Ice Storm

January 6, 2013

Fifteen years ago today, my husband valiantly braved the  wild wind and pelting freezing rain to park our very old car underneath a tree…not for protection, but in hopes that a tree branch would finally fall on it! The kids were small, only 4 and 6, as they watched the storm and mayhem that began to slowly ensue, from the window of our upper floor. Ok. It was a winter storm….ok – the power went out (not really unusual here). That meant pizza and perhaps even roasting marshmallows…over a candle. They ran around with flashlights playing tag in the house up  until bedtime….it was kind of fun and we weren’t worried yet.

Morning came – still no power. Looking out the window – huge branches lay everywhere – actual trees broken in half (of course, not one had fallen onto our car)! It looked bad – it looked scary, at least to us…but to the kids, it looked cool. End of day 2 and still no power – the house was getting cold. We bundled up in layers to stay warm and somewhere in the day we managed to find take-out coffee and hot chocolate from a restaurant that had a generator. Take out was  available in a few places so my dad and my husband went out as modern day hunters to find something for us and we managed to have a hot supper…still fun for the kids.

By the next morning,  the house was too cold to stay anymore…what were we going to do? All of our friends were in the same position as were my parents who lived in the flat below. No power and no heat – unless they had a fireplace and everyone was doubling up families in an effort to stay warm and pool resources. We were starting to worry but took comfort in the fact that, at least we were all together and we were safe….we’d figure something out. Before long, my uncle called – his apartment had power! He told us all to come and stay with him – which was quite something for my uncle, a life-long bachelor who had no real experience with children. So all 6 of us headed over to his little apartment downtown – my parents, my husband and , and our two kids – toting their Jr. Monopoly game that they had just received for Christmas. I brought a loaf of bread and my big jar of peanut butter plus sleeping bags and comforters. For my kids – this was a great big adventure.

We were at my uncle’s a mere few hours when his building lost power too. Good thing I brought the peanut butter! So, we ate picnic style  and spent the rest of the evening playing Jr. Monopoly by candlelight. I remember the laughter – so much laughter and the sharing of stories as we sat all together in one small room with candles flickering – it was as though we had stepped into another time.Then, off to bed  all at the same time so that we would stay warm… all 4 of us on the floor, laying on top and underneath a bevy of blankets – the kids felt like they were camping.

Another morning  and still no power. Now, I was in full-tilt worry. Stores were closed, the majority of restaurants were closed – what were we going to do? We had left our cat at home with dry food and water – but now it was getting too cold for her too. I took a chance and called our vet who also had a small kennel (and of course, a generator) and as luck would have it – there was one spot left. We gathered up the kids and went home to get the cat and also re-pack our bags and find more blankets. Streets were tricky to maneuver with trees were down everywhere and not small twiggy trees – huge, hundred-year old trees. So many streets were blocked and of course no power anywhere. It was a state of emergency – something I had never experienced in my lifetime. The army had been called in and  tanks and military vehicles were a common sight. Once again – the kids thought this was an incredible adventure.

We walked into our cold, empty feeling home to see our son’s two pet fish floating (there was nothing we could do about that!) and as I quickly began shoving fresh clothes into bags, the phone rang…my husband answered it…it was our best friends, the children’s’ godparents, calling to check in on us. You have to remember that fifteen years ago – cell phones were not the readily available accessory that everyone has today. Well, it turned out that where they were living, in the suburbs, they had power…and they had a house that they were only too happy to share with not only us, but my parents and my uncle too (whom they had never met). Relieved and excited we loaded the car up – dropped off the cat to safety and headed back with our good news.

Before long, we were sitting all together in our friends’ home,  enjoying a good  meal and some fine wine. We were laughing and talking as though we were at a party, celebrating something ….which we were – we had just redefined the word “family.”  This scene would play out for the next four days, with our friends going off to work while we filled our days playing endless rounds of Go Fish and Jr. Monopoly and then  in the late afternoon, my mother and I would hustle into the kitchen and work together to create some fabulous dinners. Every night was a celebration – so much so, that when our power was finally restored on the 7th day, we decided to stay together with our friends – our family – one more day. While we were all anxious to get back to our “normal” lives – not one of us wanted to end this celebration of family or love and togetherness.

For my family – the Great Ice Storm represented a bonding sense of family and fun. Yes, of course there was a sprinkling of worry, but it was always overwhelmed by the warmth and love that surrounded us. The feeling that we were not alone but in this adventure together…and it gave us a new respect for the things we take so lightly everyday – a new sense of gratitude that we carry with us still, today.

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