“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Alternatively titled Five Days After the Earthquake OR The Day Before Kindergarten…Maybe
What a week.
Sometimes we get so busy surviving the day to day of life that it’s nearly impossible to take a moment and be grateful for the simple pleasures and blessings. Last week my family headed to Pennsylvania to a lake where I spent much of my summer as a child, and I believed that our three days there would be the calm before the storm of back to school and work.
I had no idea that it really was the calm before the storm.
We headed into the week anticipating the chaos of preparing for back to school, my son’s first day of kindergarten, and the potential for heavy rain from the hurricane that was forming in the Atlantic. Then Tuesday we were surprised by the Virginia earthquake that left me feeling disoriented, talking my husband through his suddenly three hour long commute as he tried to get out of D.C., cleaning up the items tossed around in our house. At that point the week felt lost to me. I tried to focus on work, encouraging the kids to finish their summer homework, and preparations for the first day of school, but everything seemed upside-down suddenly.
Seeing the class lists posted outside of the school Thursday afternoon was the nail in the coffin of my week. I’ve known since the day my son was born that on a day in August in 2011 he would go to kindergarten and I would no longer be a “stay-at-home mom,” yet seeing his name on that list somehow surprised me. It was a wonderful day that began with an event in Baltimore with Disney and friends from around the area, and as we got into the car after seeing the class lists my son said, “Mom, this was the best day ever.” He got his big sister’s former kindergarten teacher (yes!) and his best friend is in his class (score!), and we had chocolate-dipped Rice Krispie Mickey ears waiting for us at home. And yet I felt unsettled.
Thursday night launched us into storm prep as it became clear that we were going to experience tropical storm conditions from Hurricane Irene. My biggest concern for us was loss of power, which I knew would likely take a day or two to restore after such a big storm. I also wanted to be ready to take in my friend and her family who were in the direct path of the storm that was anticipated to be a Category 2 when it hit their area. Friday was a complete loss as the kids and I stacked outside furniture, put away outside toys, searched for D cell batteries and yes, went out for lunch to just enjoy each other.
I was thankful that Friday provided the distraction of my daughter’s first sleepover. Her friend arrived mid-afternoon and the day became about crafting and making a fun appetizer dinner. We all watched Rio and ate popcorn, then listened as my daughter and her friend read each other bedtime stories. The backdrop for the night was the storm coverage on CNN, and talking my best friend through packing up her home knowing it might not make it Irene remained a Category 2 when it reached Delaware. The entire day was a lesson in contrasts. Bottled water and batteries against a fun meal at Panera. Movies and popcorn with constant check-ins to Skype to talk a friend through one of the most nerve-wracking days of her life.
Saturday arrived with rain already hitting the windows periodically, strong breezes bending the tops of trees ever so slightly. Knowing the worst would not arrive until over night Saturday, we took care of the tasks that required electricity like the three loads of laundry that appear every weekend, but we also just spent a lot of time hanging out. My son taught me how to dogfight on Wii Sports Resort, and I beat both of my kids soundly at Mario Kart. Our five year old with the magic hands rolled his way to yet another Yahtzee! victory, and we laughed hysterically while the kids fought it out for last place at Jungle Speed. If it wasn’t for the updates on Twitter from friends who had water sloshing in under their garage doors or who had evacuated to safer structures, it would have seemed like a normal Saturday. We tucked each kid in with a flashlight and got ready for the worst that was supposed to come between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. I watched the storm both through the windows and on CNN while sitting in bed, close to the kids’ rooms, flashlight within reach.
Somewhere between two and three in the morning I woke up to knocking. Did one of the kids wake up from the sound of the howling wind and rain hitting the house? And did they suddenly think they needed to knock to come into our bedroom in the middle of the night? When I heard it again I realized it was outside of my bedroom window. My master bedroom is three stories up above a walkout basement and first floor. What was knocking on our wall? We couldn’t tell if it was the neighbor’s birch finally bent far enough to hit the back corner of our house, the spouting along the roof ripping loose, or the awning over the deck coming unhinged. This morning we still aren’t sure, but we were happy to find our house and power still in tact after what was a terrifying night with 50 mph sustained winds howling outside our window and gusts over 70 mph throwing rain against the house.
I took a drive around town this morning to see the results of Irene. A quick drive past the old house showed that the trees that used to scare us through every storm survived yet another one in tact. The roads were covered in leaves and the occasional downed tree, but all remained open. Every now and then a street sign was ripped off of its post or fell over in the rain-saturated earth. The line at McDonald’s was long, many homes without power and patience. And we’re now taking reservations for drinks on our suddenly “lake front” deck…
I was also able to convince the kids to join me for a walk. They both protested, but things suddenly became exciting when we had to find a way around the tree that completely covered the path and was way too heavy and large for my husband and I to move. We worked together to hold back the weeds along the path with thorns, and we skillfully stepped around the muddiest areas, all in the name of checking out the creek to see how fast the water was moving. Our next adventure? Waiting to hear if schools will open tomorrow and my baby will get on the bus headed to kindergarten like I anticipated. At this point I think we are ready for anything…