The Rains Came | by Holly Hudley

A year ago Harvey made landfall.

A year ago our city hovered under a relentless downpour that left 52 inches of rain.

A year ago many were filming with dying phones as the water crept under door ways, over toes, and eventually lifted belongings off the floor in a swirling torrent.

A year ago I watched all this from my dry living room, curled up on my dry turquoise couch in the mostly dry Heights. The water rose above the bayou bridges and teased the bottom step of my front porch, but it never came in. On TV I watched a bass boat with confederate flags draped off the back rescue a Hispanic family from the rising water. I watched a white SWAT member cradle an Asian woman and her infant to higher ground. I helped set up a small shelter at an evangelical church that served an undocumented family, an all female black family, and a mother with 7 kids, one of whom was transgender. The water unified us, baptized us in the reality of chaos and cohesion. There was no separation, only a plaintive chorus of despair and coast guard choppers flying overhead. And the frogs. They with their incessant trilling were the only ones reveling in all the water. Or maybe they too were trying to find their way to each other. 

A year ago I got a text: 

“Hi. Could Hailey & I possibly stay with y’all for a few days? Til things calm down. Our home flooded and things exploded between me and {my husband}.”

Yes of course.  Do you need me to come get you?

“No. I’m getting some things together. I’ll come by the afternoon.”

It’s getting dark. Sprinkling again, fat slow drops. She is still not here.

Hi sweets. Are you coming? Would you like something for dinner?

“Maybe I shouldn’t come. Should I come? I’ve been at a coffee shop convincing myself not to come. I can figure this out.”

Come. We’ll figure it out together. Be safe. And I love you.”

She came with her then 20 month old in tow. A year later they’re still here, and they’ll be here for another two. The rains brought me a broken young woman who I’ve known since she was a preteen and her baby. She is like a daughter to me or a baby sister. We are a tribe of 7, a makeshift family, a small village. We’ve had a year of birthdays and potty training and holding and crying and laughing. She is a light in the world - wide smile, infectious laugh, and enough optimism to fill a 500 gallon tank. Despite all the trauma she’s experienced in her life (and there’s been a lot) she believes in fundamental goodness. She is fundamental goodness. When we are all together and people ask, perplexed, if Hailey is mine or if I am Sheila’s (pronounced Saylah’s) mom, we tell the condensed version of our story, and people inevitably turn to Josh or me and tell us what saints we are.

Not so. Sheila is the heroic one. She is doing the Herculean work of rebuilding a life. We just happened to have a soft place to land. 

A snapshot:  A Mexican American young woman(undocumented until about 6 months ago), holding a Mexican/Asian/American toddler in her newly minted Elmo underwear. A Black American man holding steady amidst the gurgling tumbling chaos of 3 curly headed caramel colored boys pawing at their White American mother. This is Us. 

We’ve come further together in a year than most people do in several. It’s hard to tell a story when you’re in the middle of it, when it’s still unfolding. But in between unprecedented floods, a growing tide of Black Lives Matter, thousands of Central American immigrant children separated from their parents, a dozen Thai kids trapped in a cave, and the growing anxiety of White America, we 7 are living and loving each other so wholly. We are what happens when chaos gets creative, when love leads. If it’s possible in a microcosm, in this experiment we’re living, then it’s possible everywhere. 

The rains came. They wreaked havoc and split us from belongings that tether us to being in the world while they also brought the unlikeliest people together with nothing but the damp and some work gloves between them. The rains came and we all got degrees of wet, but I’ve gotten a full immersion baptism in love.