by Lisa

I am a prepper of a different sort.

I found my emergency cache today.  My mother’s basement, the current holding pen for the contents of her former storage unit, contains things that I had expected to need when my own SHTF.  That happened seventeen months ago, but I found ways to keep my essential stash intact.  Worse things may have been heading my way even when things were very bad, so what I carried out of the shitstorm fell in the middle-priority category.  The high-priority goods stayed hidden away, sometimes picked through and brought home an item at a time when the dust settled, but mostly purposefully forgotten.

The fall of Rome and the end of days got nothin’ on an uprooted mother faced with being sent to the street with her child.  Let the castle crumble; we needed a place to lay our heads, out of the rain.  We needed a way to cook our food.  Less obviously but just as essential, we needed memories to touch, so the stories would be told properly when we were once again home, somewhere else.

So, one borrowed-vanful at a time, I hoarded those essentials:

Artfully packed crates of  cookware and utensils.  A little stove. Salt. A box of matches, sealed, tarps, sleeping bags, cording, flashlights.  A good knife and a good dangerous knife, just in case.  Cots and chairs. Emergency candles, antibiotics, needles and thread, tweezers, biodegradable soap, 100% DEET, water purification pills.  Flint and tinder.  Super glue, now hard as a rock in its metal tube.  Did you know that a serious gash can be glued shut to stop the bleeding?  The good tent, I never found, but I have a better one now.

With the ready-to-run things stored, I had the peace of mind to think of irreplaceable things, useless but priceless to my small person’s place in history:

Paintings, photographs, books of recipes written by Gram.  Dad’s Busch crate full of art supplies. A glorious explosion of silk flowers in a brass vase, reworked wedding decorations.  Bingo chips in a box decorated by my mom when she learned to love bingo and we all went every Saturday night.  Halloween decorations made by my aunt.  A table from the New House and three speckled, foggy mirrors too heavy to lift alone.  The arrowheads from Neighbor Ron, who loved us so much though he barely knew us.  Tools in strange boxes, filthy from the oil field, smelling like Papa.  I still smile when I smell crude oil, which can’t be described.  Nothing else smells like it, not even sticky summer blacktop which seems like it should be the same thing.

Her blankie and mine and her teddy bear and mine stayed in the car, always in those uncertain days, until bedtime.  We would not leave Pibble and Ted behind.

Today for the first time, I saw again for the first time a little of what I expected to need, plus a little more.  The boxes stayed closed,  but they have labels.  I wrote so carefully with my Sharpie.  Shouldn’t a woman so filled with uncertainty and heartbrokenness , to the point sometimes of panic, have scrawled like a madwoman on those plastic bins?

The act of putting useful and important things out of the way, out of harm’s way, eased that panic.  I could sleep at night after the Fall of the household, knowing that we could run with the clothes on our backs and still, someday, be able to look around and see a few things that could make us comfortable.  Finding those things wouldn’t be blind burrowing.  The food prep stayed in this box, the water containers and dry bags in that box, the teapot and creamer shaped like a cow right there.  The writing on the boxes can be read even without my glasses, it is so sure and bold.

I’d packed away those things hoping that the next spring or maybe even that very fall, after never really having to leave, I would retrieve that box of pots and pans for a camping trip.  I’d unpack on a picnic table next to a fire-pit and put a kettle on to wash what had gotten musty in storage.  That image was my one life-line, a mix of memories of doing just that one perfect day in Michigan, and a hazy daydream of forever, after healing and relearning to be together.  I had hoped for the best.

I prepared for the worst, and we are better for it.