Another waiting day but this one was the big one. The tide had peaked at that “port” at 4am that morning and was not expected to rise any further. News reports on the radio said it was about a meter less than the 1974 flood so there was hope yet. Since I am known as “Pollyanna” there was no way that any of the stuff I had thrown up high on the second floor would even have a hint of moisture!
I was up early to walk Billie and it was an absolutely beautiful morning, clear blue skies and not a breath of wind to disturb the motionless fingers of water reflecting and trapping buildings in the surrounding streets. It seemed to be a recurring theme noiseless, motionless fluid. Quite beautiful and hauntingly photogenic.
Separating the real from the unreal was difficult with no clearly defined boundary between the two.
Waterview Lodge seemed more appropriate on that morning since this block of apartments appeared to be floating on a mirror and no sign of the park that was now two meters under.
And of course Billie. Fascinated by, well probably scared of, a left over christmas bauble floating as a lessor partner of two empty beer barrels that had escaped from the nearby bowls club. The third barrel, spotted on the previous day, was missing so must have got tired of the company it was keeping.
Walking around the local streets was putting off the inevitable. At some stage I had to drive over the bridge spanning that river and see what I could see in my street. Not that I was reluctant, I just assumed I could not get anywhere near the house so there was no point in rushing.
Later that morning Nikki, Angelo and I drove over that bridge and it was only when you saw the river in flood did you really see the contrast with the mirrored water of the adjacent streets. A racing, turbulent flow with whirlpools that appeared and disappeared across the surface while at the margins it tore against trees that were once high on the bank.
Then there in the middle of the raging mass of water was the third beer barrel, racing to the sea, this was definitely the more adventurous of the three.
Once over the bridge it became obvious that the water had now spread so that it was impossible to get even close to where my house was located. The White Lady Funeral Parlor marked the exclusion boundary.
While mum and dad had their own thoughts, their offspring did what kids do and maybe just maybe, thats the beer bottle I threw into that muddy brown water in disgust two days previously.
Then out of my street – Leybourne – came two bright orange inflatables from Tallebudgera surf life saving club on the Gold Coast. This was my first experience of the “volunteers” that over the next few days changed the way I thought about our community.
We came back one street and walked up to the Graceville state school which is at one end of the park that my house backs onto. Small groups of people clustered around the waters edge talking amongst themselves in subdued voices. You could feel the physical urge among them to get closer. From what I could tell most had houses down the street or around the corner, all inaccessible. We were all united in our alienation.
Then something odd caught my eye.
Stranded on the waters edge was a set of drawers, one inside another with a third just clinging on. At first glance I thought it was amusing – somebody’s cupboard drawers had floated away. Then it hit me like a punch in the stomach, totally unexpected and completely overwhelming.
They were my drawers. Something normally hidden in a piece of furniture inside a house was now on public display and people were pointing. Now it was really personal. It was at that instant my denial vanished and the “pollyanna” in me died.
I knew the house had gone.
I asked Angelo to take a picture, a hand on a connection to a home that was now lost. Thats not a smile its a grimace from deep within. Click. The moment was gone and I knew what I had to do.
I can still feel that punch now as I write this and thats 29 days after the event. How often in a lifetime do you get such clarity in a single instance?
What added to that moment was just a few feet away. An orange kids “floatie” identical to the one I had thrown up on the back deck of Craig and Belinda’s place two days earlier. You know, the family with two kids who were on the Gold Coast when this all started. Belinda with potatoes in hand in the last image before we all left our houses to their fate.
Whether it was the same floatie did not really matter at that stage it was the juxtaposition of my drawers and the floatie, adjacent just like our houses.
I could not bring myself to grab “my” drawers. In a very strange way I felt it would be stealing. How can you explain that?
That was Thursday the 13th of January.