Disaster cracks lives open

My home, built back in 1960, has known three families.

The first owner built it. That was Jack Sides, a man descended from three generations of local bricklayers, who mortared the coral-colored bricks together.

This is the house that Jack built. Jack also gathered the antebellum bricks that transformed the double garage into our library.

I will never forget how he laughed when I asked to look at the blueprints.

"Young lady," he said, "I just drew it all out on a piece of paper."

Almost two decades have passed since that moment.

My husband, Ralf, and I look forward to the day when the mortgage is paid (not too long, now!), when we can give the house the loving care it has deserved from us.

Someday we will put down new flooring. Someday we will replace the kitchen cabinets and the drawers that need to be propped on the hip to avoid tumbling out and spilling their contents in all directions. Someday.

I have lived my best years in this home, our only home. My son knows no other.

This house is as I had hoped it would be when we moved in, a home blessed with a family that is grateful and happy for each other. I have felt cradled here. Every little improvement we've made is our way to thank the place that has given us shelter and safety, comfort and peace.

I can't imagine leaving our home, though I do sometimes walk through it imagining myself telling a future grandchild about the railway tie in the library and the antebellum bricks that have witnessed life in the South for well over 150.

We have a little plaque at our house, as so many people do. It has a line on it from Ralph Waldo Emerson. It reads: "The ornament of a house is the friends who visit it."

Newspapers have been filled this past week with people who walk among the remains of their homes. In one picture, one carries an American flag; the other holds an object I can't make out.

They sift through their lives all tumbled about them, cracked open.

Who will replace the china vase from grandma? What about the cut glass decanter? Nothing can be done about the picture albums destroyed by rain and wind.

I imagine them, the people who have lost their homes. What can they recover? Where will they go?

I imagine the families who lost children to a storm system that clawed through our beautiful state.

I sit in my home's office and look about at my books. One was signed by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel after we spoke for half an hour in a Chicago hotel about hope. It is just a paperback. Truth be told, the pages are falling apart.

But Elie Wiesel signed it; it would cut my heart open to lose that book.

I look at the pictures surrounding me. There, our son is 5; there, he is 9. The picture on my desk is large; he smiles gently, a young man now.

May those whose homes have been ravaged be comforted. May they be able to rebuild their lives.

May they dwell in peace again.