Well, we all had some expectations after the flood. Bethy was expecting to watch the television after the rain let up, and we were back in our own home. Twelve days without electricity was a long time for a two-year to wait, but her expectation came to fruition and she was once again nestled in her chair watching her Abelha Maia.
Bethy also anticipated being able to ride her bike outside. That was also an expectation fulfilled – but only in part. The garden and the paving stones were in the process of being rehabilitated from the muck and slime. But, she did well on the front varanda safely over the the part of the neighbor’s farm that had come to rest at our abode.
Thanksgiving peeked around the corner and prompted our gratitude for all that we had in spite of the mess. Our house was intact, and we had an electric radiator that we could move from place to place in the cold winter temperature. The rooms all had doors that we could close to keep us warm in whatever we needed to do.
We were healthy, and had enough. Our salary was not generous, but we had enough for our daily bread and a little more. Our expectation was that our Heavenly Father would continue to provide – and He did. We had Elisabeth. Each day I marveled as I saw her growing and learning.
Soon our expectations of Christmas crept up on us. Money and presents arrived from family and friends in the states. It was only Bethy’s second Christmas, and she had few expectations. Nevertheless, we enjoyed shopping for her. We had decorated the tree shortly after Thanksgiving, and her eyes were wide with joy, wonder and a bit of apprehension. But, we had another expectation in that Christmas tide.
Our other expectation was about a very young lady who had yet to show her face. She had a name (Sarah Susanna) and Harry’s expectation was that she would be born on his birthday, January 7th. The doctor said she could come at any time. With that expectation in mind, we bought Bethy a baby doll named Susie, and a crib to put her in. We hoped thought that it would help Bethy make the transition from only child to big sister. The time was getting close, but not soon enough for me.
It wasn’t just the television that we missed. My washing machine would not work without “light.” Not a happy thought with a toddler in terry cloth diapers being potty trained. Night came early in November and even earlier when there was “no light.” And there were the clothes and other items that we had stored in the garage under our flat, plus the stench from the mud and drowned livestock. Some of the baby clothes were irredeemable.
No refrigerator meant “to market to market” every day. Milk was the ultra-pasteurized in a box kind, which was better than nothing but did not taste like fresh milk. We were thankful for our propane gas cooker as we tried to create some kind of “new normal.” At least I could cook. I read books to Bethy, and she played with her dolls and dressed up in my cast-off clothes to entertain herself.
The back garden was one deep puddle of river mud. The grasshoppers were not impressed. One sunny day my friend Ana Maria and I opened the windows on the varandas to help dry out the humidity. When we opened the windows, a five-inch-long grasshoppers hopped in. It was some time before I stopped freaking out. The back varanda was, for a time, abandoned.
One morning I decided that while the refrigerator was empty, I could easily clean the inside of it. It was large for a the Portuguese appliance, but it was short enough that, at 5-feet 8-inches of height, I could look over the top of it. I got a sponge and a bowl of soapy water and opened the refrigerator. Then I stepped back. The air carried the reek of death. I had missed one small package of chicken livers, and they announced their presence rather strongly.
I always started dinner early so I could have enough natural light to cook. When Harry arrived at home after the sun set – around 7 p.m. – we ate. Since it was fully dark by that time, we rinsed the dishes and left them in the heavy-duty marble kitchen sink to wash in the morning. The ants, whose homes the flood disrupted, took a little longer to surface than the grasshoppers. I woke up four days into our adventure to a kitchen overrun by the displaced ants. Cleaning up the kitchen by candle light became our romantic evening activity.
We didn’t have to wait as long as Noah did for the flood to end; we had no electricity for only 12 days. I can sympathize with Mrs. Noah in the cleanup afterward though. Some of the things in the garage were salvageable. Thanks to the neighbor, we had our car. And we were not harmed (though we harmed a few ants and grasshoppers). Bethy’s last Christmas as an only child lay ahead, and 1984 would arrive just before her baby sister would arrive.