Everyone is posting their senior pictures, so I give you Simi Valley class of 1994, baby. Boom, I was pulled right back there while chatting with my cousin today from a very safe distance of several states. What a strange, wonderful and terrible year that was.
Class of 2020 seniors had no idea that their year would be upended, that life was about to change overnight. Upon closing our eyes for sleep on January 16, 1994, we didn't see it coming either. I woke much too early the next morning as the earth started rolling under me. Nothing remarkable, no biggie, I quite enjoyed the occasional trembler. Just try to get me out of bed!
I rolled over to go back to wait for it to pass and go back to sleep. You don't realize how long twenty seconds is until you hold a plank or ride out a shockwave. There was time to begin to stir and decide to go back to dreamland before realizing that this was no regular event that even I, the almighty slumberer, could sleep through. My room was shared with my mom and sister. My mother grabbed my wrist and began running with us out of the room. Shelves were falling in front of our exit and I had to force her hand off me to traverse them. No small feat in her panic death-grip state.
Looking out our window as I moved through the room, bursts of light were appearing everywhere. The speed at which thoughts form, trying to assess a surprise attack, makes it seem as if time has slowed to a crawl. I remember wondering if we were being bombed, if this was an act of man instead of nature. Later, I learned they were simply transformers blowing. No air raid. No World War Three, yet, but our community was devastated all the same. The quake had a magnitude of 6.7 along a fault that we didn't even know existed yet. No warning. No way to know what was in store.
We were fortunate to emerge relatively unscathed. A shelf full of trophies fell where we were sleeping and not one hit us. There was some damage to the house, but nothing like some others in the heart of the valley, others who would not wake up again. As we all stood outside without power, waiting for the morning light to finally break, there was an eerie silence. Neighbors staring at the sky, staring at each other, coming down from the adrenaline.
Access to power, water, gas, and groceries was cut off for quite some time. We maybe had one gallon left in our car and I used it to drive to my boyfriend's house. That THRILLED my mother, who was more worried about getting to places like the hospital she worked at. Imagine that. Moms, amirite? Life did not return to normal for quite a while. Sections of freeways collapsed, gas lines and water mains were damaged. Buildings caved. Aftershocks seemed to put us in a permanent state of worry and seasickness. Simi High was closed due to the damage it sustained. When we were finally able to return to school, I finished my senior year sharing a campus with rival Royal High School across town. Sitting in strange classrooms at strange times and feeling incredibly disoriented. It did not help with my attendance record nor my depression.
More little earthquakes were to come before graduation. In quick succession, I would lose an important friendship, have my heart smashed, quit singing, and experience the non-consensual taking of a piece of me-the aftershocks of which had far reaching ripples and sunk me further into a debilitating depression that lasted longer than twenty seconds.. You may not have seen it even up close, but the sustained damage wasn't even addressed until I invited a demo crew of counselors in twenty years later.
That was not the senior year I'd expected and never saw coming.
Don't lose heart dear reader, because the earthquakes that hit also revealed an abundance of gold deposits, priceless kindnesses from precious people. Just as neighbors who'd lived on the same street for years met each other for the first time on that early January morning, good things emerge from rubble. There were sweetnesses and friendships that I will always hold as treasures. They taught me how to love others. They sustained and prevented me from slipping completely over the side of self-destruction. Jeff, Robyn, Jenny, Tim, Amanda, this is why I will always love you even from far away. Those beautiful things last long after the memory of pain and inconveniences fade. Sandee and Arvid, the way you loved our little trio means so much more to me now as I wonder how on Earth you had three more people living in your home with a house full of teenagers. Could I do the same? I don't honestly know. Later that January, I would meet the man I would marry three years later, though I didn't know it. We would go on to have the most tender, funny, and handsome five sons I never knew I needed. I also gained the stepdad I absolutely did not want whose love I can't imagine life without now. As I'm sitting here in pandemic mode, watching my boys work on a truck together and build a 1400 piece Lego set, I am quite, QUITE thankful for 1994.
And that brings us to the moment today, all these years later, that brightened my heart even as it made me cry. As my memories of that time are all an emotional haze, her memory made my day. I mean, I'm good with being remembered as a mother hen and a cool chick wrapped up in one to her and my sister during the crazy weeks, post-quake. Seriously, it touched my heart that she would take the time to tell me I had some kindnesses to give, as well. I love you and miss you, Jill, and can't wait to hug you in some place warm and tropical when this is over. Thanks for encouraging me today as I'm dealing with the little earthquakes of depression and anxiety as our "normal" life is once again shook. You were the giver of a priceless gift today.
God is good to give us each other. Sometimes he has to slow us down tor shake us up to look at our need of one another. Life will not always be on lockdown, but the way we love each other now and allow others to love us can last a lifetime.
Class of 2020, I am crushed for you. Feel your disappointments, they're yours. You don't need to rush into thankful mode, but look for the little treasures in the waiting.
In the mean time, here's a little more inspiration for today's post from my high school years and Tori Amos. Enjoy.