It Feels So Weird to be Dry.

Yes, that’s a direct quote of Seth MacFarlane impersonating Ryan Lochte on Saturday Night Live a few weeks back. Luckily my family can say that after this weekend.

This post isn’t meant to be a sob story for me to win over your sympathy because of my past issues. I’d prefer you give it to the people who lost so much over the last few days. However, I have the (mis)fortune of being able to familiarize with them, and I hope I can use that to help them battle the inevitable hardship of lasting through a flood.

My childhood house has flooded significantly three times in the last 16 years. Twice, I lost most of my possessions. By the third time, I had learned my lesson, but there was still plenty of cleaning up and emotional reconnaissance to do.

October 1996 was the most ridiculous month of my life. My family got a new car, we had a fire at our Cape Cod house, I got an adult tooth knocked out, we went to Disney World and we had the first flood my parents ever experienced in their decade-plus of living on Tufts Road to that point.

My basement was on the news, which was the coolest thing in the world to me at the time. The image of a floating children’s table and a Mickey Mouse hand puppet won’t ever leave my memory. I was just old enough that I was transitioning from Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters and Power Rangers to baseball cards, video games and sports equipment. I had no idea at the time, but losing so many items tied to my happy childhood would really suck later on.

The news was toughest on my parents because that five feet of water cost us hundreds of family photos. Our basement was a playroom at that time, finished, furnished and chock full of sentiment. We were able to save a few items by taking what was on top of submerged tables or boxes, rinsing them and letting them soak for days, but most of the cellar’s contents were destined for the dump.

In March of 2001, Round Two dealt an uppercut to my memory’s jaw. I made my first appearance as an interviewee on the news for going with my father to get sand bags from the Winchester DPW, but all those did was get soggy and heavy. Five feet of water still spewed into our basement, and it got so high in our front, back and side yards that our house became an island. We salvaged the Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 and Playstation, but the ping-pong, foosball and air hockey tables were destroyed.

One of the few toys that survived the previous flood, the Ghostbusters Headquarters tower, prevented the ping-pong table from snapping the second time. A flat green surface became what would have been a perfect half-pipe for a hand-sized Tech Deck skateboard. It was amazing to see that a cheap piece of plastic held up a table loaded with heavy items, perhaps to remind me that even the darkest moments can have a bright spot.

My family had a moral victory over Mother Nature in March of 2010. A week before I moved to New York to work for the Hudson Valley Renegades, we had our most recent flood. Most of the contents downstairs were  junk at that point anyway, though there were still some photos kept in giant Tupperware bins. I trudged through four feet of water to save the remnants of my family’s visual memories. We lost the fridge and hot water heater, both hundred-plus pound items drifting through the basement with some aquatic help.

We have had an inch or two of water a few other times while we’ve lived here, including one time I essentially battled the tide by pushing a squeegee across the floor toward our French Drain. Since I had seen so much worse, it seemed more like a game or a workout than a method of damage prevention.

The water never reached the first floor of my house in any of the floods, though some of my neighbors can’t say the same. My family has lost thousands of dollars worth of appliances and countless physical representations of our lives’ happiest times, but we were lucky enough to rebound in each instance. Our neighbors gave us help with moving things before the rain, boat bilge pumps to suck the water out more quickly and emotional gestures that did way more for us than any physical act could. Another family took my sister and I to Strike One, a local arcade and sports facility before we came home with our first ever Beanie Babies after the first flood. My mom cried for a while that night.

I hope that the people of the mid-Atlantic and northeast who were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy have a quick recovery for their homes and a strong network of people to help them through the toughest part: realizing that there are many things you will never get back. Here’s to a few million Ghostbusters towers showing up in Manhattan and beyond.

**********

The clip of Seth MacFarlane as Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte is right here in case you need a laugh. I give it eight swims. His epiphany comes at 1:47.

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