Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Around...

As I was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets today, getting stuff down that I haven't touched in a long time, washing and packing it away wrapped in newspaper in boxes, I ran across a set of dishes my mom gave me back in 1997.

That was the year of the '100 year flood' of the river in the valley she lives in up in the Eastern Sierra mountains. They called it a 100 year flood because something that catastrophic only occurs once every 100 years (if you're lucky). There was a perfect storm of a heavy snow pack up in the higher elevations, then a 3 day warm, tropical rainstorm that then melted all that snow at once, creating much, much more water all at once than the river could handle.

The result on New Year's Eve of 1997 was a massive flood that completely destroyed a good portion of the 30 mile highway that followed alongside the river, through the canyon, that ran towards the town my mom lives in. The flood was devastating for the town that was in it's path, and it not only forever changed the course of the river, it scoured the canyon of every last tree, bush, boulder and building. These days that canyon STILL looks like Mars, it is so devoid of greenery and any rock larger than your fist. The lodge resort that one of my classmate's parents owned, where I worked as a maid through high school and hung out with my dad to fish the river, gone. So thoroughly gone in fact, and the landscape so radically changed, that today I can't tell exactly where it used to be.

Along with the highway and the lodge, the flood destroyed and/or carried away numberous homes in town. Incredibly, though it came through around 2AM, no one died. My mother, her husband and another couple had happened to be celebrating New Year's Eve in a larger town about 75 miles away, and when they tried to return home on New Year's Day found out about the flood and that they weren't going home anytime soon, at least until the water had receded.

Three days later they were allowed back into the area, not knowing if they would even HAVE a home to go back to. My mom was lucky, her house was up a hill a bit and so was still standing, although deep ruts were cut in the ground on either side of the house--the water had for some reason just happened to split and flow down either side of the house.

Her friends that lived next to the river were not so lucky. Their home had been ripped up and carried away about 85% intact, but obviously was a total loss. They did manage to find it a few miles downriver of where they'd left it, but everything inside had gotten tossed around pretty badly and broken, and what wasn't broken was covered in mud. The home and everything in it was totaled.

One thing that survived, remarkably, were these dishes--delicate, thin Bavarian china, the type you can hold up to the light and almost see through. The woman had gotten them sometime after 1930 as a wedding gift, then brought them back with her to America from Germany after World War II ended. Damn tough dishes, it turns out! It's funny what survives a disaster...

It used to be a service for 12, including serving dishes, three sizes of plates, two sizes of bowls, the whole 9 yards. Of the serving pieces only the big platter made it, and one lonely teacup survived. The lady didn't want to keep them because they only served to remind her of the flood, so my mother gave them to me. They're beautiful, but aren't really my taste--but I took them anyway so the lady would at least feel that someone could get some use out of them.

I just find it kind of humorous that after all the things these dishes have been through, now they're being packed up to go back to the area they came from 14 years ago. To really complete this weird circle I'll have to have those folks over for dinner once we're moved in and use these dishes!

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