It’s Snowing!

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We took this charming little book out of the library in January and seem to still have it in our possession.  It’s a very simple book with brief and repetitive prose, just right for the younger set, although my 4-year-old was entranced with it too.  I love the illustrations–familiar, yet exotic.  And what could be more familiar that the restless feeling that comes with a dark, dreary winter night before the snow has fallen, and then the magic when you see that first fleck of white drift through the air?

It’s a dark, dark,

cold, cold night.

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Mama rocks the cradle.

The cradle rocks Baby,

Baby softly sleeps.

Mama sighs and nods her head.

Baby sighs and sucks his thumb.

It’s a dark, dark,

cold, cold night.

Mama stirs the fire.

Baby rustles in his sleep.

Mama opens the heavy door.

Snowflakes spatter from the sky.

“It’s snowing!” Mama sings.

Baby wakes and blinks.

“Baby, it’s snowing!”

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“It’s snowing!” Mama sings.

Baby sings along.

“Baby see the snow!”

Baby squirms in Mama’s arms.

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Mama rocks the cradle.

The cradle rocks Baby.

Baby softly sleeps.

Mama sighs and nods her head.

Baby sighs and sucks his thumb.

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It’s a dark, dark,

cold, cold night.

It’s snowing!

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Celebrating Snow

Is it already Wednesday night–more than half way through our winter vacation?  It seems like just yesterday that I had my never-ending day of classroom observations (me being observed that is, not me observing)…followed by a night of restaurant work on Valentine’s Day…followed by that oh-so-early 5:30 AM wake-up to be back in the classroom again…followed by some quick packing and a three-hour car ride north.

Oh how I was looking forward to this sweet, sweet vacation during which I could both relax and get some much-needed work done.  Neither of these things have happened, by the way.  Both relaxation and work have been usurped by something even more satisfying than writing, more compelling than sleep.

Snow.  When it’s out there, I need to be out there too.

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I realize I probably should have spent the bulk of my snow-days beefing up for my observation, readying lesson-plans and all that, but instead, I spent them shovelling (two days to get us out of the driveway), porch-jumping, fort-making, sugar-on-snow-eating, snow-shoeing with the girls during a sleet-storm, and testing my weight on ice-islands in the middle of the stream, among other things…

Likewise, I spent my days in Vermont not sleeping, nor catching up on all the paperwork I brought from school.  I spent one day sledding on ice-glazed snow over rolling hills, until Emerson and I found the mother-of-all-sledding-hills and took a few runs before sledding back to alert the others.  I spent another day at the ski-mountain of my childhood, weathering the whipping winds and 2 degree temperature at the top of the mountain so that I could rekindle my relationship with some of my favorite trails of yore–all while the girls were in ski lessons.  We celebrated afterwards with hot-chocolates.  Mine included peppermint-schnapps.

Back home, we have just finished another day of skiing, and we have at least two more on the agenda.  Sunday we’re going to an outdoor birthday party full of scavenger-hunting and animal-tracking…and then Emerson has rehearsal for her ice-show…and then…back to school.

Maybe I’ll wish I spent a little more time catching up when Monday comes and I’m feeling the crunch again.

Maybe my priorities are a little out of wack…but to me, watching my 77 year-old mother do a face bomb at the end of a slick run on the mother-of-all-sledding-hills and come up bloody and laughing (did I mention she was wearing a heart-monitor?), or hearing my seven-year-old scream “THIS IS AWESOME!” as she whizzes past me on the ski trail, beats all that other crap.

Cheers to Winter!

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Art Therapy

As I mentioned in my last post, my family’s schedule has changed dramatically over the last two weeks.  At some point last spring–obviously when the weather was warm, the birds were singing, and anything seemed possible–I decided that I wouldn’t wait until next year to do my student-teaching.  For some reason, a full-time internship (and a couple of nights at my old job in addition) with a child still at home and a husband out of the house for eleven hours a day seemed doable to me then.  How doable does it seem now?  Go ahead…ask.  I dare you.

In all honesty, it is completely within my ability.  Over the break I met a women with four children in the midst of a nasty divorce, going to school full-time.  I also know plenty of moms, many of them single-parents, who wake up each morning at the crack of dawn and rush their kids out the door so they can make a living.  We all give up something, and what my family sacrifices isn’t that much–a half-hour of sleep in the morning (in my case, an hour and a half of sleep), Ophelia spending most of her week in school and with a babysitter instead of home with mom.  All said and done, things could be much worse, and by now, we could be trucking along steadily if the flu weren’t looming among us.  As it is–Emerson sick with various permutations of something since Christmas, Ophelia coming down with flu her third day of school, and Matty and I succumbing soon afterwards–those hours of sleep and quiet moments at home are seeming pretty precious to us all.

So when given one of these quiet days last Sunday, what better way to spend it than…skiing! Quite naturally.

Of course Ophelia has just come down with the flu (although we didn’t know it was the flu at that point, thank you very much) on Thursday, and Emerson was still hacking her lungs out, but there is no cure like fresh mountain air, right?  (In case you were wondering, I do have a certain history with this type of reasoning.)

Here are some of the highlights of our day, in the order they happened:

After a nice drive up, with everyone excited to be there, a man in the parking lot offers us two adult lift tickets for only twenty bucks each.  Of course we decline, because we only plan on going on the magic carpet with the kids, and tickets for that only cost around ten dollars.

While I help the kids get into their gear, Matty goes to buy our lift tickets.  As I’m helping Emerson get hers on her jacket, I notice it reads $38.00, at which point I turn to Matty and ask, why does her ticket say thirty-eight dollars?, to which he replies, because that was how much it cost.  Ah-ha.  Apparently, I was confusing this ski resort with one in Vermont, where you can, in fact, purchase a ticket for only the small lift at a reduced cost.  But here, you need to pay for the whole shebang.  (Our tickets were $60 a pop.)

We get to the magic carpet area, Matt goes down once with Emerson and states that he can’t possibly ski with the boots he’s wearing–they’re too small, and he’s going in to get a refund on his ticket at once.  He leaves me alone on the hill with Ophelia, who has never skied, and Emerson, who is happily going up and down the bunny-slope with ease.

By the time Matty gets back, Ophelia is intermittently screaming about how she wants to go home, or how she wants to ski, depending on the moment.  I take her up and down a few more times, but nothing improves, so I try and bribe her with a hot chocolate if she goes inside with Matty, so that I can take Emerson up on the quad.  This fails, and I leave her, walking around in her ski boots (no skis) on the middle of the trail, screaming–full-volume–about how she wants to ski.

I take Emerson up on the quad, not realizing there are two smaller lifts open on the far end of the mountain that would be better suited for her ability.  We have a nice ride up, and upon our exit find an easy trail right in front of us.  We have a great time going down, at the beginning, but Emerson soon grows hungry (it’s lunchtime, and we haven’t eaten) and frustrated, even though she can ski the trail with ease.

The trail, although easy, is long, especially when you are with a seven-year-old who is feeling hungry and complaining that her head hurts, and then falls in a funny way and twists her ankle.  Very long, let me tell you.

After quite a long time, we see the lodge, but it is not the lodge we started at.  In order to get to that lodge, we need to take another, smaller, lift up and ski down to it…or we need to take our skis off and walk through slush.  We chose the latter, which adds even more time onto our one run.

We arrive at the lodge to Matty suffering a severe headache (the flu–it comes on suddenly) and wanting to leave.  After a quick lunch and hot chocolate, we take off our stuff and get ready to hit the road, at which point Ophelia starts screaming again about how she wants to ski.

We finally get everyone out of the lodge, but can’t find Ophelia’s skis when we get outside.  We look everywhere. (I even take a trip back to the magic-carpet and examine each child getting off the ramp to see if they accidentally grabbed her skis instead of theirs.)  After about a half-hour of this, Emerson comes back up from dropping stuff off at the car and informs me that–whoops–they were in the car the whole time.  Matty put them there earlier and forgot.

So there you have it.  Our first ski trip of the year, in a nutshell.

Luckily for us, we have a penchant for revisionist history.  We had barely left the mountain when the girls starting chatting in the backseat about how much fun they had, how well Ophelia did, and how they couldn’t wait to go back again.  And when we got home, this happened:

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Emerson has never been a verbal processor.  Her crayons (or pencils, or paints, or whatever is available), however, are in a state of constant motion.  God love her.

Snow Days

In looking through some of my old unpublished blogs over at Blogger, I stumbled upon this–written about a year ago, and with the working title, “The Suckiest Winter Ever.”

In my idea of an aim for “less” in 2012, less blogging was not on my list.  In fact, I was hoping that less of everything else would grant me the time and space to do the things I really enjoy—be with my family, work on projects that interest me, enjoy nature and the outside world, write… 

The year started out okay…it’s easy when everyone is on vacation and there is plenty of time for exploring.  My first conscious “less” choice this year was to quit my YMCA membership in order to spend more time outdoors.  Although I would dearly miss swimming, I wouldn’t miss having to schedule a visit to the gym around school and pool schedules, nor would I miss leaving Ophelia at the YMCA “childwatch”, which she feels tepid about, at best.  No…I would wait to enjoy swimming in the summer months, and spend my winter in the elements: skiing, sledding, shovelling, snowshoeing, building snowmen–all great fun and much better quality exercise than I could ever get in an artificial environment. 

 Before school vacation ended (and maybe after it started) I was granted some of these winter days.  I was able to reacquaint myself with the contours of our very long driveway during a few meditative shovel sessions, we took some good runs on the sled hill, the girls and I took to the great outdoors (the backyard really) on our snowshoes, looking for animal tracks in the snow…

It was a pittance of snow, barely enough to get a taste of, but I’m glad we did, because a week later it was gone…forever.

I’ve never been one to complain about the weather, but this season has been really difficult for me.  After all the bikes were put away and the sleds, skis, snowshoes and skates taken out all we did was…

What did we do?  None of those winter sports, I can assure you that.  In a New England winter, we need snow–that nice coat of white primer painted over everything making it fresh and new.  Otherwise, our rotten, decaying past lies on display for us all winter long, sealed under a glass window of ice.  It’s depressing; it really is.

With January more than half over, this winter has not been the best for us either.  A new busy schedule and the flu have knocked us down repeatedly, no matter how many times we have tried to stand up again…but at least we’ve had snow.  Glorious snow has come and melted, but somehow managed to leave a covering for most of the month, so that we can explore when we are feeling well and look out at the reflection of the low winter sun off the ice when we are needing rest.  The first-graders in my new class at school (twenty-three strong!) come in with renewed focus when they are able to sled during recess, and I am able to maintain a center and patience–despite said twenty-three children, and my own two–when I am allowed the meditative act of shovelling our long driveway.

This weekend, the rest of my family is up at Camp Glen Brook on a second-grade class trip, while I sit at home nursing my near epic head and body aches (of course, mama was the last one to fall…), and each time I look out the window at the snow-piles–melting, but still present–lining our driveway, I hope that Matty and the girls are filling themselves with outdoor air, pond-skating, sledding, star-gazing in the cold night air, and winter bonfires.

As for me, I will don sunglasses (the glare off the snow is a bit much for a flu headache), look out the window and bask in this beautiful white, this new beginning, this stillness that is offered us.  I will be thankful, but I will also be a little greedy as I pray for more.

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A Few Words

I had a pact with myself to blog, blog, blog–books, books, holiday books, usual ramblings–beginning this weekend, but the events Friday just made blogging seem meaningless.  In fact, after finding out about what happened in Connecticut (no link required), I have made a concerted effort to avoid all media–social media especially–and spend each precious moment I can with my friends and family.

It isn’t important to me to know every detail of what happened.  The fact that it happened is all that concerns me.  I don’t need any further “updates”, and most of all, I don’t need–or want–to hear each one of my “friends” opinions on why this happened, how it could have been avoided, how angry they are, and why their point of view is educated/superior/backed by statistics/correct.  Everyone in the world, it seems, needs to weigh in on this.  Everyone knows, with clarity, what is right.

I don’t know what is right, but as usual, there are a few disparate quotes floating around my head.

The first quote is one of many featured here. “I need feminism because my university teaches ‘How to Avoid Getting Raped’ instead of ‘Don’t Rape’ at freshman orientation.”  Likewise, as a culture do we spend more time on the message “How to Avoid Getting Killed” than on the message “Don’t Kill”?  As a nation, do we accept violence so much that our only viable way to secure our safety is to live our lives in fear, behind locked doors and bullet-proof glass, weapons at the ready?  Is this what we call freedom?

The second quote is from Azar Nafisi, writing about her experiences with various political movements during the sixties and seventies in Iran.

My family had always looked down on politics, with a certain rebellious condescension.  They prided themselves on the fact that as far back as eight hundred years ago–fourteen generations, my  mother would proudly emphasize–the Nafisis were known for their contributions to literature and science.  The men were called hakims, men of knowledge, and later in the century, the Nafisi women had gone to universities and taught at a time when few women dared leave home.  When my father became the mayor of Tehran, instead of celebration there was a sense of unease in the family.  My younger uncles, who at the time were university students, refused to acknowledge my father as their brother.  Later, when my father fell out of favor, my parents managed to make us feel more proud of his term in jail than we had ever been when he was mayor.

The relevance of this?  It is always something I go back to when I feel pressured to have a political response to a human situation.  A cop-out, some would say, but political solutions are not always the answer to cultural problems–human problems.  Is it wrong for me not to have a political response, but a human one?–Disbelief? Grief?  Is it wrong for me to look for answers someplace else?

In this time of so much anger and vengeance, and opinions and calls for action, all I feel is sad–the kind of sad when your heart feels as though it is stuck in your throat and you might choke on it.  I feel sad for parents who have lost their children, for children who have lost their parents, for all those who have ever lost anyone, anywhere, anytime, in any circumstance.  But after sadness, we must move on, (obviously much easier for me to say when my children are upstairs sleeping in their beds right now, without a clue that the possibility of such violence exists in our world) and how we chose to move on is where I take my stand.  Do we move on with fear and hatred in our hearts–for the man who did this, for his parents, for his family, for politicians we don’t agree with, for Facebook friends who don’t agree with our political responses (or lack there of)?  Or do we move forward with compassion and understanding?  Do we say to ourselves–today I am going to put myself in someone elses shoes; I am going to think like they think, to feel like they feel, to give merit to their ideas and biases, to feel the possibilities of life?

The last quote is from my daughter’s second-grade teacher:

I am sure you are all holding your children even closer this weekend in light of the terrible events in Connecticut.  As a parent and a teacher, I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than such violence befalling children at the place where we hope for them to come every day with a spirit of trust and openness to the world and its experiences, growing toward the future.  I hope that our children can be spared any awareness, the images and fears, which are surrounding the shooting, and that school can remain a safe and loving place for them.  I am also aware, however, of how bits might trickle down, that the tragedy lives in the ether of which these children are so attuned, and that our work together involves facing hardship and working our way through them into the light.  My colleagues and I are in conversations about how best to address the Newtown school tragedy with the school.  At this point, the high school and grades 6-8 will address it in small groups tomorrow morning, following the regular assembly.  For the younger children, we want to steer clear of the details but be open to what is living with them.  I will be thinking more deeply on my approach this evening, but invite input from each of you, beginning with knowing whether or not your child is already aware of the events and/or how they have been discussed in your home.  I am developing a therapeutic story, should the need arise, which will contain a character that, through sadness and confusion, acts cruelly and harms others.  The focus will be on the other characters in the story, who choose to be helpers to those hurt, countering the pernicious gesture with a benevolent one.  These would be the only elements which reflect current events, so there would be no straightforward addressing of them done in the classroom.  Together, we can lovingly guide our children through this difficult time.

I feel lucky that my daughter is going to wake up tomorrow and go to a school without metal detectors, buzzers, lock-downs, or “intruder drills.” I feel lucky that she is being given the message, “Don’t Kill”, not the message “How Not to Get Killed”.  I feel lucky to be alive and able to listen to this tender feeling that tells me to stay away from Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest, and instead to revel in my family, my friends and their physicality.  This-this small action, this real connection–does not feel like an escape to me.  It feels, quite frankly, like part of the solution.

Party of Two

Because I grew up in a small family, my childhood holidays were most often quiet and simple, and I always dreamed that when I had my own family (that ubiquitous someday), I would host grand holiday events–my home would forever be overflowing with family and friends.

That’s the thing about being young and dreaming–everything was always (at least for me) the exact opposite of what was right in front of me.  The other thing, is that standing here in the middle of this someday–now no longer a hypothetical future but something that is fast receding behind me–things don’t look exactly how I’d pictured them way back when.  There isn’t any resemblance, really.  And that’s one more thing about youthful dreams–they lack (at least the good ones) foundation.  I mean, where did I expect all these new family members to come from exactly?  (And that boat, too?) I should have thought of that when I married an only child…

So here I am in some sort of adulthood, and although we have some rockin’ Easter, New Year, and Fourth of July traditions with friends, and Christmas is always homey in the best possible kind of way, Thanksgiving–to me–always still feels a bit…lacking.  After a particularly depressing trip to the grocery store last year, I vowed that this Thanksgiving would be different–that it would mean something.  I thought of growing all our own vegetables in our garden for our Thanksgiving feast; pulling a pumpkin off the vine in our backyard to make a pie; taking the kids on trips to Plymouth Village and the cranberry bogs on the Cape and teaching them about the history of Thanksgiving and the beauty of the harvest, all the while surrounded by friends and loved ones…  But time somehow seems to be accelerating nowadays, no matter how I try to slow it down, and after putting mass amounts of time and energy into the annual Holiday Fair at my daughter’s school (among other things) it was suddenly the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I had yet to plan a Thanksgiving meal, let alone do any of the other things on my list.

It was at this moment–this moment when I foresaw myself packed like a sardine in the grocery store days before Thanksgiving, having my cart slammed endlessly by frantic holiday consumers–that I almost lost it.  Almost.

It was also at this moment that I received an email from a friend, telling me about a local farm’s Thanksgiving sale.  It was a farm she had worked with throughout the year in her project to offer free CSA shares to local people living in poverty.  And it was right around the corner from Emerson’s school.

When I pulled in to the farm’s driveway the next day, after picking Emerson up, I felt that Thanksgiving, in fact, could be saved.  A beautiful fall day was ending (at 4pm) and while I went inside to look around at local fare and listen to homespun bluegrass in a barn roofed with solar panels, my kids ran to meet their friends at the swing-set out back and play, with the backdrop of a huge, orange harvest sun sinking through bare trees into the fields behind them.

I came home humming a happy tune, thinking that even though we didn’t grow (or even make) everything on our Thanksgiving table, at least we were keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving–as a harvest celebration, that is.  As for Plymouth village and the story of the Pilgrims and Indians…it’s an interesting story, but perhaps its greatest role in history is as our country’s first urban legend.  We can save that for another year (I think reading Little House on the Prairie has given Emerson more insight into American Indians’ relationships with white-settlers than that measly little story could, anyway), and there was still the possibility of travelling through the history of Thanksgiving at Old Sturbridge Village, our home away from home.  I’m not sure what story they’re telling there, but I’m fairly confident that it’s not of the Plymouth village variety…

As for our Thanksgiving Day attendance, it was small (one woman down from the usual suspects with my mother in North Carolina, but one friend to make up the difference), but despite this, the number of social events leading up to and after Thanksgiving Day itself, wrapped us in enough community to carry us through.

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Not to mention the fact that one of these social events was the celebration of my sweetest, little baby-girl becoming four…

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Because Emerson somehow ends up celebrating her birthday at least three different days, we intentionally planned Ophelia’s party for a day that wasn’t her actual birthday, so that she could spread her birthday out a little too.  On her actual birthday, we let Ophelia chose what she wanted to do for the day, which was go bowling and eat pizza at our townie restaurant…and let me tell you, watching her throw–literally, throw–that bowling ball onto the lane and jump up and down–again, literally–with excitement as it made its slow trek towards the pins, beat the hell out of anything they offered up at Old Sturbridge Village that day.

After we ate our pizza that evening, Emerson had to leave to go to a skating lesson, and Ophelia and I stayed and chatted while she finished eating at her own pace.  Afterwards I suggested that we get a special dessert for her birthday and together we picked out a brownie sundae, which the waiter brought out with a little candle.  We chatted some more while we ate, and lingered a little while afterward so that we could finish reading the new Flicka, Ricka, Dicka book Ophelia had just received as a gift.  As we got back into our coats and hats and shuffled back into the cold, it occurred to me that, yes–there is a place for big celebrations in life, but sometimes a party of two feels just right.

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October 29

October 29, 2012:

Gas in the car. Water, lots of it: drinking water and water in buckets ready for washing dishes and flushing the toilet.  Food-yes, lots.  Flashlights batteried-up and waiting, along with candles and matches.  Cell-phones charged.  Laundry done.  Dishes done.  Wood-stove fired up.  Waiting for “Frankenstorm”…

To answer the most obvious questions: no, I am neither an organizational freak or a harbinger of the apocalypse.  Quite the opposite on both counts.  In fact, I have quite the history of turning my face to the wind and laughing uproariously at sensational weather forecasts.  I was the girl who would drive three hours through a blinding blizzard to make it to a New Year’s Eve party.  I was the girl who boarded myself up in a house on Key West (evacuate–what?) with a group of people I barely knew and a keg of beer during Hurricane Georges. HA! Weather–do you see me?  I stand without fear! I laugh in the face of danger!

Right.  Notice that I was the girl.  I was also stupid (although “adventurous” has quite a nicer ring, doesn’t it?).  In fact, I was stupid right up until…hmm…could it be?  Looking at my photos, I see that it’s true:  exactly one year ago..to the day..to the hour even. Last year at this time, I was still laughing, still shaking my finger at the sky. Snow in October?  This is New England!  Who cares?  Bring. It. On.

October 29, 2011:

Halloween was coming, and to get in the spirit of the spooks and the darkness, Matty and I had rented Stephen King’s Creepshow, which neither of us had seen since junior-high.  The next  night, I was busy recounting the hilarity of Leslie Neilson’s adventures in 80’s video-technology and Ed Harris’s tight jeans and awesome dance moves to my coworkers when the lights went out, and our millennial-technology slowed to a halt.  As the chef finished cooking dinners he had already started (in the dark), the rest of us milled around, finishing up whatever tasks we could manage, sneaking up on each other and making ridiculous junior-high age jokes the entire time.

Earlier that afternoon it had started snowing. 

Everyone was talking about how this would be a travesty, what with all the leaves still on the trees, but I, of course, wasn’t listening.  Matty, the girls and I had just returned from a day of errands, and we had just finished our last one–stopping by a consignment sale to grab a jack-o-lantern costume for Ophelia that I had seen the day before–when the snow started falling.  We felt lucky that the costume was still there, that we would soon have a wood-stove to warm our home (another errand was choosing tiles), and that we could sit in our cozy living room and enjoy the view of white outside.  We felt ready.  Ready for Halloween…not a storm.  Because really, who needs water or gasoline when you have a three-dollar jack-o-lantern costume in just the right size?

By the time it was time for me to head to work, the snow had accumulated a little bit.  Matt suggested that I take my car and that the roads would probably be bad on my way home.  Roads, schmoads.  I took his car–front-wheel-drive, no snow tires.  I mean, really…it’s October!  This is only a flurry…

When I finally left work, I felt lucky, not worried.  Lucky that the power went out and that I could go home and be with my family (I had called Matt, and the power was on at our house).  Lucky that I didn’t have to work a full shift, and excited, as I always am, about the first snow of the year.  With snow this early, just think of all the skiing, sledding, snowshoeing we will do! (Oh the cruel, cruel joke…)  As I stepped out the door to my car, my coworker told me, good-naturedly, to drive safely, and I left with a smile on my face and a spring in my step…

…until I reached my car (Matt’s, really) across the street and realized it was partially buried and that I would have to dig my way out…in clogs.  But with a little wiping and a little digging, and a little slipping and sliding, I was on my way, still with a smile on my face (crisis averted!)…at least for a few blocks.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that yes, I should have in fact taken my car.  I was sliding all over the place, missing turns and barely keeping myself on the road.  By the time I was half-way home, I had nearly collided with at least three other vehicles and easily as many ditches.  Adrenaline was pumping through my body, and I was nearly in tears, not to mention the cracks and booms of trees all around me, echoing in the eerie silence.  Slowly, slowly, I made it to my road, unsure if I would make it around the curves and up our hill, but happy to be so close.

So close.  I could see my house through the trees, glowing with a beckoning light so safe and warm, when crack, CRACK!–a tree fell just in front of my car, pulling a live electrical wire into the road in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes and skidded sideways into the middle of the road.  At first, I thought about just leaving the car like that–no one could pass the wire anyway–but the image of more trees coming down, other people trying to reach home, a snowplow t-boning Matt’s shiny, red car, caused me to move.  Or try to…  After a few starting, stopping, reverse, forward, I realized that I was not in control of the car, and that in the road was where it needed to stay.  I got out, and started walking through the trees and branches, in my clogs, in the dark (of course I did not have a flashlight…of course) with the, by now, oh-so-familiar sound of crack, crack, crack.  Heavy branches were falling all around me, and I think at this point I may have actually been crying (at least internally), when I saw a flashlight shining across the street. 

I ran back out of the woods screaming, thinking that the man across the street might not know about the felled wire, knowing myself–as I looked at my house, still alit–that the wire was still live.  I was screaming at him about the wire, he was screaming at me about the wire…there was a lot of screaming and yelling, and cracking, and slipping, until somehow he was driving my car under the live wire to the edge of our driveway.  We parted ways, and I all but ran into my house, shaking and crying (inside) and found Matty, whistling a tune, asking “where did you come from? I didn’t see even see the car pull up…”

And then it was Matty’s turn to be blase about the storm.  No matter how hard I tried to describe all that cracking everywhere, it was hard for him to hear through the crackling of the fire in the fireplace and jazz on the record player.  The power did go out moments after my arrival, but by then it was time for bed, and although Matty did humor me by moving the bed away from the windows, he slept easily through all the cracks, CRACKS!, and one big KA-BOOM!  I on the other hand…

We woke up to silence.  Dead silence.  And cold.  And this…

October 30, 2011:

After everything is all said and done, and your house and bodies are in one piece, it’s fun to walk around in awe at the destruction nature can cause.  And the beauty.  The tawny colors of fall leaves still clinging onto trees, covered with snow, with the backdrop of a perfectly blue sky, is an image I will not soon forget.  The tops of trees curved over looked like a scene from a Dr. Suess book. There was a humor and lightness to it all.  Our power was still out (of course…we live in the woods, our power always goes out), and there were downed trees and branches everywhere (See the one in the photo, behind my car?  That is where Matty’s car would have been, had it made it all the way up the driveway.  Small miracles…), but we were all okay, and now all we had to do was wait. 

Quite often, when our street looks like World War III, and we are convinced that the entire surrounding area has been shut down, we need only venture past our neighborhood, and everything is going on as normal.  So wait…yes.  That’s what we would do.  We would get out Christmas books and pretend it was winter, start a fire in the fireplace, lie a wool blanket on the floor in front of it, play some games, and wait. The power would surely be back soon, and if it weren’t, we would just go into town and hang around somewhere until it did.  And besides, we can live without lights for a while.  And running water?  We can get water from the stream in the back to flush the toilet, and we’ll go down to the store when the road clears and get some to drink…

You surely know where this is going.  You do.  We didn’t.

After a couple of hours of playing and reading next to a fireplace that looks nice (sort of) but really doesn’t kick off any heat, the power still hadn’t come back on.  Looking at a cold night ahead without any running water, we decided that maybe we would head to Matt’s dad’s house for the night. But first we would go into town and see what everyone was up to.  Besides, we needed to fill up our cars, which were both close to empty, with gas. 

As we drve out of our neighborhood, we immediately noticed that things did not look better, and that life was not going on as usual beyond the boudries of the woods.  There were no lights in store windows, no people milling to and fro, no cars pulling in and out of parking lots…just people driving, like us, seemingly without direction, mouths agape.  I made a few phone calls to some friends, all of whom confirmed the loss of power–region wide–and rumors that it would not be turned back on for days. 

Luckily, when we pulled into the gas station, it was business as usual.  Busier, actually.  It looked like everyone had the same idea as us–get out of town for a while.  There was a line out into the street to get onto the gas island, but it was moving quickly…very quickly in fact…and soon we were idling in front of a gas pump ourselves, just long enough to read the sign that everyone in front of us had also taken just a short time to read.  Out Of Order.

For a moment, I started to panic a little, for the first time since the night before, but my rational side quickly took over.  The power is out at this intersection.  We’ll just drive a little farther and find gas there.  I was really that optimistic (stupid).  Really.

After driving farther and farther from our house and being fooled by many crowded “Out Of Order” gas oasises, we realized that all we were accomplishing was upping our odds of running out of gas and being stranded someplace far from home.  In the cold.  With wires lying all over the ground.  So we went home.  Because at least at home we were…well…home.  With no water, and no heat, and no chance of either of them coming back any time soon.

We just made it home on the gas we had left in the tank, and after going through our zero options for a short time, we decided to take what gas we had left for the chainsaw, put it into the gas tank of our car, and hope it would get us (well…get Matty) someplace where gas was still flowing.  Surely there was gas in some of the bigger towns.  Surely the weather had noticed that these towns were bigger and spared them.  This is where logic leads you sometimes…

As it turns out, there was one gas station open in the valley (Matt stopped at a local gas station and asked around), and luckily, Matty was able to get there–about 20 minutes from our house–on the small amount of gas he had put in the car before he left…almost.  He ran out of gas on the off-ramp of the highway, and had no choice but to leave his car there and walk the rest of the way, cheered on by shouts of profanity from drivers and passengers of surrounding automobiles. (Disaster can really bring out the best in people, can’t it?)  At the gas station, Matt had to wait in line for over an hour to fill his gas can.  Then, he returned to the car (again, to the profanity), put the gas in, and return to the gas station line for another hour to fill up the car. 

Meanwhile, the girls and I were waiting at home, snuggled under a blanket reading lots and lots of books, pretending the fireplace really was making the house warm.  After a couple of hours, I really started to worry, wondering what Matt’s fate was, and whether or not he would come home at all, but sure enough, after a few hours, he came tearing into the driveway, harried, nearly screaming at us to get in the car.  Hooray!

After that, we were lucky, I must say. Although there was no power on the way to Matt’s dad’s house (an hour and a half away), there were also no major lines or trees down, blocking our way.  We got to Matt’s dad’s without incident, but were a bit disgruntled to see no houses lit up, no streetlights, no traffic lights…  But we knew that after the ice storm two years prior, Matt’s dad had set up a generator for his heat, hot water and kitchen.  The question was: would it work?

We didn’t have to ask that question for very long, because as we turned to corner to Matt’s dad’s street, we saw lights in all the houses.  Although the entire region was dark, for some reason this street already had their power restored–only twelve hours later.  Halleluijah!

October 31-November 3, 2011:

In case you were wondering, yes…I did think that Halloween would be salvaged.  In the last minute grabs before leaving our house, I threw costumes, trick-or-treat bags, candy apples, and a bunch of halloween books into a bag for transport, and on Halloween night, I had the girls in their costumes, ready to go.  Yes, by that point I had heard rumors that Halloween had been “postponed” (heresy), but I thought that since this neighborhood (this street, at least) had power) that people would be open for business.  Wrong, and wrong again.

A sad day for a little princess and a little pumpkin, but at least they got to trick-or-treat at one house.

And all the rest…

 
 

We were lucky, and believe me, we knew it.

Another blessing we discovered during the following days: snow which is heavy and sticky enough to take down enough trees to leave entire states without power for days is also perfect for making snowmen.

Lots of snowmen.

A different snowman (woman/caterpillar) every day.

But there are only so many snowmen you can make, and only so many games of solitaire you can play, before you feel like doing a bit more.  After many phone calls back home, we finally heard the news that people were slowly gaining power again,including Emerson’s school which was up and running, and there was our cat to think about…

So after four days in the warm, bright interior of Matt’s dad’s house, we decided to get back to our life.  We packed up the car once more, hopeful, but not wholy optimistic…and with good reason.

November 4-November 7, 2011:

We arrived home to a cold dark house, of course.  Our cat was happy to see us though, and she immediately curled up in the pile of blankets and bodies we set up for ourselves.  Over the next four days, the only time we spent at home was at night, when we scrambled into our 30-degree house, bumping into each other in the dark trying to find our bed of blankets.  In the morning, we would do the reverse.  Grab the kids out of bed in their pajamas and head the the breakfast place near Emerson’s school where we would get dressed, eat, and brush our teeth/wash our faces in the bathroom.  During the day while Emerson was at school (that lucky, lucky girl!) the rest of us would wander around town, visiting friends, findind errands to do in warm places.  After school we would head to another restaurant for dinner and another teeth brushing/face washing session before we returned to the cave of our house.  By the end of it all we were a mess–dirty and disgruntled, Emerson having eaten restaurant left-overs in her lunchbox for days.  I was not a pleasant person to be around, and after three days, had made plans to sleep at people’s houses over the weekend.

But low-and-behold, just as I had settled down for dinner with friends on our first family sleepover, the phone rang.  At first our  host was confused as to why the caller ID had my name on it when I was sitting right next to her.  Maybe Matt had my cell phone?  Wait a minute…it couldn’t be…  It’s Matt! And he’s calling from your home phone!

As generous as our friends’ offer was, after a quick dinner, we sped home in time to see the parade of trucks pulling out of our neighborhood.  I waved and honked my horn emphatically, wanting, really, to jump out of the car and throw my arms around them.  Our saviors!

The rest, as they say, is history.

November 3, 2012:

As we now know, Hurricane Sandy didn’t affect us at all.  We only lost power for about a minute.  Sadly, it did affect millions in a much more devastating manner than we, personally, were affected by last year’s “Frankenstorm.”  My heart goes out to those who still don’t have power, and even more to those who have lost homes and businesses.

Through all of it, I wonder at how dependent we are on electricity to fufill our most basic needs.  I also wonder at our ability in these times of chaos to bring aide to ourselves and others.  (We recieved offers from people we barely knew, inviting our entire family to sleep at their house, even though they were without power themselves, because at least they had the warmth of a wood stove.)  I wonder at the stregnths of humanity.  I wonder at our weaknesses.

But change begins at home, as a wise man once said, and this year we smartened up.  We can laugh at our story now, but it wouldn’t be so funny if Matt’s dad hadn’t had power, or if the gas stations and restaurants weren’t up and running in a few days.  So laugh all you want at my rations of food and water, my batteries and our wood stove.  We can’t be ready for everything, but we’ve learned.  Oh, we’ve learned…

(Side note: one of our favorite stories of the night of the storm was that an enormous tree came down behind our house in the middle of the night, and Emerson just happened to be in the hallway when it happened.  When she told us the next morning how frightened she had been by the big “KABOOM!”, we told her that she could have come into our room, to which she replied, “well, I really had to go to the bathroom, and after I went to the bathroom, I wasn’t scared anymore.”  Only Emerson.  And that one tree alone probably gave us enough wood for the entire winter…)