“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in your life?” my 5-year-old son asked me tonight, as I was trying to put away laundry and coax him and his siblings to brush their teeth. His twin sister composed her Christmas list at her desk, updating me with each added item, despite the fact that we haven’t yet made it through Halloween. Then she screeched at her 2-year-old sister who’d stolen a stray birthday party hat. During the commotion, both my landline and mobile phone rang to inform me, via recorded messages, that due to power outages and unsafe conditions, school was canceled again for tomorrow.
I’ve never been so grateful to be so annoyed by my family and life.
I don’t need to tell anyone who has been following the news or experiencing Hurricane Sandy that this “Frankenstorm” cut a swath of destruction up the East Coast and inland toward the west. With approximately 35 people in the United States dead and damage estimates in the billions, I feel for those who are suffering. I am thankful my family and friends are safe. I frankly don’t know how we escaped unscathed.
I spent most of yesterday in a tensed state, wandering up and downstairs, fretting that the banging I was hearing was a prelude to the tree that was about to crash into our house. To cope, I let my children watch approximately seven hours of television, telling myself with each new show that it may be the last for several days. I bathed everyone midday, certain that hot water would be unavailable by evening. I cooked both pizza and spaghetti for lunch because I assumed it would be our last hot meal for a while.
Then I called my local friends to ask what they were doing to pass the time and ease the anxiety. “I wasn’t really that worried until I talked to you,” one friend exclaimed. I hung up and dialed the next person.
By about 6 p.m., after trying, yet again, to decipher the news reports about the progress of the complex storm, I started to develop a severe tension headache. I couldn’t decide where my kids should sleep, imaging the trees towering over our house cascading into their rooms.
My father called and advised, “Just let everyone sleep in their beds.” My friend prescribed an Advil and a beer. Both recommendations helped, and I settled in at about 9 p.m. to finish “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer’s memoir about coming of age in a tavern full of dipsomaniacs. I decided against a second drink.
Instead, I listened to the wind rushing outside – the wind that had been hounding me all day. My twins came in scared, one after the other, to fall asleep beside me. Later, my husband carried them to their beds.
Before I knew it, it was 5:45 a.m. and our 2-year-old was wishing me a merry, “Good morning, mommy!” Nervous, I had left her door ajar overnight, and Jane had tripped out of her room, as soon as she awoke, pleased by this unexpected development. I scooped her up and snuggled with her twisting body until she announced, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to go downstairs.
Later, when my husband took the kids out to meet friends, I experienced a surge of post-storm energy. I did three loads of laundry. I remade all the beds. I vacuumed corners of rooms that hadn’t seen suction in months. I even attacked the mold in our master bathroom shower with Clorox Clean Up. I noted that part of our fence had blown down, happy that my husband would have something constructive to do this weekend.
Executing these household chores and breaking up my children’s fights today made me feel grateful. And I'm happy to say that, despite our worries about falling trees and stalled sump pumps, we only ate through half of one of our giant sacks of Halloween candy.
So come knock on our door. We have plenty to share.