At 6:25 this morning I was half awake sending an email to someone from Alexander’s school when my house moved. It wasn’t a normal earthquake, it was the second largest earthquake I’d felt in my lifetime and I was scared. It’s the second time an earthquake truly scared me, the first time was in 1994 when I stood on Mulholland Drive and watched fires erupt all over my city.

This time I’m alone with my kids and the jolts are abrupt, none of the nearly comfortable rocking motions that came with so many earthquakes before this one. I hear things falling, glass breaking and as quickly as the motion began it’s over. I hop out of bed, knees bent, arms out like I’m about to ride a huge wave. I am. This is a wave of emotion. I go to Jane’s room where the door is open and panic a little, I’ve heard breaking glass, where is my kid? Alexander pops out of his door sort of excited looking, like we had a roller-coaster ride and it wasn’t very fun but it was supposed to be fun so you put on the fake smile. We hugged.

“You okay?”

“I’m okay.” He answered.

And then we went to look for Jane who was downstairs in the bathroom she annexed a few years back. I ask her if she’s okay and she explains to me that she was able to keep all her things from falling off the counter and exclaims that it was big. I feel like retching because my daughter is standing in what is essentially a hallway with long panels of mirrors on both sides. It’s a dangerous place to be in an earthquake and I want to tell her that keeping makeup on the counter is not a priority but remember it’s not a discussion worth having. She is 15 and at 43 I’d quite likely do the same thing.

My pill bottles became projectiles in my bathroom and because of my RA I never have childproof caps so pink and white tablets are half dissolved in a puddle of water decorated in broken shards of glass. My complete loss? A couple of nearly expired prescriptions and a water glass that fit my hand exceptionally well.

Typically at 6:45 I drive Jane to the bus (two blocks away) and would leave Alexander in the house alone. This morning I had him come with me. Earthquakes come in clusters and I figured we were all safer together.

How does one feel safe when the Earth under them is moving? Fires, floods, extreme heat or cold, these are all conditions we’ve dealt with but where do you run to when the ground under your feet is moving?

I asked the kids if they felt safe and I had two yeses. They didn’t think about it, they just felt safe. There’s not a single thing I could do to keep my kids okay had the quake been larger or longer. I have no powers that would keep the earth from moving again but my kids felt safe with me and I realized that I didn’t feel safe, in large part, because Mr. G is gone. Like me, Mr. G has zero ability to ward off an earthquake. Like my children, I feel safer when he’s here.

We have an amazing ability to engage in magical thinking and this morning it served us all well.

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  1. That is beautiful, albeit terrifying. Glad you are ok!

  2. Glad everyone is okay. I move away from LA, and things start falling apart. Earthquakes are bizarrely terrifying – the earth just shouldn’t move like that… and yes, magical thinking has kept many a person sane. It’s always safer when your loved one’s are around.

  3. Katherine Hynes

    Very glad to hear you’re all ok. Great article Jess x

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