I wasn’t planning to go to the park Friday night. It had been a long week of refereeing, and I had planned to run away from home for an hour or so. Dad was taking Thing1 and Thing2 to the park in Arlington to help celebrate the re-opening of the pond. It was sort of a big deal – the Battenkill had completely overwhelmed the park and pond during Hurricane Irene. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, however, and knew we’d be spending lots of time there later, so about 30 minutes after the kids skedaddled with Dad, I took off towards the bookstore in Manchester.
My trip took me past the park, and noticing that the parking lot was not overflowing, I decided to stop in for a few minutes to watch the kids cavort in the pond and to say hello to a few friends. There were only about 30 or 40 people at the party. And, while people streamed in and out, the party under the Lions’ pavilion never got much bigger.
The Lions’ club had prepared a special barbecue with all the trimmings, and even the coleslaw was a little perkier than the usual pavilion picnic fare. Bathed by the setting sun and the low tones of Beach Boys’ music interspersed with the chatter of neighbors reconnecting, the pavilion became a nostalgia-wrapped cocoon. It was hard to believe a flood had ever occurred, let alone ten months ago. We reconnected, and the conversations inevitably revolved around Irene and who had escaped damage, whose house was still empty and likely to remain that way, which bridges were re-opened and which were gone. Talk of the fear and losses from those days sometimes evoked somber, anxious expressions on the faces of friends,but triumph quickly replaced that anxiety when we related our stories of recovery.
Every Vermonter has a ten-month-old story of strength found and uncommon generosity witnessed or received. We have all seen decimated homes and bridges damaged or destroyed by water and debris. We have all heard stories of food being delivered on ATVs or even horses over mountain paths to trapped towns. Arlington and the rest of the state have resumed their summer rituals, but when I pulled out of the parking lot and drove toward the hub-bub of Manchester, I felt as if we have all done much more than just survive. And I was glad I had decided on an escape to my family.