In February, my partner and I were cycling in Morocco. When locals found out we were from Australia, the first thing they said (or mimed, depending on how well we had communicated our inability to communicate) was that there was a lot of rain there. Initially, I shrugged this off. Woo hoo! Rain in Brisbane! (I hope it’s falling in the catchment area.) Eventually, the seriousness dawned on me and the danger to my friends and family, particularly my parents, led to some emails and a phone call. Then, helpfully, I lay awake, worrying.
Everyone (I knew) was safe, but not everyone’s property. My parent’s home went under and, although this was sad and traumatic, it has ultimately not been devastating. Their home is undergoing renovation; they are living in my brother’s house and are fairly chipper. Most of my mother’s hoard of Things – my stuff, my sibling’s stuff, reams and reams of toilet paper, old clothes that no one will ever wear again – was irreparably damaged. My father’s garden is inaccessible to him. But my mother has started her hoard again. My father says, “Old woman! Why do you keep these things? Another deluge might take them. Use them! Use them!” I like this new attitude. My father potters in my brother’s yard. He’d like to see his old garden but he is also hopeful that the flood will have destroyed some of his dragon fruit plants, which had started colonising all the other plants.
While we were away, my sister informed me that our boxes of books – packed up before we left for the UK in 2007 – and our boxes of Other Stuff – packed up and sent home before we left the UK in 2010 – were stored at my parents’ house. Some were water damaged and she’d thrown things out – clothes, rugs, books.
Shortly after we arrived back in Australia, we spent a jet-lagged day sorting out what remained. Most of our household stuff (pots and pans, crockery and cutlery) was fine but we had an odd mixture of clothes. I had no coats, trousers or tee-shirts and my partner had no shirts. Saddest of all, some of our more precious books were ruined: a certified antique copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of The Odyssey, photo albums and my handwritten journals of our time in the UK and earlier.
It was difficult not to be sad as I leafed through my partner’s ruined photographs and tried to read the words of my old journals, one day’s musing had bled into another’s. But I did not feel sad when I held the ruined copy of Pope’s Odyssey. I had cradled it and treasured it for so many years, that I rather gleefully threw it across the lawn. With a satisfying ‘kathunk’, it hit the fence and fell open. My violence damaged it no more than the flood had. I threw a few more bricked books.
Nevertheless, a lot more stuff had come through unscathed than I’d been expecting. We boxed it all up again, to be collected in a few months time, as we now have a home in Melbourne in which to store it. Hopefully, the home isn’t in a flood, fire or other natural disaster-prone area.