I’ve had a personal meteorologist for many years. My sister can truly attest that I am, indeed, a hurricane. She’s been living in the eye of this hurricane forever and only ventures to the gale force winds on occasion. So the least they could have done, if they were going to name an official hurricane after me, was spell my name right.
Frankenstorm, superstorm, up until Sunday many believed I’d make a right and head out to sea. I’ve been known to do that at least twice a year. By many I mean the been fooled before, won’t get fooled again brethren. Never the less with skeptiscm in my heart I picked up milk, cleared my deck, filled my tank, stashed some extra cash and waited to be proven a fooled again one more time.
Sunday confirmed the path and we hunkered down. The winds began coming up Sunday night. The girls had been out and done their best synchronized poop on command, “hurry up/good girls” (bless you yet again Shawn Stewart for advocating the “on command” part of life with a dog) and we were in for the night.
Monday morning we completed the remaining odds and ends; pulling soup from the freezer, making a tiny little lasagna and a peach upside down cake (God forbid there’s nothing to eat) were completed. Candles ready, flashlight, Kindle, phone, Ipad fully charged. Finished all the work I had brought home and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Took a long hot shower, have some dinner, pour a glass of red , check the storm coverage and at 9:15 we’re dark. Ok. The girls had already been “synchronized” so we’re good.
Coinciding with the dark came a call from my dear friend Edith in Georgia. I would know the sound of that voice anywhere and was thrilled to hear it coming through the dark. She was doing what she does, checking in, praying and handing her love over to us right as the lights went out. Some light comes from a cherished thirty five year friendship not the power company.
Not much to do now but pile in the bed with the girls and wait out the brunt of the storm which was in full swing. By now you all know that my Lina is a scaredy Mary Pit mix. Every howl of the wind and she scooted a little closer. The sound of the limbs snapping in the enchanted forest was distinct, heart breaking and very close…we managed to sleep and woke only a few times during the night. I throw a hell of a storm.
The early morning brought torrential rain and then a drizzle…let’s go girls. 7:15 out the door, synchronized, back in the house and the rain and wind pick up again. Of course we got a tiny reprieve to poop, let the blessings begin.
Terri, Muriel, Mom and I had been in almost constant contact through the mess. Everybody was safe. The number of people texting me to see if we were alright was heartwarming and welcome and reassuring. My text replies to all at this point: No power, no damage, old school coffee, could be worse, we’re fine.
It’s no surprise to anyone that I love my coffee so you won’t be surprised to find out I was the only one on Stowe Lane with an old school aluminum, stay cool handle, two cup, percolator and ground Starbucks (thank you Bill Sides, I adore you for keeping me stocked). I call it my Father’s coffee pot (my Mother says it’s hers but everything above the basement was hers) because he used it to make a pot of coffee each day around mid-morning when he came home for “coffee and…” I think he was forbidden to use the glass pot at one point when parts became difficult to get and extinction wasn’t far behind.
As the coffee began to perk on the stove the sound and smell transported me back so many years that it brought tears to my eyes. Today in the eye of the storm I would be having coffee with my Father. There is an art to making perked coffee that I was lucky enough to learn and master long ago and remember to this day. You begin with a medium flame and as soon as the coffee starts to perk you turn it down to low. The smell is intoxicating. How long do you let it perk? Well my Father timed it this way; turn it down, go to the bathroom, set the table, get two cookies out of the cookie jar, pull the milk out of the fridge and it’s ready. The things you remember from a hundred years ago.
Text to Muriel: I have coffee. Soon my Stowe Lane family was gathered at my table having coffee, yet another blessing. It takes a certain kind of person to drink perked coffee; it’s stronger by virtue of how it’s passed through the grinds. Needless to say our energy abounded for the rest of the day.
The girls and I took to our front room, our office, for a day of reading. It’s the brightest room so we wouldn’t require flash lights, candles or lighted battery powered devices. I warmed chicken soup on the stove, made crostini in a skillet and more coffee, then more reading.
A calm in the weather gave way to a walk around the neighborhood. The damage seemed minimal so we felt blessed again even though we had no power. More synchronization and we headed back home out of the snap in the air.
While I was enjoying my home, albeit without power, many others were in total devastation. I had only the minimum contact with the outside world through what people were sharing on Facebook. I didn’t have a battery powered radio and frankly I don’t think I would have allowed myself the total absorption that most people feel compelled to do in these circumstances. I prayed for them, I wished speedy recovery, but I didn’t really know anything beyond my own little family.
My mother was also without power but her building is a senior housing building so their generator kept the heat on at a minimum and they had hallway lights. Clever woman that she is, she perched herself in the doorway of her apartment and read by the light of the hallway emergency lights. I thank God for her recent cataract surgery to bring back her love of reading over anything else. And bless her for instilling that love of reading in both my sister and I. The blessings continue.
My sister, on the other hand, was sitting in a parking lot staging area awaiting our friend, her best friend, Maria’s family’s rescue from their home in Little Ferry. A dam broke in Moonachie and reached all the way into neighboring towns creating an emergency evacuation situation. Maria now resides in California. My sister did what we do; I am in awe of her and so proud of our family. My mother was lamenting about feeling so helpless wishing she could do something. She’s spent her whole life “doing something” she can sit down now, we got this. Brava, Terri your friend Maria could not be more grateful that you got her family to Uncle Gus in Bergenfield.
Our evening meal was the left over lasagna warmed in the skillet. Pour a glass of red; put a log on the fire and bursting through the door comes Muriel for a check-in…and a bottle of wine…and a can of Coke for Martina…and D batteries for the downstairs neighbor. Another evening without power safely tucked away on Stowe Lane.
Halloween is cancelled. The New York City parade can’t make it through the village because the village seems to be gone. There is no access. Our Governor has rescheduled Halloween for November 5th. I am not a fan of our Governor but I must say he handled this situation with decisiveness, tough (and sometimes quite funny) talk, common sense and candor. He doesn’t believe in many of the things that are important to me but I applaud his crisis management.
By day four my Mother is asking, What day is it? I had to actually look at my phone to find out. It’s Thursday Ma. That there is more reading and more coffee and more reflecting is an understatement. I take a little ride each day just to charge my phone and remember what it feels like to be out and about. There isn’t much open and the desolation seems very Cormack McCarthy in areas. I can see how people get to a point where they don’t want to leave their homes. You start thinking 56 degrees isn’t that cold just put on another layer. I don’t light the fire until it gets dark. I’ve begun walking the dogs each time I feel a bit cold and it seems to do the trick. We are indeed synchronized in this household.
Second round of texts: Still no power, got hot water, got firewood, gas range, the now envied by all percolator, all in all quite blessed.
My friend Ev packs up her kids and brings them up for showers and breakfast. They have no power, and since their house is all electric they have, well nothing. Ahhhhh, there is nothing like a good hot shower to make a person feel human again. I venture out to the store for non-refrigerated items and just to keep my driving skills and my phone charged. I’ve cooked off some of the items in the freezer that have started to thaw and discarded most of what remains in the fridge. The beauty and the blessing of a new refrigerator is that the seal is perfect. Much of the food hasn’t even begun to thaw yet.
When the lights come back on I actually gasp as if it is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever been given. My eyes fill up as I realize that so much is happening in our state that is devastating that it’s hard to keep up. People have lost their lives, some are still missing, and the damage to homes and property will keep us busy for quite some time. There are gas lines and bickering, I can’t be the only one who remembers 1974 for crying out loud. Much of our childhood’s memories have been washed out to sea with the boardwalk institutions.
Through this I remain grateful, for my home, my girls, my family, the Aunt Ms, my friends, neighbors and my colleagues who are all safe. For the piece of nostalgia that has grounded the “it’s just stuff/it’s just cars” mantra. To be able in all this mess to have coffee with Thomas has been a priceless moment brought about by a hurricane name Sandy.
Final text: Power back, thawed out nicely, feeling pretty damned blessed, love you
To all of you who checked in and stayed in, I love you. Terri, Mom, Muriel, Martina. Edith, Kyle, Kate, Nicole, Sandra, Marge, Barbara, Ev, Bill, Justin, Matt, Nancy Lynn, Tonine, Ki, Bev, Ally, Marlo, Jeanette, Fran, Penny, Linda, Corrine and Mick.
Hurricane Sandy reading list:
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum, Ivy Books (or anything by Robert Fulghum)
La Bella Lingua, My love affair with Italian the world’s most enchanting language, Dianne Hales, Broadway Books
Walking Wisdom, Gotham Chopra with Deepak Chopra, Hyperion Books
How to Hepburn, Lessons on living from Kate the great., Karen Karbo, Bloomsbury Books