Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

A Moment In Geologic Time

by Judy Drechsler

My Dad was in the war flying gliders when Mom scraped together enough for a down payment to build the house, against everyone's advice. Women just didn't do that kind of thing, they told her. She should wait for my father to get back from the war. But we moved into that two bedroom bungalow at 1708 Ellis Boulevard, a short block from the Cedar River, when I was 4. The street didn't quite live up to its fancy label as it was lined with small houses and considered a lower middle class part of town. Clean and neat, but definitely working class.

The river flowed through my life, gently lapping the sides of the old rowboat as I sat in it with my grandpa, our fishing lines floating on top of the water like little roadmaps. Later, I snuck down to the river to fish with a neighbor boy against my mother's strict orders not to. On pleasant, summer days, we sat companionably on the edge of the river, our bare feet squishing mud between our toes as we tossed our lines into the muddy Cedar River.

I only remember the river as really threatening once, turning into a frightening and hostile bully one March as a heavy winter snow melt added itself to the river bed. The angry gray swells surged forward licking at the tops of the levies. I was home from the University of Iowa on Spring Break. Across the street from our house was a big wooden fence held up by sand bags. We slept in our clothes as we were warned we might have to evacuate quickly during the night if the river went above the predicted flood level. It didn't. At the time I had no idea how lucky we had been.

Then last year a moment in Geologic Time occurred when a 500-year flood turned the Cedar River into an unrecognizable, raging torrent that tore through large sections of the city, including my old neighborhood, covering that little house where I grew up to the rooftop and angrily stirring the belongings inside into a mess of things impossible to recognize or clean up when the occupants returned. My cousin told me 1708 had been "red tagged" along with nearly all the other homes in the neighborhood. So the river won, reclaiming its pathway in the most violent manner possible. The city plans to make it all into parkland. The memory of that little house will linger only in my mind and the faded photographs in my scrapbook.

Judy Drechsler is a retired teacher of reading and writing who lives in Port Townsend, WA. She has had many professional pieces published in the Education Field and is now trying her hand at memoir writing. Cedar Rapids, IA, where she grew up, is still recovering from the record flood of spring 2008.

Twenty-second Flash

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