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.
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.
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.
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...
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!