Entry 33 ~ November 18, 2011
About two months ago, I started a journal about the end of summer and Kassie going off to college, and Brody starting first grade. Hurricane Irene hit and for the first time in my life, I saw the first day of school canceled due to bad weather. Fast forward almost three months, and here I am with no journal written. At some point, I decided to change my focus from the start of school to something about autumn and Halloween. And then Alfred hit.
A couple of hours after Alfred arrived, we quickly realized that we would lose power, and we set to work filling water jugs (well pumps are run by electricity), finding candles and holders, flashlights and batteries. The kids' excitement at the first snowfall quickly turned to fear and seemed to compound the flurry. Sure enough, within three hours of the storm, the power kicked off, and we sat in utter silence and near darkness. The sounds of cracking wood followed by the distant thud of a tree or limb hitting the ground broke the silence. The storm seemed to hit with little warning. We had about five gallons of kerosene for our heater. Otherwise, we would be heating the house with wood in the fireplace in the living room. The crack of wood sounded like gunshots in the distance, and Ernie and I waited and dreaded the cracks that came closer to the house, closer to our family.
The night wore on, and when we awoke in the morning, the end of October, we were met with a foot of snow, a winter wonderland, and devastation so great that we were afraid to let the kids leave the house. Trees bent ominously and limbs littered the yard, the streets, on the cars, snapped our playscape in two pieces, the roof, anywhere and everywhere. Our property and our neighborhood was devastated. A massive oak had fallen in the street, pulling down a utility pole and all the wires. Our entire neighborhood was stranded for two days, before several men up the street used their chain saws to cut their way down the street and cut us all out.
Honestly, what kind of parenting journal is this, talking about the weather?? But it turned into a time of resilience. We tried to maintain a sense of normalcy, with an air of adventure for the kids. Although daycare was closed and without power, many companies in the greater Hartford area offered for their employees to bring their children to the office. They set up conference rooms with crayons and activities. They arranged with local gyms for employees and families to shower. The children slept in the living room, camping out near the fire.
With Halloween a mere two days after the storm hit, without power, lights, without a snowplow able to navigate through the street, with the oak tree and utility pole still in the street, we were literally stranded. A neighbor with many hometown connections went door to door through the 40+ homes in the neighborhood and invited all to his house for a bonfire and a cookout. Children were to wear their Halloween costumes, and parents were to bring candy, drinks and any food that they might want to cook before it spoiled. I met more neighbors that evening and had more laughs and a sense of community than I'd had since 9/11. And once darkness fell, the chill in the air prompted all of us to head home and back to the warmth of our fireplaces.
In order to run our household, our priorities changed. There was no school for a week. Brody and I spent two afternoons hauling brush to the roadside since the town had committed to assisting in cleanup efforts. We put together puzzles, played cards, word games, and colored. The twins, at three years old, met me at the back door and each took one log from my arms to their own little arms and huffed and puffed it to the fireplace. One evening, after driving home from work with all four clean children in tow after showering at the YMCA, I realized I would have to unload everyone in complete darkness. The kids didn't complain, but they did what I said, and stood ready for any instructions to get the house in order. After the kids were settled, while Reagan and Treyton snoozed on the sofa, I decided we needed more firewood. I had to walk from the front around to the back yard to get firewood. It was cold and dark, and I was exhausted. I had only a small flashlight. Brody yelled behind me and I hollered for him to get back inside. But along he trotted, with Reesie on his heels, eager to help me bring wood to the house. And God bless them, Reesie took one log in her arms and walked all the way around the house in the darkness. Brody took two pieces. I loaded my arms, and we moved slowly back to the house by the light of my flashlight. When we got to the front door, they dropped their wood and collapsed in exhaustion, but they were so proud of themselves for contributing to the cause.
After five days without power, we decided to 'abandon ship' and headed to my folks' house forty-five minutes away. I tearfully emptied the entire contents of the refrigerator and freezer, packed soiled laundry, toiletries, blankies and left for power, warmth and running water.
The kids rarely complained. Although the beginning of our ten day journey without power began as an adventure, they didn't complain about not having TV to watch. Nor did they complain when I cooked pizza on the grill or fed them peanut butter crackers for breakfast. They had an oddly mature understanding of our plight and made the best of it. I have vast dreams of the greatness my children will achieve someday. My someday came last week, and I realized too, that greatness, by definition, can be something as simple as having the bravery to step into the dark. I look back at the bravery of Brody and little Reese, who each stepped into the darkness to follow my flashlight in the distance, chased and caught me, and helped me carry logs of wood home.