Hidden in my closet is a box of small presents for my daughter, which I restock from the dollar aisle at Target and draw from when I think she needs a pick-me-up. This morning, which is the 12th after the floods began, I turned to the present box impulsively.
They’re little gel caps stuffed with sponges shaped like animals or whatnot. You put them in warm water and the gel dissolves, revealing the sponge.
The pack in my present box was space-themed, perfect for Lily who loves distant planets and exploding stars. I didn’t tell her what the capsules would do; to her, they were as exotic as supernovas. I told her to fill the bathroom sink with warm water (Franklin lifted its conservation requirement yesterday) and drop them in. “Just be patient,” I said. “Just watch.”
I watched her watch.
Twelve days ago, the two of us watched the forecast together, trying to decide if we could drive over to the rec center for a swim. The rec center eventually was forced to close when the river that wraps behind it filled the walking track around it like a cereal bowl. That day, she ended up watching movies and I resolved to manage our newspaper’s website for the evening, exchanging frequent phone calls with our homepage editor, whose West End condominium complex wouldn’t regain power for another ten days.
The next six days felt like 60, with a new crises seeming to erupt every hour in a different part of town.
Opryland Hotel, where my husband proposed and our high school had its proms, evacuated all its guests to nearby McGavock High School. A plug was pulled on Lower Broadway, where we’d run the Country Music Marathon the weekend before; the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Bridgestone Arena, LP Field… These places we all love, filling with water from the river our city was founded on.
A man died in Antioch when he stepped outside the Olive Garden where he worked to call his kids. A couple died in Bellevue when they tried to drive to church that Sunday. A man died in Leipers Fork when he left his house at the top of a hill to check on tenants renting at the bottom of the hill.
At home in Franklin, the Harpeth had left a muddy mark ten feet in the tree line anywhere near the river. My daughter’s school began sending home notes about all the families displaced by the flooding in Fieldstone Farms. None of my neighbors dared complain. We were on the lucky side of the street; Hillsboro Road had functioned like a levy. Most of us knew about the house that had exploded from a fire on the other side of Hillsboro after their whole cul-de-sac had already flooded. A few days later, we rode our bikes a little further and found yet another burned down house. Two fires in the middle of the flood zone. Two Jobs.
When the first moon-shaped sponge popped from its gel casing this morning, Lily was ecstatic.
“This is so awesome. How did that happen?” she wanted to know.
“With water,” was all I could say.