Having grown up in Winnipeg, I was not unfamiliar with spring floods. The annual cresting of the Red and Assiniboine rivers were expected rites of spring. Sandbagging, the opening of the floodway, drives to Lockport to see the ice break up on the river were just another season of the year, tucked in between the ice ruts of winter and the mosquito bites of summer.
In the spring of 97, I was living in Ontario, watching the news reports from the prairies grow increasingly grim. The flood of the century, they were calling it. And I couldn't even help fill sandbags.
I spent a lot of time volunteering at the neighbourhood school, where the Resident Offspring was in senior kindergarten. I can raise a little money for flood relief, I thought, and give the kids an opportunity to practice a little altruism. I can ask them to bring in pennies from their piggy banks. I don't mind rolling a few pennies.
Famous last words, these turned out to be.
I can't remember how many days I sat in the school library with piles of brown paper penny wrappers littering the table in front of me, inwardly groaning as yet another student brought in the offerings from their classroom. We ended up raising $350 for flood relief, which was then matched by the Spousal Unit's employer. I haven't rolled pennies since.
Of course the flood of the century is now being surpassed by this year's Red Sea, as they are calling it. And my heart aches for the place that raised me. It's not just the rivers this year - the Red, the Assiniboine, the Souris - it's also overland flooding from the massive snow melt. Tracking the flooding is akin to watching a slowly unfolding horror film from behind spread fingers. You know what's coming and you can't do a thing about it, except wait.
Somehow I don't think that pennies are going to cut it this time.