Coming out on the other side of the hurricane with our electricity still working, our floors dry, and our store intact, I can now look back at the last few days and laugh at my approach to hurricane preparedness—a much needed release of the tension that had been building in me for days.
Thursday (Two Days Until Storm):
As the news of the impending hurricane intensified, a low hum of anticipation grew all around us. During the workday, my mother—who lives in a town at the southern-most tip of New Jersey—was told that there would be a mandatory evacuation of her island home. She went home that day to attempt to pack up the clothes she would need for a couple of days, along with those things she knew she couldn’t live without.
The rest of my day progressed in much the same way as it usually did: meetings, kids, cooking, cleaning, laundry, . . . I procrastinated.
Friday (One Day Until Storm):
I started my day with a cup of coffee in front of The Today Show. I listened to advice on what to do in the event of a catastrophic storm, and I attempted to make a list of the things I would need to purchase after work—candles, flashlights, batteries, water, . . . I kept drawing a blank as to what else a person might need in case of losing electricity and water. What do you buy to eat if you don’t have a stove to cook it on, or a refrigerator to keep it cold? I was at a loss.
It was Friday—the second to last one of the summer—which meant that I could finish work early. My first stop was the dollar store. I left there with forty “Emergency Candles,” two flashlights that took AAA batteries—they’d probably work for an hour—, and four packs of batteries.
Next stop—the grocery store.
I should have known it was going to be a nightmare when I saw that there wasn’t a single cart to be found. I stood there dumbfounded, unable to decide what to do, that is until I saw a woman leaving the store with a cart full of groceries. I decided to follow (stalk) her to her car, and when she was done loading everything, I politely took her cart. Once inside, I was forced to steer my way through the aisles looking for water, but when I finally got there, not a bottle was to be found. Even the over-priced imported water was sold out. The next aisle over had soda on sale, so I bought five bottles. The rest of the shopping trip went by in a chaotic blur. I found myself wandering up and down aisles completely uncertain as to what to buy. I left with a cart full of snacks and other junk that my children would love. I really started to wonder whether I was shopping for a hurricane or for a party.
Soon after putting all of the groceries away, my mom arrived at my house. Feeling the need to keep busy, I started cooking dinner, and then decided to once again go back out to try to find water. I headed over to a grocery store that is typically empty, but when I saw the busy parking lot and the liquor store next door, I was suddenly torn about what to do. It was a difficult decision: brave a store filled with panicked customers looking to get the last can of tuna or buy alcohol. I left the liquor store with five bottles of wine and a six-pack of beer. I texted my husband to ask him to buy water on his way home from work.
Saturday (Day of the Storm—due to hit around midnight):
Not sure of what to do with the raw meat and eggs in the fridge, I decided to cook everything. I figured that if we lost power, we’d at least be able to eat cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs. It seemed practical. I was stubbornly refusing to listen to folks on the news saying that you shouldn’t even open your fridge if you didn’t want everything to spoil in only a few short hours.
My husband wasn’t able to find water the night before, so I once more decided to venture out. As I was thinking of where to go, it occurred to me that the kids would probably drive me insane without TV, video games, cell phones, or the Internet, and that what I really needed to do to prepare for the storm was to buy a new board game. I headed over to K-Mart thinking that I would be able to find both there, . . . but I was wrong. I walked out with the game, and once again texted my husband to please find water on his way home from getting our store ready for the storm.
The afternoon was spent intermittently watching the news and cleaning the house. After dinner—and a couple of glasses of wine—my daughter, my brother-in-law, and I finally started playing the new board-game while my husband read the news on the computer, and my son concentrated on getting to the next level on Super Mario Brothers. We laughed, we talked, we joked with one another. At times, we even forgot that we were waiting for the storm to hit. Suddenly, my daughter looked up from the game and said “The good thing about a hurricane is that we all get to spend time together.”
The night ended some time around 1:30 am with me camping out with my children in my daughter’s room. I don’t know if I agreed to sleep there to make them—or myself—feel more secure about the storm. It was the perfect ending to a very long day.
I realized the next day when I woke up to a house with electricity and a dry living-room floor, that we were even luckier than I had first thought. In spending the day together as a family—something that we don’t often get to do—we were creating memories that our children would remember when they were older. In the end, all of my preparations may not have been needed for the hurricane, but what they did do was make our time together that much better—a board-game, some delicious cooked, and a little wine—I guess it turned into a party after all. The only advice I have for my daughter is to do what I am doing now, when an event happens—however big or small—take some time to write it down. Who knows, it may turn out to be one of your favorite memories.