My classes on Writing Your Life Story began the last day of September. Each week this Fall I teach two groups of men and women who are eager to continue writing the story of their lives. Their first assignment: capture on paper their own unique experience during a memorable event which impacted their lives.
During class time we brainstormed and came up with national or regional items students most vividly remember. Examples: the day President Kennedy was shot, the day Mt. St. Helens blew its top off--for me it was the Columbus Day Storm that blew up from the south to cause wide-spread destruction across the Willamette Valley.
This is my story:
THE DAY OUR WORLD BLEW APART
By Eva J. Gibson
THE DAY OUR WORLD BLEW APART
By Eva J. Gibson
Columbus Day, 1962 was the day my husband Bud and I planned to do our weekly grocery shopping in Newberg OR. Although we lived near Wilsonville, food prices were more reasonable in the neighboring town.
As I zipped our 17 month old daughter into her one piece red suit I looked out the bedroom window. An unusual yellow light highlighted the fir trees alongside my parent's house on the other side of the field that separated our two homes. The firs tossed uneasily in the golden light, turning, back and forth, back and forth, flashing their restless branches like ballerina dancers all in a twirl.
I watched for a few minutes, placed the little one in her crib then grabbed up a brush to smooth our four year old daughter's blond curls while our three year old son peered out the window. A few minutes later we came into the living room as a 2 X 4 from the porch my husband was in the process of constructing crashed down breaking the front window. A shower of glass blew inside and at the same moment our large picture window bowed with the force of the wind.
I quickly herded the children away from the bending glass and placed them so they would have the shelter of the over sized buffet in the dining room. The window crashed inward and the force of the wind blew shards of glass through the room and out the kitchen window. The wings of the canary in the cage beside us trembled. “Let's pray,” I said and the two older children fell to their knees.
There was a sudden lull in the wind. “Come!” I cried.
Broken glass carpeted the living room and the long hall that led to the bedrooms. Even through my small daughter was in my arms I somehow managed to grab the little ones hands and run with them down the hall. I swung them outside the window then followed with the baby.
The wind pulled at our hair and clothes as we raced to the field where no falling tree could find us. We stopped in the middle, watched as my parent's barn swirled loose hay out the open sides. Then the old barn stepped forward one giant step and sank to its knees like a tired old man. The walls slowly crumbled into nothingness and only the roof remained.
We looked back at our house. A third of the roof was being rolled up like a scroll. Another blast of wind and it sailed out into the field as we watched. Old growth fir trees in my parents canyon were uprooted. They descended slowly, shaking the ground where we stood with the force of their fall. Other standing trees, both cedars and willows, snapped in the wind and tumbled earthward. Branches rode the wind through the remaining trees as they tried to find a place to settle.
I looked down at my small daughter in my arms and smiled; she lay, contentedly blowing bubbles. For a moment I was struck by the beauty of the colors against her open lips and red suit. Beauty in the midst of chaos. Isn't that just like our great God?
My husband who had gone to check on a fallen apple tree early in the storm joined us. He wanted us to take shelter in my parent's house which was still standing but I was afraid. What if the storm blew it apart while we were inside? I felt much safer standing in the field. As the wind slowed and the rain came we got into the family car and listened to it tap the roof. It was a long time before we felt safe enough to bed down next door.
We returned home the next morning to cracked wet linoleum and blue sky staring down where the roof had once been. Big drops of water dripped off the rafters. The canary slept on her perch. She greeted us with a few uncertain peeps, other than that we were on our own. There was no electricity, phone, water or protection from the elements and the children were hungry.
I went out to the garden and brought in carrots and potatoes. A package of meat in the frig was still cold. I cleaned the vegetables in the drain across the road, cut them into pieces and piled them into a big kettle with broken pieces of hamburger.
Bud dug out our camp stove and my parents and brother came over with winter squash and apples. We added the squash to our hamburger soup and saved the apples for later. We ate together in the living room with sunshine smiling through the rafters and knew we were blessed. We may not be able to get to the store for awhile but we could share what was in both our cupboards and gardens.
So what if winter was coming. We'd rebuild again. Our home would rise again. And it did.