I want to preface this post by saying that I know I am writing from a place of privilege. We had little damage, we have savings for events such as these, and we are blessed to have family who have opened their doors to us so that we are not spending a small fortune every day just staying away. So many residents of South Louisiana are in significantly more dire situations than I am and thus must be feeling the strains of evacuation much more significantly than I am able to express here.
Initially, we chose to stay.
My mother-in-law passed away one week before the storm, and my husband only returned from making arrangements late Thursday evening. We had about 24 hours to decide if we would stay or go, while both having to work on Friday, and we agreed that evacuating seemed overwhelming. We couldn’t switch our brains from grief mode to storm prep mode so easily. We didn’t have the time or the physical or mental energy to prepare the house, pack two kids and a dog into the car, and sit in traffic for hours with everyone else trying to get out of the path of the storm. So we chose to stay. We knew staying meant we’d likely be without power for an indeterminate amount of time. We knew staying meant our neighborhood would flood and we wouldn’t be able to get out for several days, but we grabbed as many supplies as we could on the way home from work on Friday and chose to stay.
As Ida’s wrath bore down on my Northshore home, we fought the water that leaked in through our front door and window, but when she had passed, we were thankful to have escaped any significant damage. And we settled in for what we knew would be some long, hot days. We ate as much as we could out of the fridge and freezer before what was left was dumped in trash bags (so much food!). We boiled water on our gas stove and ate a lot of pasta. We took naps during the day, and I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone out loud to my children. Before settling down for long, sweaty nights, we’d “cool off” outside because our house would get so hot during the day. We were doing alright, but the heat started to get to us, and we started to run out of the few supplies we had been able to grab, so we decided that, as soon as the water receded enough for us to get out of the neighborhood, we would leave and stay with family until our power was restored.
Three days had felt like an eternity when we finally pulled out of our driveway Thursday morning. We were ready for relief from the heat, for coffee, and for showers we could stick our heads under. We were ready to just get away for a few days, but as I sat in my car scratching out the beginnings of this post, with my 4-year-old sleeping in the back seat because she threw a fit during the 1st quarter of my brother-in-law’s football game, I decided I hate the phrase “hurrication.”
This is nothing like a vacation.
I spent the day before we left packing and cleaning while the temperature in my house reached 90 degrees.
My kids started coughing the day before we left, so I took them to an urgent care and had them tested for COVID before I was willing to bring them into anyone’s home.
We left with a suitcase packed with 3 days’ worth of clean clothes and another suitcase full of dirty laundry, so I spent most of the first day here washing clothes.
My brother and sister-in-law are very busy teachers and coaches, so I feel like we are just living in their house and monopolizing what little downtime they have. (And they have been amazing about our invasion of their home!)
I know they mean it when they say, “make yourself at home,” but it still feels a little wrong to be opening every cabinet in their kitchen in search of a measuring cup.
Their much older dog is having a hard time tolerating the non-stop play of my much younger dog. She just won’t let him be!
My kids have exploded all over my in-law’s house, and my husband and I have already repeated, “This is not our house, we need to keep it clean” at least 100 times.
They want to eat every 30 minutes.
And they have zero ability to stay quiet in the morning, even though my brother-in-law didn’t get home from the football game until 2 am, or to go to bed without argument at night, even though their aunt and uncle have to get up early for work in the morning.
My in-laws have a pool, which my 4-year-old is a little too interested in, so I have to watch her like a hawk, and I put as many locked doors as I could between her and the backyard at night.
As a result of this fear, I have shoved my husband, myself, the dog crate, all of our belongings, and my youngest who was supposed to sleep in another room, as neatly as possible into the guest room, and now there is barely room to move.
My dog is crate trained, but I’m so paranoid that she will get out and destroy their house that we’ve been drugging her with small doses of Benadryl whenever we leave the house.
My children have been out of their routines for too long and their bad behavior seems to grow exponentially with every passing hour.
We all feel cooped up and out of sorts and are working hard to keep the tension at bay, especially in front of others – it’s not going well.
We have tried to find things to do, but most things cost money or require us to leave the dog behind.
And my mother-in-law’s absence is profoundly felt.
Nothing about the past 48 hours has resembled a vacation, and with no sense of when exactly we’ll return, I am overwhelmed by the stress evacuating has caused and exhausted by the mere thought of how much longer it could be. I am constantly on edge. Constantly trying to track each member of my family to make sure they are safe and not destroying something. Constantly cleaning up after them so that my in-laws don’t regret opening their home to us. Constantly checking for Entergy updates so that I can have some idea of how long we will be invading their space.
I am so grateful for all the help and resources we have been blessed with in this challenging time and for the opportunity to spend time with family we don’t often see. I know that we are so much better of than so many others, but for anyone to suggest that this upheaval could resemble any sort of vacation is ludicrous. It is not a vacation. It is survival. It is managed chaos. It is a Pandora’s box of emotions. And I will need a REAL vacation (perhaps one without the kids, or maybe even without the husband), whenever this never-ending “hurridemic” is finally over.