I was in Trader Joe’s on Friday, four days after Hurricane Sandy, and it was clear who had power and who didn’t by what everyone was buying. But if you looked in my shopping cart, you wouldn’t know if I had power or not. (Cans of food, frozen food and milk?) I had just tried to unsuccessfully buy gas for our generator and my car. Our generator was 1/2 full of gas and I had no idea when or if we would get more.
As I waited in line, I tried to wrap my ahead around the house being dark again. I had crazy visions of walking to the nearest store the next time I needed food. Sending my kids to school unwashed and wearing old clothes. I drove home preparing a speech to my husband about our need to find gas.
There is a sense of coziness in a house without power especially in the beginning when it’s still a novelty, before you feel cold. The first day we lost our electricity I read magazines by the fire. I played with my kids without the urge to check my e-mail. Life slowed down and there was time for everything. Answering every question. Preparing the perfect sandwich. That was nice for a day.
Then our friends lent us their generator and we rejoiced. We bought milk. We put away the batteries. We even got to watch our favorite show on television. We also spread the word to our neighbors and offered them dinner, a place to sleep, charge their phones, whatever they needed. We met neighbors for the first time while exchanging information about the storm. Friends stopped by without calling first. Our neighborhood felt like a community.
When I came home from Trader Joe’s, I told my husband about the line of cars at the gas station I saw in Eastchester that stretched for many blocks. He decided to to drive away from this immediate area to find gas and we needed more gas cans (we only have one) so we could stock up. My husband checked every store from here to New Milford, CT with no luck. He left the house knowing that when he finally found gas he could buy just enough for two days (if we conserve). He found gas at the northern edge of Westchester County and only had to wait in a line of five cars. Will we be able to keep up this gas hunt for the next 7-10 days?
Before he left, we turned off the generator to conserve gas. My girls and I spent the afternoon making crafts. We didn’t need lights. I made tea on the stove. This will be our new schedule: turn off the generator at night, keep it on for a few hours in the morning, turn it off after lunch and turn it back on for dinner. I can live with this. Just give me hot coffee, enough power to keep our food fresh and enough heat to keep the house from getting too cold. Our new schedule is a lot different from the hurried schedule I usually keep and I hope I remember to notice the simple moments when life returns to normal.
Since the storm, I have a favorite moment and one that I could never have predicted. When we turn off our generator at night, the house is suddenly quiet and dark. I’ve come to love reading a book with a flashlight in bed. There is something so reassuring about that. Just me, my book and a little light.
How are you and your family doing after the storm? Leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!
If you’re interested in volunteering for Hurricane Sandy response, check out New York Cares, The Volunteer Center of the United Way or donate to the American Red Cross with the simple click of a button.