The day before my visit, I had accidentally come across a picture of the grocery store on the Internet. The image of Cordova’s beloved “Mrs. Ann” standing at the end of aisle 10 with the Easter Bunny made me smile and cry at the same time.
The Piggly Wiggly has been an important part of my life since Zac and I started dating again in April 2008.
Those were the days when I thought I couldn’t go 24 hours without seeing him. So I stopped by a couple of times a week on my way to work and bought some cheap soda.
Since I obviously couldn’t carry a 12-pack of drinks by myself and Zac was scheduled to do carry-outs anyway, he always toted the sodas out to my car. We would talk on our walk through the parking lot, he would sneak a kiss or two and then I’d drive off with a goofy smile on my face.
Zac later continued this tradition when he sometimes “forgot” his lunch on our counter at home so I would have to bring it to him.
After we got married, Zac was promoted to produce manager. I don’t think anyone could have ever loved those fruits and vegetables more.
He came home almost every day talking about some new item he was carrying or how he had rearranged a few things to make the section look better.
Two months into our honeymoon, I found out that I was pregnant. Zac couldn’t wait to get to work that morning to tell his co-workers and customers. I swear half of Cordova knew by the end of the day that Zac was going to be a daddy.
Wyatt was less than a week old when Zac insisted on taking him to the Pig to show him off. I never figured out how my son was in my arms one minute and AWOL with Ann the next.
Wyatt and I visited Zac at the store a lot on Saturdays. Zac also kept pictures of the baby and me in the back room where he did his cutting and wrapping.
It’s eerie now to think that at least in a small way Wyatt and I were at the Pig when the tornado came through on April 27.
Zac went to the store two days later to help clean up. He had to dig through the back room twice to find my picture. He never recovered the one of Wyatt.
I have wished so many times since the storm that I had taken a few pictures of Zac working in his produce area. It never occurred to me that a scene I witnessed on a weekly basis for almost three years would one day be just a memory.
That’s why I was so glad to find the picture of Ann and the Easter Bunny. I saved it to my desktop because I thought Zac might like to have it. I didn’t expect the response that it triggered in me.
Like everybody else in Cordova, I’ve had to work through a lot of psychological stuff since April 27.
First it was fear. Fear that my parents’ house was going to collapse and my screaming son would get deathly silent. Fear that after Zac and I hiked a half mile in the dark to check on our house that we wouldn’t have one.
Fear that some of the bodies found in the Pig parking lot were Zac’s co-workers and friends. Fear that we would be cut off from help for days and run out of food and water for the baby. Fear of looters and anarchy.
Four months later, my psyche has woven all of those experiences into a patchwork quilt called fear of the future.
I have experienced quite a bit of anger, too. For example, first birthdays are now a pet peeve of mine.
Zac and I celebrated our son’s first birthday by walking downtown early that morning to see what was left. Yes, I am very thankful that we are all alive and I know that Wyatt will never remember what an awful day it was, but I do and I’m still ticked off that my son couldn’t have the first birthday he deserved.
I have also experienced guilt for feeling the way I do when others have lost so much more than I have. Yet I still can’t figure out how to get my harp out of the willow.
In Psalm 137, God has allowed the children of Israel to be captured because they have forgotten the One who inspired their beautiful music.
They grieve the loss of their homeland by weeping by the rivers of Babylon and hanging their harps in the willow trees rather than sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.
This image has haunted me since I heard a sermon on Psalm 137 several weeks ago. I have realized that I hung my harp in the willow on April 27 and have been sitting on the bank playing “Dueling Banjos” ever since.
I thought that if I just kept busy and put all of my energy into my work, my emotions would take care of themselves. I was wrong.
Everyone who lived through April 27 will have to recover from it in his or her own way.
I never said good-bye to the Pig. When I realized that was something I needed to do, I went there.
I walked in through the window and stood in a store that had no roof, no aisles, no friendly cashiers, no handsome produce man.
After several moments of shock and silence, I chipped off a piece of my pain, and when I walked away, I left it there.