Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tempus Fugit

What is it with me and dead animals? My cat kept dragging in mice and squirrels to play with in the house in Texas and now I think something crawled into my trailer’s drain pipe and died. I know that it’s usually impossible to have an animal crawl into a pipe connecting to a trailer but this trailer...well, it’s long and complicated so just accept it that I have this horrible odor and no matter where it came from it’s bad. Then when I bought room deodorizer the trailer is so small that the smell is much stronger than it would be in a regular house. So I have my choice of which smell is the worse at any given moment.

But that’s about the only thing I have to complain about this week. Things are going amazingly smooth. Just when you get a group trained and fall in love with a few members of the group the week is over and we have to part. I will especially miss the guy from Ithaca, New York who came to me and specifically asked for some really hard and sweaty work. He was my best friend all week.

I’m starting to see a pattern and rhythm to the week. Mondays are hectic with many questions. Things start to smooth out after Monday. But I’m still making about two trips to Home Depot at day. Anyone who ever jokes about women at a mall being the most frustrating companions hasn’t watched men at a hardware store. I finally figured out to just find one of those biggo carts to sit on and find a magazine. I can’t get out of going on these trips, either, because I am the one with the official payment instruments, which can be any of several methods and varying with the homeowner. I went to the store twice yesterday for a total of five purchases and one return, using three different methods of payment, one of which usually takes the patience of a saint to endure.

But you didn’t come to hear me complain.

My favorite night of the week here in camp is always Neighbor Night.

On Neighbor Night we invite everybody we see all week to come to the volunteer village for dinner. They throw an extra chicken in the pot and most teams cook their best dinner of the week. Afterwards, there are greetings and speeches with a song or two from some of the Pearlington women. If Miss Annie comes she always sings "Precious Lord" and Miss Kitty does an amazing "Amazing Grace." It’s not only a chance for us to spend time with the Pearlington families we’ve worked with but it’s doing wonderful things for the community of Pearlington. We are building more than houses here, we’re building a new community. I’ve have someone from Pearlington tell me almost every time we do Neighbor Night that they knew who their neighbors were but never really talked to them before coming to our dinner. One woman in particular was shy all week long and spoke of how she stayed to herself and liked it that way. I was really a little shocked when she showed up Thursday but by the end of the evening she was taking down names and phone numbers of her neighbors. In addition, she connected with another resident in town she never knew and they discovered their mothers had grown up in the same neighborhood in Louisiana.

One family had four generations at our dinner: From great-grandmother down to seven year old Chloe. The house we’re building is for the great-grandmother, MeMaw, her granddaughter,Melissa and Melissa’s daughter, Chloe. Chloe is about seven and in the second grade. Someone announced to us that Chloe had a surprise thank you gift for us—she was going to dance for us. However, once the spotlight was on her, she froze with stage fright. People kept urging her to go on but she just stood there. Then the Holy Spirit just took over for me and I knew exactly what to do.

I went over and kneeled down to whisper to Chloe and ask if she knew any of the High School Musical tunes. She smiled hopefully at me. I had a couple of the songs on my iPod for my own granddaughters. I told the crowd that Chloe and I were going off to “rehearse” and they should just do something else until we came back. I got Chloe in my trailer and hooked up “What Time is It?” to the iPod speakers. The instant the first note came out of my speaker she began to dance there in the trailer. She regained her confidence and was ready to put on her show. So, we went back to the dining tent and Chloe danced her little heart out.

I had been worrying that I was too old for this job but sometimes the job requires a grandmother’s touch..

Ever since I first visited Pearlington I’ve had what I call my “Spoon Obsession.” I can’t figure out what happened to all the spoons during the storm. What happened to all the little tiny things, the thousands of objects in any given household that lay around loose. Spoons, spools of sewing thread, pens, nail clippers, keys—the things the bulldozers would have let fall through their jaws when they came to move the piles of debris. They would have all been washed out of the houses. When the storm hit, it washed everything away and most people never found any of their possessions afterwards. This seemed incomprehensible to me. It had to have landed somewhere. A year later we still saw the big things piled up at the sides of the streets: piles of jumbled and jagged metal, wood and plastic with sometimes a whole automobile on top of the pile, much as you might place a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. But the bulldozers would have missed the small things. And Pearlington is more woods than houses; the bulldozers couldn't go into the woods to clear. Where were the spoons?

There was a young woman with last week’s group who had come with the idea of gleaning creative inspiration in this town. Instead of hanging drywall she had come to document the experience. She took about a billion photographs of people. She interviewed many of the residents. Then, Friday morning, she told me she intended to hike through the woods looking for “things” to make a sculpture out of. I told her about my spoon obsession.

When I came back to camp after lunch on Friday Keri was in the parking lot cleaning off her greatest find of the week: an old Grandfather clock she had found deep in the woods. It could have been brand new on August 29, 2005 but two years in the sun and rain had made an antique out of it. It had the Tempus Fugit signature on the face. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Time flies.

Two years have passed and Pearlington is slowly coming back. Pastor Rawls has said that his church will be rebuilt by Easter and he intends to worship in it on that day. It still doesn't have siding on the outside or electricity inside. I talked to the carpenter who doubts it will be "finished" but thinks it might at least be worship-able by then. Goodness, these people worshipped outside the first Sunday after the storm, most churches did that. They'll be in that sanctuary, for sure.

That’s where I’m spending my Easter this year.Time flies.

1 comment:

dfw said...

this may be the best job you've ever had, tricky at first I know, but you are clearly in your element. miss you