(We have a few such holidays. Columbus Day is big here; Mom was always startled when she tried to call me at work on that day and no one answered.* Bunker Hill Day is another one. Likewise, Evacuation Day. But every state has its own odd days off, right? In California, we celebrated Admissions Day and probably a few others that I disremember now. Hemp Day? Poppy Day? Who knows.)
It's also April Vacation Week and the kids are home, but I'm working like a demon-possessed editrix and have barely seen them (though we did duck out for lunch together, at Jasper White's Summer Shack. Mmm, greasy-spicy calamarai, Rhode Island-style . . . But this was just a blip on the computer-shackled reality of my day). Husband, however, is moving to a new office this week, so he went in to work today to pack up the last of his stuff. Northeastern University is about half a mile from Copley Square.
You know why I'm telling you this.
I didn't know anything was wrong until my mom called from California . . . and then the calls and e-mails started pouring in from across the country. "Are you okay?" "Were you guys at the Marathon?" "Please send word."
And that's what I love about this wired world. Back in the day (the day being 1989), I remember watching the World Series with my then boyfriend (you know I don't care about sports, but two California teams? Yeah, I was interested), when suddenly we heard about this massive earthquake in Santa Cruz, California, the town where I attended college, the residence of many people who were very dear to me. We didn't have e-mail; all I had was the phone. I called my nearest and dearest . . . and then it was fascinating to see who called me. A boy who'd been on my hall senior year; I was his RA, and he still thought of me in that role. A boy I'd casually dated my sophomore year. A girl I'd been friends with junior year, who spent senior year in England and sent me enormous epistles of life among the Brits. I'm not really a phone-call person (e-mail is my perfect communication vehicle), but nonetheless: It was good to hear their voices. It was good to have this moment together, this acknowledgment of survival and of connection, across time and distance.
But if e-mail had been around, I would've talked to 20 more people, easy.
Flash forward to 2007. Both of my brothers and and their cool wives live in Minnesota, and one sister-in-law is pregnant — and I hear that a bridge has collapsed during rush hour. I'm able to quickly reach the St. Paul couple, who assure me that neither was anywhere near that bridge — "though," Brother 2 says, slowly, "Prickly Red [the awesomely snarky wife of Brother 1] takes that bridge to work every day." I call and call and call my brother's cell, the only number I have, and it keeps going straight to voice mail. Mom and I are beside ourselves. It's hours before he gets back to us. Everything's fine. His battery was dead. And in fact, Prickly Red didn't even go to work that day; her stomach was acting up, baby was kicking, yada yada, she stayed home.
In awe, I said, "You know what this means, right? Clearly, you are birthing the next Messiah — or the leader of the Rebel forces." Brother 1 dutifully repeated this to the wife, who replied, "Damn straight."
(Nephew is insanely cute and charismatic and just set a record for pre-kindergarten test scores in the fine state of Minneapolis. Time will tell . . . )
So. Today. My first inkling was the call from Mom, which I didn't even answer because I'm so mired in work. But then Husband called to assure me he was alive (he was busily packing, till the police pounded on his door), and then cousins, uncles, friends began calling and e-mailing.
We're fine. Husband did have an extra-long commute home. Li'l Martini spent the afternoon saying, "Is Dad home yet? Has he come home? Have we heard from Dad?" Mimosa and I headed to the kitchen, making tacos and Spanish rice and sauteed Mexican vegetables. I made her a mocktail and shook myself up a lovely margarita, squeezing limes with the bright-yellow lime squeezer that Zanzibar gifted me with me a month or so ago. When Husband got home, the three of us greeted him at the door, and we all hugged for a long time.
Our hearts break for the families of the two who died today.
I'm treating my pain and worry with tequila, and I gotta say, it's going down goooood — but for me, the larger takeaway is this: You can build a bomb shelter, you can have a kick-ass disaster preparedness plan, you can dot every "i" and cross every "t," but when it comes right down to it, our connections with other people are what's going to save us. Not our giant rubber-band balls, not our hefty 401K. Our relationships.
Sending so much love to you all, from Canada to California, New Jersey to South Carolina, Minnesota to Washington, Israel to Tennessee, and everywhere in between.
—Lady C, slightly snockered on veryfine tequila but nonetheless ready to kum-ba-yah her heart out
* Husband was a Fulbright scholar in Iceland, and he lived a block away from an enormous statue of Leif Erickson staring off toward the New World. Here is a conversation he had with a colleague regarding Columbus Day:
- Husband: If I were back home, most things would be closed today.
- Husband: I don't imagine that Columbus gets much good press in Iceland.
- Ole: At least Leifur knew when he wasn't wanted.