We Were All a Wreck

Two-year old Ryan hid behind my legs as “the snort” came up the driveway. The ground vibrated and rumbled. It belched smoke and steam, growled and groaned, engines grinding, treads clacking up the driveway. A suspended grapple with teeth appeared first, looming above the trees like a dinosaur, its hinged face bowed atop a tall neck called an arm, its body read, CAT. It clanked and roared to a stop, quieted before emitting one last cough. Our snort, the name inspired by a children’s book we’d read about a backhoe, had come to knock down our old house. After a final battle with rats in the floors and nesting in walls, we’d about had it with that old place; were ready to start fresh. Our snort was an excavator with a grapple that looked like jaws with teeth; very big ones. 

In the silence, Ryan eased out toward the machine, his hands cupped over his ears, tilted his head all the way back and looked up. The driver was up there perched in the seat, hardhat, red suspenders. Ryan called, “Are you here to fix our house?”

Just days earlier we had moved to into the rental unit near the house to manage the remodel. Ryan and his sister lived in a tent in back of the shop with my underemployed son (their father) and unemployed mother, Jan. Ryan was three and his baby sister nearly one. Jan and Liza stayed in the tent most days, rarely venturing out. So, Ryan spent a lot of time with me as I tended the place: trimming trees, planting a garden, climbing up in the seat of my own tractor to turn the compost, feeding the horses and looking after chickens. 

“Nope,” the driver stretched out of the cab to hook a hand around the grab bar and jumped down. Taking off her helmet, she shook out her hair. Dwarfed by the immense machine our neighbor Sharon was sleek and taught as an animal. “Sorry. I’m here to wreck it.”  Ryan burst into tears.

We were all a wreck at that time, our lives unsettled by disruption: getting ourselves and our household items packed up for the construction project, moving into the cabin, fighting with Jan and Tony, erecting a tent our back for Tony’s family to live in, Jan’s illnesses, medications and depression, social services complaints and we were bleeding money, twice as much as we’d planned for. But most importantly we knew by then that we had to do something about Tony and Jan, because they were driving over the line, heading in the wrong direction.

(This memory and the way the deconstruction aligned with our family’s situation, one deconstruction after another, like the house, was eventually followed by reconstruction. It seemed a relevant thought. Not quite an epiphany. Simply a moment when I paused while editing a nearby scene in my memoir, Fallen From the Nest.) (names changed to protect the innocent and the guilty)