You know it’s going to be an off-kilter day when you wake up with a neck kinked so badly that you can’t turn your head and it’s not even the worst thing that happens before you get out of bed that morning.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day for some people and plain old Monday to others. And for those of us who live in Los Angeles, it’ll be remembered for The Shamrock Shake earthquake that jolted hundreds of thousands awake at 6:25AM and started our days and weeks off a little more frightened than normal.
This summer marks 15 years that I’ve lived in Los Angeles and I’ve experienced my share of quakes during that tenure. But today’s quake was a bit different than every other I’ve experienced, and if you haven’t lived through one, it is definitely an experience. And not the kind you want to unnecessarily have.
Before today I hadn’t actually felt an earthquake in many years, maybe five, probably more. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Ohio where earthquakes occur only slightly more frequently than Halley’s Comet appearances and its more novelty than anything else when they do. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here in LA, as my wife did, and wasn’t forced to live through the destruction of “the big one”, the Northridge Quake, which celebrated its 20th anniversary just a few weeks ago, as she did. It’s not that I don’t take tremblors seriously, but I’ve just never let them burrow into my psyche. Until today.
Living in fear is a difficult way to make it through calendar flips and not something I like to propagate. But now that I have my two boys I guess my view is a bit askew.
You see, this morning when I felt that first telltale shake, my 4-year-old Little Dude had just woken up and was in the bathroom for his morning pee. It took me a second to calculate what was happening when I felt the ground’s movement and I’ve been through quakes before. Imagine being a toddler whose life awareness is expanding exponentially on a daily basis. To him, everything is still new and as he reminds me several times per day, “Everything is Awesome!” Thankfully my son doesn’t yet know about the reality of natural disasters. To him, this was like his first time in a bounce house again. After a minute of curiosity, he just wanted to watch Chuggington.
But what if we hadn’t been so lucky as to only suffer a few tipped picture frames today? The quake’s epicenter was about 10 miles from where we live, which is not very far in earthquake terms. How do we explain these things that no one wants to talk about to our kids, these mysteries of the unknown that appear in our realties usually only after affecting us in very destructive ways.
These local anchors were not expecting this today.
The first inclination might be to move. I knew that was where Mrs. Dude’s mind was headed as soon as I felt the first big wave. But no place in this country, or any other, is perfect. Just yesterday L.A. had cloudless blue skies and 95 degree “winter” weather despite much of the country still being buried waist deep in snowdrifts despite Spring’s commencement just a few days away. The South has hurricanes, North has blizzards and Midwest tornados, not to mention dust storms, thunderstorms, drought and other plagues that Mother Nature unexpectedly confronts us all with to keep us on our toes and insurance companies in business.
As parents we don’t have time to freak out about everything that could happen. We must be prepared for those freak instances when they actually do occur, inevitably at the worst possible times, like the infant who desperately needs a new diaper the moment you pull out of the driveway. Managing adversity and predicting the unpredictable are instincts that parents must possess for our children are our most valuable assets, the kind worth sacrificing everything for if need be.
So as the ground shook, and my older son finished his business, my next thought was where’s the baby and should we go grab him? Checking the video monitor next to my bed he was sound asleep in his crib and had somehow missed the whole event, true irony considering how light of a sleeper he usually is. Though the grass may always seem greener on the other side after one of these incidents shakes us up, we regrouped as a unit and moved forward with our day. Unafraid.