When I was a little girl, my favorite book was, “It Could Be Worse!” by James Stevenson. It is a fabulous story about a brother and sister visiting their ornery and predictable grandfather. It seems that no matter the issue or problem they brought to his attention, he’d utter the same phrase over and over. Splinter in your finger? It could be worse! Dog ate the furniture? It could be worse! You get the picture.
One day the children wondered aloud why he always said those four words and eventually came to the conclusion that their grandfather’s life must be so very boring. Hearing this, their grandfather came to the breakfast table the next morning and said, “Guess what!” He went on to share a fantastic story of the adventure he’d been on the night before and all of the horrible things that had happened to him. From a giant bird snatching him from his bed to a huge blob of marmalade chasing him through the desert, he’d had one heck of a night. After finishing his story, he asked the kids what they thought about his night and they of course responded with, “It could be worse!!”
That story resonated with me as a child for many reasons. At a very young age, I somehow grasped the true meaning of the story and that mantra became something that I have often repeated to myself throughout the years whenever times are tough. The lesson of keeping things in perspective and having gratitude for all of the positive things in one’s life is one that has served me well over the years. In fact, I loved that book so much that I bought it for my own children and it has become a favorite of theirs as well.
Fast forward to today, where I find myself writing this blog post from my kitchen table while wearing a winter hat, jacket and gloves. As I watch my breath vaporize in the chilly air, I can hear the sound of chain saws buzzing and the smells of gasoline wafting in the air. At this very moment, a crew of ten or so men are working diligently outside to remove a gigantic tree from the other side of my home. And when I say gigantic, I mean gigantic! Thanks to the mighty winds Hurricane Sandy brought on Monday, October 29, 2012, our home was crushed by a once beloved tree that stood close to 100 feet tall and I’m told weighed more than 10,000 pounds. I said ten thousand pounds, people!
To say that the past three days have been a bit trying is an understatement. In fact, I’m certain that I don’t even truly understand the toll that this event is taking on my body or my family’s overall well-being. The twenty minutes after that tree hit our house were some of the most terrifying moments of my life as my husband and I scrambled to get our three children and our dog to safety and evacuate as quickly as possible. While I had packed bags for us in case we had to evacuate and had talked to the kids about the importance of being prepared, the confusion and chaos that ensued once we realized what had happened was insane. It was pitch black outside and the rain and winds were howling; we had no idea how much damage had been done and weren’t even sure where we were safer – inside or outside?!?
As my husband surveyed the damage and tried to determine the best escape route, it eventually dawned on me that I should call 911. The moment I dialed those three numbers and began speaking to the operator, both of my boys (ages 6 and 3) started crying. They had learned in school that 911 was for emergencies and when they heard me say I was calling, I think they realized that the situation was serious. Apparently, up until that point, I had somehow been able to speak calmly and rationally to the children, all the while completely freaking out on the inside.
While I ran from room to room collecting what I thought we needed (I totally grabbed the lawn mower keys, because that makes sense . . .), I found myself stopping every few minutes to kneel down, look the kids in the eyes and tell them everything was fine and then hugged them tightly. Ana, our 18-year-old, was amazing throughout the chaos and worked hard to keep the kids calm, too. As strong as she was, she too eventually found herself in tears as the gravity of the situation started sinking in and again I found myself hugging her and promising her it would be okay. . .
Since you’re reading this post, you know that we obviously escaped and repairs on our home are already underway. We managed to find a hotel to stay in that first night and now Fred, the boys and I are staying with our amazing friends, Tom and Tracy Hintermister. Ana and Pugsley (our dog) are staying at her boyfriend’s house just up the road, but we see each other daily and continue to hug each other tightly. We learned today that the repairs to our home will likely take between four and six months, so our insurance company is now working on finding us temporary accommodations in which to live during the rebuilding phase. Things are looking up for the Alvarado’s.
That said, I must tell you in all honesty that our once beloved tree has turned my world upside down, leaving me at times breathless and totally feeling sorry for myself. As I walked through Target on Tuesday picking up toiletries and other necessities, I found myself frozen and sobbing in the shampoo aisle for more than 10 minutes. Folding the boys’ clothes and placing them into plastic bins led me to an absolute melt down that lasted 15-20 minutes. After walking around our house and looking at the destruction? We’re talking tears, tears and more tears. But then last night, Tom turned on the news and for the first time I saw the devastation from Hurricane Sandy that has taken place in New Jersey and New York. In one fell swoop, I realized how incredibly lucky we are and I was again reminded of my favorite childhood story.
The damage and loss of life experienced by entire communities is absolutely horrendous and I can’t imagine the fear and anxiety many of those families are experiencing. Homes underwater, people swept away, businesses and lives destroyed. Those impacted by Sandy in New Jersey and New York have a far more challenging road ahead of them than we do. As much of an inconvenience as this crisis is for my family, I recognize that it could be much, much worse. Don’t get me wrong, I know that my family has some mighty obstacles ahead of us and our journey is just beginning, but it could be worse. My heart goes out to those families struggling through this crisis and I hope they find light beyond the darkness they face today.
I am filled today with gratitude for the things we do have – amazing friends and family, fabulous insurance (yay Nationwide!) and the knowledge that we will rebuild and we will be okay. I know that even though tears may still find their way to my eyes over the next several days and months, that we are incredibly lucky that it wasn’t worse. I truly hope that over time, I’ll be able to take the worry away from my kids’ hearts and replace the fear in their eyes with hope for what tomorrow brings.
“It Could Be Worse,” is not just a story from my childhood, but a mantra that continues to carry me through the darkest of days. It’s about perseverance and gratitude and a recognition that no matter your trials or tribulations, someone, somewhere in the world is dealing with much more difficult circumstances. Today I ordered several copies of that wonderful book from Amazon; one to replace the copy we lost three days ago in the storm and a few additional copies to share with others who might find the story as powerful and meaningful as I have. I, for one, plan to keep a copy close by to remind myself over the next several months that, “It could be worse!”