My husband and I were almost disappointed when the electricity popped on at 2:30 in the morning, waking us from a deep winter slumber. It was the end of our adventure, the test to see how we’d survive without heat and light.
On the first morning without power, we scanned the radio for news. The local stations weren’t even broadcasting. No internet, no phones, no tv, we felt cut off and worried but also enjoyed the quiet. What we did hear was Boomer Esiason talking about the big weekend football games, and, of course, Led Zeppelin. As Dave said, “Nothing stops classic rock.”
When we realized this was going to be a long haul, our first priority was ice. I went downtown looking for any store that might be open and found nothing for miles. People were already out building snowmen, one an Autumn Queen with a wreath of colored leaves on her snowy head. It reminded me of the broken branches my son carried in from our maple tree, which had been crushed in the storm. He asked me, “If the tree dies, can we keep these to plant next year?”
People were being really good to each other. Driving through town everyone took turns at the blackened stoplights, patiently letting each other go through the intersection. I finally found that Big Y was running on generators. In the store the mood was upbeat – people were chattering and sharing stories. I actually felt like I’d done a good deed by helping someone find the ice freezer (which in twelve years of shopping at Big Y, I never once took note of before).
It seemed that rather than being upset about the damage and chaos, people were relieved that the worst was over and we were all OK. After a ridiculous five-month span during which our quiet little valley has seen a devastating tornado, Hurricane Irene, an earthquake, and now this crushing early winter storm, it felt good just to make it through safely.
On day two, in an effort to find heat (and snow clothes that fit), I took the boys to the mall. As soon as we walked in the bright lights and the blare of dance music hit my ears and I shuddered. I remembered hearing the Dalai Lama once say that after he visits America, he has to go into seclusion for a while. I got that.
It’s amazing how little we need to get by, yet how much we require to get by. In all our talk of developing new power sources, there’s never a thought given toward consuming less. These four days were a reminder that even my family, which tries to live very simply, could use some serious energy-consumption belt-tightening.
We also found that we want to connect as a family more. It was so nice not to be distracted by all the talking boxes that invade our lives. We made a couch fort out of blankets and read books all in a row. We ate by candlelight. In the mornings we huddled in bed for much longer than normal, afraid to get up because it was too cold out there. When the boys got cranky without their video games, we reminded them that we were camping in winter! And wasn’t it fun to have no school? (That beat the camping bit by far.)
On the third night without power our neighbors came over with their two daughters for a backyard campfire and “s’mores in November.” The parents sat back and let the kids tell story after story, mostly about when they puked and injuries they’d had. Younger Son, who is taking his sweet time coming out of his shell, was animatedly telling a story and I was staring at him, probably with wonder on my face. I happened to glance at my neighbor and she was looking at me watching him. We shared a smile that only mothers can truly appreciate.
My doctor once told me that “humans are amazingly adaptable beings,” and I think it showed this week. We were able to do so much to make ourselves comfortable, to find ways of getting by more simply, and sustain ourselves without really having to struggle. We actually kept having moments where not having power was just absurd. We laughed at how I charged my laptop thinking we’d be able to log in for at least a couple of hours to get news – but then we had no router. Every time I went into the basement or a closet I’d flip the switch out of habit but, duh?
We take so much for granted, and we can get by without it. A little blip like this shows you just how well we can do under duress. And that’s what this storm was for us – a blip. When you’re in a disaster like this you need to ask yourself two questions: 1. Is my family safe and unharmed? 2. Is our home destroyed? If that’s all good, you thank God and move on with gratitude for everything you have.