quiltI heard a strange tearing noise and looked up as I walked across the room. A crack moved slowly across the south wall of my dining room. That’s strange. I watched with horror as the crack continued to move down. Within a minute, it widened. What was happening? I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Leslie and Jeff were upstairs in their rooms unaware of impending disaster. I stood for a few more minutes watching. The crack was now opening more, probably one inch wide; I could see the trees in the backyard through the opening.

Just this morning on TV, I had watched a home in California falling into a large sinkhole. That couldn’t be happening here. Our house was on stable ground. Or could it? The opening increased. I called the kids and tried not to sound too alarmed as I hollered, “Come here, hurry.” My instructions were loud and clear. “We might be in trouble. Get your coat and go across the street to Joyce’s and wait there. I will get a few things and back out the car and meet you outside.”

Just in case this house is in major trouble, I had to think quickly about the most essential thing for me to do. If my house is somehow destroyed, what do I think I must save? What cannot be replaced?

I hurried for my purse, my phone, my coat, some underwear, a couple of shirts and for sure the new genealogy quilt that our daughter had sewed with family names on it, certainly an heirloom that I want to pass on to my children. My Bible. I could get another, but this has so many notes and passages underlined. My computer with 400 gig of data; that’s too heavy for me to handle just now. My piano that was purchased in memory of my sister Bev who died in an auto crash; no. What about all my family history/genealogy books? My stack of music? The books in the library? My china? All the files? Scrapbooks?

I had always said that if I had to get out of the house in a tornado or catastrophe, I would run first for my scrapbooks. Seventeen of them full of family pictures and travel diaries were stored in the trunk that Randy had purchased at a farm sale. I couldn’t carry all that. I had thought once of putting that trunk on wheels so I could pull it out with me. Too late now.

Well, then I woke up and realized the crack in the wall was only a dream (nightmare). But I now couldn’t let loose of the thought of what I would do, what I would take, what I couldn’t take with me in a crisis. At 74 years old, I had already thought of what I would take to the nursing home so contemplating a move was not entirely new. How much I had in my house — how much seems close to my heart.

Because of a recent cancer diagnosis, I had to think about values and property. In addition to the example of a life well lived, my parents had passed special things to us –Mom’s beautiful quilts, bedroom furniture when we were first married, grandmother’s red dishes, Grandfather’s rocker.

As I contemplated my own values, I turned to writing, to remembering and writing. I researched the history of my Grandmother’s Graber family from South Dakota, the history going all the way back to Moses Goering, baptized in 1766 in Montbeliard, France. I now had started exploring my Dad’s family. I learned stories of special people from different locations, different ways of thinking, different time frames. My evaluation in my writing was obvious — my belongings are not as important as writing stories of my family and articulating matters of importance to me, stories that may instill a sense of family stability and belonging to my grandchildren and stories that bring me much comfort and pleasure.

The next morning as I walked through the dining room, I couldn’t help peeking at the south wall. No crack there. But maybe I’ll pick up my pen and paper and write.

–Kathy Goering, April 10, 2017