it’s torn apart state. From the looks of things, it will be a long time before any of it makes sense.
There is a lot that has changed in my community. Red Cross and Salvation Army trucks are a regular sight now. Yesterday I sat in my favorite coffee shop with my best friend Pam. The only seats left were at a counter in the window. We watched a parade of flat bead tow trucks coming out of the nearby neighborhood bringing out mangled automobiles and “parking” them in a lot across the way for the insurance adjusters to do their thing. Large tents are popping up all over as insurance companies and other organizations offering help set up temporary command centers all along the main drag. Cars from police departments all over the state cruise up and down the streets. This has become our new norm, and I think it will be that way for a while.
As I approach this holiday of giving thanks, I find my foray out into the community has left me a little on edge…grumpy. I keep telling myself I have nothing to be grumpy about and I need to snap out of it, but I just keep getting grumpier. How dare I be grumpy when I have so much to be thankful for? But wait. Are the two, thankfulness and grumpiness, mutually exclusive? I don’t think they are.
So, today I have decided to embrace and accept my grumpiness. I truly believe I can be grumpy and still be grateful. I don’t think one excludes the other. I’m grateful for a great many things, and perhaps in a way that is more deeply felt way than ever before.
I’m grateful to be living in a community who has pulled together to take care of their own. I’m thankful for our first responders who are still working hard to restore order to our town. I’m grateful for our city workers who have been working through the cold nights to help homeowners begin to clean up the mess. I’m grateful for the agencies who drive through town offering hot meals and coffee to the workers and the families. I’m thankful that my family has had the opportunity to get out into the affected zones and pick up and help out. I’m thankful that as a family we were able to go to Kroger and pass out gift cards to shoppers and put smiles on their faces. I’m grateful that we can get out in our community and LAY EYES on our friends and neighbors and our favorite waitresses at the Pub. That we can hug them, and cry with them, and laugh with them. I’m grateful that our house was spared so that those who lost everything could have a place to come to when they needed it. I must say, that last one was laced with guilt and I’ve struggled with that for a while.
Perhaps most of all I’m grateful to have the opportunity to witness the best in all people from all around.
All of this, and yes, I still FEEL grumpy. The two can co-exist. Grumpy is a mood, it’s how I feel at this moment and I have to allow myself to feel this way. Giving thanks is an act of my heart. I can give thanks for those people and things that are dear to me, but still feel grumpy about the things around me that are spinning out of control. Those things that hurt. The darkness that lurks at the edges of everything that I am thankful for.
So, to my readers, whatever your mood, may your hearts be filled with thanks giving.