Lost (But Realized) In the Flood

Rachel Levy Lesser
5 min readSep 9, 2021

The remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded our basement. My family and I hunkered down there last Wednesday watching our local weather reporters try and predict the potential path of multiple tornados near where we live in suburban Philadelphia. We noted how lucky we were to have such a cozy accommodating finished basement, and this particular summer, we even had a small makeshift kitchen in our basement having moved items from our real kitchen down there because of real kitchen renovation. I heated up our take out dinner in the basement kitchen microwave as we switched back and forth from weather reports to sports reports on the basement television.

And then the water came in. It happened so fast, no one could tell where it came in first. By the time we all ran upstairs to put shoes on and then back down again to survey the damage, the entire basement floor was covered in a couple inches of rain water.

“Save what’s important to you,” my husband said as he and my son began carrying up the basement bar stools. My daughter followed behind with a speaker in one hand and a toaster in the other. I walked past the wet and clearly ruined couch and coffee table to the unfinished storage part of the basement, my feet feeling surprisingly cold. Birkenstocks in bare feet may have not been the best choice for this situation. I looked down at a sea of wet cardboard boxes. My heart sank realizing that so had the precious contents of these boxes.

I think it’s safe to say that I am the historian of my large, extended, close family. Perhaps that is why I became a writer to document said histories? I gave eulogies for three of my grandparents and for my mother. I am the one that the cousins and aunts and uncles call to fill in a detail of a family story. I also have a lot of storage in my house. When we bought our house years ago from the original owners, they told us this was known as the “the closet house.” We could see why.

And so perhaps because of my physical and mental storage space, I got all the family stuff. It started nearly 20 years ago. My maternal grandparents died right before we moved into our first house. I got a bunch of their stuff. My mother died a year later and I got a ton of her stuff. Two years later, my paternal grandmother died. Yes, more stuff.

It’s easy to figure out what to do with the real stuff — furniture, rugs, dishes, art. Keep what you like and will use. Sell or donate the other stuff. What ended up in the back of my…