As I was recovering from childbirth, nursing a baby a dozen times a day, potty training a two and half year old, and trying to figure out where to send a five year old to school I thought: my life is simply not complicated enough, what I need is an unprecedented natural disaster to add a little excitement to my day. Well, Mother Nature obliged and this happened:
That would be most of our 72 year old redwood tree lying directly over our bedroom; you know, the room we sleep in with our newborn nestled between us. Wednesday night saw what I have seen the local newspapers call simply, “Wind 2011″. A few days of strong winter winds (Santa Anas) are typical here in Southern California. In fact, 10 years ago, one such set of winds capsized the boat that Jeff was in thirteen miles offshore, resulting in him and his research colleagues narrowly escaping death in the frigid waters before being rescued by the coast guard. The winds this past Wednesday night started innocently enough. As the winds picked up throughout the evening Jeff made multiple trips outside; first to put away a few of the boys’ toys, then to turn over our patio furniture and secure it against the house, then to turn over the garbage cans so that they wouldn’t take off. By the time Jeff came inside the final time, I didn’t think it was safe for him to be outside. The winds were coming in fiercely from the north, the side of the house with our bedroom and living room with a large bay window of untempered glass. We nervously hung out on the south side of the house making occasional forays to look out the windows and see trees convulsing violently in the wind. And then there was a boom and the house shook. Jeff jumped up and through the haze of blowing branches saw a huge trunk of our redwood tree lying on our house. This was a new problem for us and we weren’t initially sure what to do. We then heard the wind rolling the tree trunk around the roof of our house; a very disturbing sound. I started by calling the police non-emergency line which was busy. Then I moved on to 911 which transferred me to the fire department. The dispatcher asked me if we were all ok and whether or not we could leave the house. I told him that we could leave, but that it certainly didn’t seem safe to go outside! He told us that as long as the tree wasn’t actually in the house or the house was on fire, then we should stay in and they would get to us as soon as they could. Minutes went by, then an hour, and through the power of our neighborhood facebook page, I realized that the fire department would probably not be coming as people began posting pictures of trees that had actually come through their roof! The police department sent out emails and text messages asking residents to stay home and off the streets. Most of the streets in Pasadena were now blocked by downed trees and power lines, while transformers were sparking all around us. We could hear sirens and realized as bad as a tree on our house was, others had it worse and we didn’t have a choice but to wait and hope that our roof would hold. Much of Pasadena and all of the neighboring cities of Altadena and Sierra Madre were without power. We called our insurance company and started a claim; they had already declared Los Angeles Country a “catastrophe” area after receiving more than 1000 claim calls in an hour. Given that we still, for the moment, had a roof we were told that it would be days before our damage could be assessed, to take care of what needed to be fixed, and save our receipts. There wasn’t anything more we could do at 1:00 am, but there was no way I was going to sleep with a tree poised over my head so Jeff moved our mattress into our windowless dining room and we hunkered down with Baby Girl. I think I literally hovered over her tiny body all night trying to shield her from anything that might invade our house. In the wee hours of the morning the wind died down and we finally slept marveling as we awoke at how quiet the world could be without the fury of the wind. Seeing the devastation in the morning light was surreal; our lawn was green, not with grass, but with redwood needles. In a stroke of amazing luck I called a tree service company just as they opened and they said they would come by with a crane. They warned that they wouldn’t have time to do much else, but would remove the tree from our house. The schools were all closed and normally we would have stayed home given such a disaster, but in case of very bad timing we had a long arranged court date at 8:30 am sharp to finalize Theodore’s name change. It was comical, getting three kids up and dressed properly for court, traipsing out to our car via our side door (the front door was blocked with debris), me in high heels stepping around huge branches. The drive to the courthouse, only two miles away, was slow going. The major streets in many spots had only one lane open with cars in each direction taking turns around huge downed trees. Streetlights and traffic signals lay broken. There were pieces of roof everywhere. In the end, we made it to court and Henry William officially became Theodore Gregory. When we arrived home, the redwood on our roof was gone and our front walk was even cleared and swept clean.
Besides the wind apocalypse it hasn’t been an easy week. While not truly colicky, Baby Girl is going through some significant newborn fussiness. Theodore is sick with some evil daycare germ and actually threw up on his baby sister (and me) today. And Thomas is just plain moody and difficult. But one of the most wonderful things about being a 33 year old mother of three children, rather than a 28 year old first time parent, is that nothing much phases us anymore. As long as our family is safe and healthy, everything really is ok. I was a little shaky the night after the wind storm, vividly envisioning what could have happened if that tree had crashed through our bedroom with us in it. But the fact is, that it didn’t. Our 72 year old house is, apparently, made of pretty strong stuff; as is my love for our perfect Baby Girl.
*The title to this post is in reference to the “Holy shit bees!” in last week’s post. And yes, the tree service company, told us that the Holy shit bees were, amazingly, still in the tree (surviving 100 mile per hour winds and a fall!) section that fell on our roof.