I WAS, BUT SHE IS NOT
I was a worried child.
The Cold War lived in my head. We didn’t have a bomb shelter, but my grandpa did try to dig one before I was born. It filled with water, because making a cistern into a bomb shelter seems like a good idea, but the rain still gets in even if the pump is plastered over. I dreamed of the hole in the basement wall having a stocked pantry, bunks, and board games on the other side, with three feet of radiation-deflecting something-or-other surrounding it. It stayed just a boarded-over hole until the house came down and then it was a good place for house-parts to land, a nice big void just waiting for something to collapse into it for so many years.
When I was eight, the planets aligned in a way that some projected would cause the solar system’s individual parts to crash into a mess of fiery gravity-accelerated rubble. At 5:14 a.m., on the predicted day, I laid in my mother’s bed, waiting to die. When the rumble began, she thought for a moment that I was right all along. The noise turned out to be just an off-schedule train on the track behind our house.
The standoff ended and the Wall came down, and I rested more easily. Before, just accidentally licking a vanilla ice cream cone into the shape of a nuclear reactor sent chills through me. Age and changing political and economic circumstances eased my concern. One day, I realized that I hadn’t considered nuclear apocalypse in a very long time. I had stopped playing mental survivalist games, and planted flowers with my vegetables.
Now, I worry again.
I had stopped watching the news, stopped reading the papers and blogs. My news now comes from word of mouth, and it’s all so bad. Government secrets, bank holidays, seizures of property, stockpiling weapons and metal and food, conspiracies, big bad government upon which we all depend to be benevolent. I begin each evening by wondering how to hit the reset button after a day of prepper chat.
Sometimes, I feel profoundly alone and so very responsible for my daughter’s well-being. What if? What would we do? Where would we go?
This fall-of-Rome talk reminds me that Rome may have fallen, but its people lived on. Differently.
We live close to the edge of couch-surfing, like so many other mother-child duos and nuclear families and single guys with too much debt…like everyone. A few paychecks gone, and the rent stays unpaid. A few more, and off goes the power. We all just pretend that the job will continue, and that the lights will glow when we flip the switch.
Since the last tornado, I’ve thought too much about the chaos and discomfort that a little wind caused. No power, no phone, and no gas if I hadn’t just filled my tank. A whole lot of fresh food had to be thrown out. I wonder why money seems tight, and I remember the big bags I dragged to the curb; many dinners went moldy, and restocking stretched me just a little. We’re okay, but…
I daydream about gardens, and solar panels, and sustainable housing that we could keep even if the paychecks ended for a while.
I remember having sureness, once, in having a forever home. I had gardens. I had a home, and I could have had solar panels, and sometimes the paychecks did end. The only problem was that though a family and its many additions had lived there, it was comfortable only for one or two. Cutting the cloak to fit the cloth, I removed the option of having children in order to live where I wanted to be, my home by default and then inheritance.
Now, I am part of a little family, a We. We are my responsibility.
My child does not worry, or if she does, she smiles and dances through her worries. I’m taking good care of that part of my We. No worries there.
In defense of worry, I plan and prepare. It’s how We get by for now.