I believe that all stories have to start somewhere and therefore need an explanation so that your audience can understand. Unless you have lived these stories and you are talking to yourself in the mirror, then you can start wherever you like. I suppose writing it down is quite different and most who read it will have no concept of who or what I am. Therefore, I must start at some beginning so that those who read my recollected tale might understand the ending.
My tale begins with cheesecake. Lots and lots of cheesecake and company. Now don’t raise your eyebrow! Cheesecake is a great beginning. Visualize a plain white cheesecake with brown graham cracker crust and whip cream to appease the birthday girl (me). My brother is to the left of me at the table and my father and sister are at the ends. My mother and a single person of company are on the other side of the table facing me.
My mother lights the candles on the cheesecake and we all sing and I blow them out. A typical birthday party for a typical girl. At that time, I lived in Roseau, Dominica. Dominica is a small island and most do not even know that it exists at all. Dominica has tall magnificent mountains, each covered in more trees than you would find in the whole state of Oregon even though this island is only the size of one of its cities. My family and I lived upon the side of one of these mountains in a cute yellow house with spacious windows and beautiful tile floors. As much as I would like to fit in there, I do not. I have skin as white as a polar bear but I console myself with the thought that I will be black in heaven.
As I am blowing out my candles, my father has his eyes on his phone tracking the violent hurricane everyone was calling Danny. It was supposed to hit our little island on the night of my birthday but so far it was avoiding us. We went to bed that night listening for the heavy pounding of rain on our tin roof. We woke up the next morning with no worries. The storm had passed. It was a day later that we heard about tropical storm Erika that had made its way behind Danny but it too seemed to fly around our island without so much as a wayward wind.
We were in the clear as far as hurricanes and tropical storms were concerned and we were eager to get on with our lives. But Thursday night we were in for a shock. There was thunder and lightening rolling and flashing through our bedrooms all night and one could not drown out the rain no matter how hard he tried. We just assumed, as did the rest of the island, that it was a passing thunderstorm and all would be well in the morning. However, we were all wrong. It was seven o’clock in the morning but only as bright as the evening just before the sun sinks below the horizon.
The rain was pounding still and I was finally catching some winks now that the thunder had let up a bit and the lightening wasn’t blinding me through my eyelids. My sister was tossing and turning in her bed but she continued to snore as if there was nothing the matter. I had just closed my eyes and started dreaming when the unmistakable sound of thunder once again broke my connection to the dream world. The whole house shook with the sound. My sister leaped up and started crying. I was not bothered in the least by it and told her to go back to sleep, that the thunder had been raging all night.
Thankfully she woke me up enough that my little ears registered the sound of my mother screaming in absolute panic. Part of me thought she had only seen a misplaced lizard running across the floor. She had an unreasonable fear of the little things and she could not seem to grasp that the only harm they did was poop. So I drowsily got out of bed and walked into the hallway. My sleep blurred eyes could only see the two forms of my mother and sister hugging and the bumbling form of my father running around like a headless chicken. Then I started to pick up the details. Mud.
There was mud splattered down the hallway, on the walls, on the doors and on my parents. Turns out that it wasn’t thunder at all that had shaken the house, but a giant landslide that had been loosened from the rain (of which we had received almost thirteen inches by the next morning). My mother was in complete panic mode and my father was still bumbling about like he had lost his head. As it turns out, the landslide had happened right outside my parents window and stopped as it hit the house. My parents often slept with their door open and mud had found its way in. Their once flowery yellow comforter now looked a little like bird poop with all the mud splattered against it.
“Get up! Get out! Go! Go! Go! Run! Get out of here! Don’t wait for us! Stevie!” My mother’s screaming was enough to wake the dead (no pun intended).
My dad finally stopped running around like a madman and hugged my mom. My father knew he was strong and that he could ward off any attacker, but he had no idea how to ward of a mountain. He took charge and we were all told to grab our valuables and jump in the car. We drove up our muddy driveway only to find at the top of the road that there was no where we could go. Thirteen landslides littered the road on both sides all the way into town. We were stuck. We spent the rest of the day and the next in our van, just praying that the rain would stop. We took quick trips in between down pours to run into the house and go to the bathroom and grabbed what we could from the fridge.
After spending an uncomfortable night in our bus, we spent the last night on the tile floor in our living room. The rain had ceased quite a bit during the day and after much comforting and prodding, we convinced my mother to let us stay in the house. She was so uneasy that she would just not fall asleep. We prayed relentlessly hoping that she would and that the rain would stop but nothing seemed to quell her nerves. And then the rain started again like a monsoon and she was up, like a guardian angel in the dark with her flashlight. Shining her light on our faces to make sure we were ok and shining her light out of our windows, praying that the mountain did not come down on top of us.
I woke a around five when the rain had stopped for a short time. I watched her shuffle from window to window. First the kitchen, then the living room. “Mom?” I asked. I had startled her and she had almost dropped the flash light.
“Yes Jayden?” I didn’t bother to lift my head. I was so tired.
“You should get some sleep. We are gonna be ok. God’s got us. The rain has stopped.”
“Go back to sleep Jayden.” I went to respond in kind but I was interrupted by the thundering sound of a monsoon splashing onto our tin roof. Her point made, my mother turned back to the window and I went back to sleep. Her relentlessness paid off. The Good Lord heard her prayers and the mountain had not fallen on us during the night. At about six in the morning we donned our sandals and jackets, loaded our backpacks with clothes and toothbrushes and began the grueling hike down the mountain side in the rain. We hiked over thirteen landslides and skirted around the areas where the road had been washed into the river and the all that had been left were fragile pieces of asphalt. All around us were the houses of people who had not been as lucky as us and pieces of their once glorious lively structures were broken across the road. When we finally reached the city of Roseau we looked like we had walked through a bog.
The city had been flooded and I remember marveling at how clean the streets were. As it turned out, Erika had turned around and hit us after all. The ending is a happy one as Dominica is very close to becoming whole again. But I will never forget my guardian angel mother, who stood watch over us with her flashlight and her prayers all night, while we slept. In a way, she still cuddles us big teenagers from time to time. Except these cuddles are far more meaningful.