Gene and Marge Trindle were the neighbors that took us in from the rain. She is one of a handful of older notable women who seemed to know my heart and greatly touched my life. She was artistic and creative, but her paintings of floral arrangements was nothing like the abstracts and odd sculptures that were found in studios all over the canyon. She was a comfortable grandma, who treasured my crafting ideas and was almost always willing to invite me in for a visit.
The book she handed me that day would be the beginning of my escape and comfort for the next couple of years. It was The Hobbit.
My dad came back from North Carolina, my brother came back from another draft rejection, and we were essentially homeless. My mom and I were sleeping in the trindles little camper trailer, and my dad and brother were uneasily sleeping in our now condemned house at the top of a landslide. And it was still raining, not as much, but still raining.
I am a sound sleeper, with a quirk. I can sleep though a lot (though not as much as a used to) but if you open my bedroom door and softly say my name, I will sit bolt upright in a way that people find, um, disconcerting. So it really isn't surprising that fire sirens on our street in the night did not wake me, but my mom opening the trailer door to tell me to get up did. The house next door to the Trindle's had caught on fire in the middle of the night, and they were concerned that the flames would spread through the trees. We stood in the cold and watched the flames shoot up into the sky, but were kept safe. Well, at least the rain helped in one way.
The road to the ocean reopened fairly quickly, and my mom was back to work (it took a little longer for my brother to get reinstated). When the road to the valley opened up, the first Saturday it was open we drove out to do a bit of shopping. On the way back the traffic slowed to a crawl. They had found the last missing body buried in the mud and were bringing the young child out in a body bag. That is a picture that will always be in my mind.
And I would lay in the dark, listening to the rain on the camper roof. And I would think of our house across the street, with most of what we owned and my dad and brother. I would find myself praying "God, please stop the rain." then I would stop myself, because I didn't believe in God. At age thirteen, I lay in the dark, with no one I felt I could talk to about this, trying to figure out how to be honest in my own self. "God, if you exist, you need to let me know."
I ran into a friend who I hadn't seen much of since she graduated to High School. She said she wanted to get together, there was something she wanted to tell me about. A few days later my friend Merrihelen said she was going to have a slumber party for her birthday and we could sleep in their camper (oh joy, spend the night away from one camper to sleep in another one). She could invite 3 people, so it was me and Wendy, but could I suggest the fourth? So, having just seen Lucy I suggested that we include her.
What a night that was. Lucy laid it out to us, Jesus had saved her and he loved us, too. Then she proceeded to tell us all this end time, tribulation, rapture stuff. You have to imagine: a cozy circle of trusted friends, the rain outside, a keen awareness of two close brushes with death, seeing that small body bad, and feeling my world slip sliding away. And I had specifically asked for God to speak to me.
Is it even any wonder that I became a proper little hippy Jesus freak?