It is August in Miami, Florida. I am five years old, my brother is seven. We are at home with our mom and a few relatives while my dad and uncle work on the roof. We hear loud hammering, footsteps, as well as the vibration of the portable generator that sounds like a chainsaw. The power has been out for days. My dad and uncle come back into the house. They say they got an interesting view of the neighborhood and suggested we all go out for a walk.
We step outside. It is a hot, humid, sunny day and we walk directly into what feels like a cloud of toxic air resulting from the roof repairs (to this day whenever I smell the strong and pungent odor of tar, it transports me to that moment in time). From the front yard, we see debris sprinkled throughout the block. Some houses were missing over 50% of the clay roof shingles and covered in blue tarp for protection as it is being repaired while others had no roof at all. It seemed like our house had the least roof damage. We make a sharp left onto the sidewalk. We head down the block and we see the tall tropical palm trees that once were planted in the two-way street median now smashed on top of parked cars. I hear my family making comments on how traumatizing it was to hear the powerful and destructive category 5 winds of Hurricane Andrew, a few days prior.
As we pass more houses on this walk, I see my uncle stops to grab a folded beach chair that was in the middle of our pathway. He puts it right side up, wipes it down with his bare hand, takes a seat and says, “Not bad, right? It is safe to say that this one is very durable!” He stands up, puts it back in the folded position, and places it under his arm to take with him. Now it is starting to make sense why he thought going on this walk was a good idea. As I look in the distance, there are huge piles, that at first glance, seems to be of garbage but now I am thinking there is something more.
When we get close, we all surround different sides the mound with curiosity to look for any treasures that may lie beneath. As I look up at it, I see wood panels, damaged appliances, sheetrock, among other construction materials that I recognize from dad’s truck. Most of it looks wet with major water damage, I don’t think I’ll get anything good. My brother suddenly yells out “Cool!! Liseth, come look! It’s an Etch-a-Sketch! Remember we saw it at Toys R Us when we went that last time? Let’s take it!” I come over and am amazed by its good condition. He shows me how to create lines and shapes on the screen by turning the knobs on the toy and can easily erase it all by shaking it. My mom urges us to be careful as we grab things from the pile. Meanwhile, she is sticking her hand in an opening and pulls out an injured cockateel.
My mom cradles him on her chest and says, “I can’t believe it! Poor little guy must be so scared. He looks like his name is Tito! We need to bring him back soon, he must need food and water.” He is cute and I think he will be our new pet. I like his orange cheeks and funny mohawk. My brother and I exclaim, "Finally! We have our own pet!" As we walk back home I realize that saving him is better than any toy I was hoping to find.