I used to think musical chairs was the best party game. Stomping around chairs to the beat of a pop song caused my pulse to race in excitement. Would I get a chair or not? Would I be safe each round and win? Or would I be the lone stander without a place for my rear?
Now my family is playing the real life version in musical homes. It began when someone said evacuate, someone like the mayor. I rolled my eyes at Gene. “Why on Earth do we live so close to the ocean?”
“My parents wanted to be out of the city but close enough for Dad to commute. And we can’t afford…”
As he began to list the obvious, I cut him off: “I’ll go pack.” The Sunday School song played in my head:
“Don’t build your house on the sandy land; don’t build it too near the shore.
It might sound kind of nice but you’ll have to build it twice,
you’ll have to build your house once more…”
This describes my life now. Musical homes loses its excitement in the first round. I drove our five kids to my parents’ home at the first whistle of hurricane winds. The ominous reports of relentless newscasters droned on and on in the background. “The perfect storm,” they said.
When a wind gust blew an oak tree down on my parents’ power lines, we played Little House on the Prairie, reading by the glow of flickering candles and eating canned beans warmed on Sterno cans. Fun at first, but even the kids tired of the game after a week and longed for the comfort of video games.
Meanwhile my husband stayed through the storm. He had to race to higher ground and spend the night upstairs with his mother to avoid the two foot river flowing on the first floor. The next few days we played how to text two words and say what you mean since we couldn’t recharge our phones. “Luv u.” “We ok.” One night he wrote: “Need water.” Though road conditions were dangerous, I almost drove home in a panic, thinking he was dying of thirst. He meant water to clean the sand off floors.
After two weeks, we returned to our home. You know how sometimes in musical chairs you get stuck with the wobbly, broken chair—well this was what we came back to. A water-damaged home in danger of mold growth with broken appliances. It already smelled like a musty cave.
We began the next game of how-to-stay-warm-with-no-heat in a windy town as temperatures dropped. The secret to winning this game was wearing winter coats and blankets and snuggling two to a bed. Then we camped in my daughter’s room with an electric heater and two mattresses on the floor. We were thankful to have one toasty room.
Then the music sang again to the new tune of mold removers. We cleared our home of everything but furniture labeled “keep” on sticky notes. All else would be tossed. We hauled garbage bags of clothes upstairs to my mother-in-law’s two room apartment to stay until our house is livable.
Our latest game, we are not enjoying, is making space for us and five kids in a space meant for two, similar to a toddler squeezing the round block in a square hole. But organization can be a fun game when you tire of walking on clothes bags to cross a room. Finding our clothes is another game altogether.
Unfortunately we’ll be stuck playing this game of temporary homes for a while. Our floors have been ripped up and every room gutted to remove mold. We watched the demolition crew toss our toilets and bathtub into the mountain of debris. Cranes scooped everything up like crumbs on the floor.
Lord, how ‘bout another game? Monopoly? Deal or No Deal? The lottery? I’d prefer Candyland. In that small voice I decipher while listening with my heart, I hear… “Someday this game will end, and you can help others as you have been helped.”
“You’ve got to build your house on the Rock!
Build a strong foundation on a solid spot
Then storms may come and go
But you’ll have peace because you know…”
Our game of musical homes has been a trial, but we’re not playing alone. He says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Just hope to never play this again.
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