After the flood

Kimberly A. Edwards is a Sacramento freelance writer who is currently working on a nonfiction book set in Arden Park in the late 1950s

We did no spring planting this year. Many of us still wait to return to our condos at Woodside, off Howe and Northrop.

Within days of the December 31 flood, our condo association hired a company to oversee the reconstruction of 62 damaged units. Demolition workers ripped up flooring, tore out walls, and broke the sunrise six days a week with power tools and Spanish. Some residents with a second floor moved coffee pots upstairs to dig in for a spell in front of area heaters.

Six months later, the frenetic march has slowed, and the work is almost done. Gone are the shock, denial and confusion. Few clues of wreckage remain: Walls have been replaced, carpets have been installed, and most of the painting has been done. Breathless resolve has given way to the shuffle of workers spotted occasionally. In the anonymous process of large-scale reconstruction, personal items have been lost, appliances scratched, and Coke cans strewn on patios. Work continues at a snail’s pace, at least from the point of view of the resident who awaits completion. Only when the door locks are changed can life be reclaimed.

The flood is long over for observers, but not for those of us affected by it. Daily, I pick up mail, bills and the next day’s work clothes. Carrying a bag on each shoulder has worn into the muscle. I have misplaced jewelry and mortgage payments as a result of bifurcated living. Books, envelopes, my daughter’s transcripts—many items remain stashed who knows where.

Recently, our condo association reissued a notice on the vehicle policy, but that letter languishes on a bed that hasn’t been slept in since New Year’s. Like the note reminding us to use clear bulbs in porch lights (at a time when many of us had no downstairs electricity), such rules and reminders belong to a different world right now.

The flood’s second slap has been enduring reconstruction over which residents like me have little control. It’s tough coping with shifting timelines, the wrong paint color, ambiguous insurance coverage, violations of personal space, and strangers coming and going. Thankfully, we learn from unfortunate events that render us helpless. In this case: Pay attention to weather predictions, press for protection from authorities and stack sandbags around the perimeter of your home. Floods bring enough damage without the additional distress from reconstruction that seems never to end.