I wrote this post during Hurricane Sandy. That feels like a million miles away from where we are now, but I never posted it. I’d planned for it to run as my first contributor post in Still Standing Magazine but by the date my post was due to publish, this felt outdated. So I saved it, till now, when it is without a doubt “outdated.” …I like to think my work is timeless.
I was in the windowless attic bathroom, in the tub with my two year old Liat, when the lights went out.
I sat there in the pitch black, stunned. I wondering what had happened, but I knew exactly what had happened. Sandy had taken out our power. I’d hoped it wouldn’t happen, though I kind of expected it. But not this early! The storm had barely even touched us!
After a second of shock, I came to my senses and reached for my daughter, sitting only inches from me. I felt for her slippery little armpits and grabbed her close. I turned off the water and called to my husband.
“Elie!” I yelled.
“Elie!!” Louder. And then I heard him say “Oh my God” and start running… And not in my direction. My heart stopped. He’d been downstairs with our four year old, Molly. Immediately I had visions of her being trapped or fallen or terrified of the dark.
“Elie!!!!” I called louder and more emphatically. I could hear the panic in my voice. And then Liat, thinking I might need help called out, panicky “Elie!” and I realized I needed to pull myself together. I grabbed her close to me and felt my way out of the tub, through the pitch dark and out of the room. As I ran down the stairs holding her against me making sure she wouldn’t slip through my arms, it totally escaped my attention that it was still broad daylight in the rest of the house and we were both completely naked.
As I got near the bottom of the stairs, heart racing, Elie & Molly appeared, looked up at us, and started laughing.
The relief and joy I felt in that moment, as I realized how insane we must have appeared, but so thankful that they were alright, is something that I hope I always hold onto.
After showing me the enormous tree that had fallen into the street from our front lawn, (the reason for his ‘OMG’) we put in our cozy PJs and buckled down for the remainder of the storm.
We decided to all sleep together in the downstairs family room, and as I lay on the back-breakingly uncomfortable pullout sofa with a candle burning on the tv cabinet, I thought about how lucky we were. Lucky that the tree fell into the street and, though it had taken down every wire and telephone pole in a 500 foot radius, it did not take out half our house as it would have if it had fallen the other way. Lucky that we were safe, and together, and for the time being, warm.
In the days that followed our family stayed in the dark, literally and figuratively. We had no power or Internet, and with torn and exposed wires hanging across our lawn, just going outside was nerve wracking . We spent the days together, the girls playing, coloring, dancing. I spent time cooking all our perishables on the (thankfully still working) stove and washing a ton of dishes. We connected to each other almost entirely unaware of the outside world, and it was nice.
On Wednesday morning, while wearing a winter jacket, I cleaned out the refrigerator of all the remaining spoiled food and washed down the shelves for the first time in, um, possibly forever. As I scrubbed something especially nasty out of the back of a drawer, I dawned on me how calm and content I felt. Immediately I thought of my twins. I thought about how, in years past, I would have been a basket case, freaking out about what we were gonna do and where we were gonna go, but I guess I’ve learned a thing or two…
I’ve learned that I can’t control everything and sometimes all the planning in the world just doesn’t matter.
I’ve learned that despite not having a clean refrigerator, or electricity, or, as it were, my living twins with me, I have a world of blessings all around me.
I’ve learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I tend to give myself credit for, yet who we are is truly so intimately entwined with who we *think* we are, so I really aught to own my strength.
I’ve learned that things can always get worse.
As cell phone towers got back online and we were able to charge our phones in the car, I started to hear about the devastation and heartbreaking losses Sandy brought our way. Places we’ve visited in the summers, neighborhoods where friends grew up, demolished.
The worst were the young families ripped apart by this storm.
My heart breaks for them in ways I didn’t know existed before my own, personal heartbreaking storm. And yet I still can’t begin to imagine their pain.
I lay here, typing this post with one finger on my iPhone, in the home of a very generous friend who has a very powerful generator. My girls are two feet away from me on an air mattress and Elie is sleeping at my side. In this moment I imagine that if all I had in the world existed inside this little room, I’d probably be ok… Well, I mean, if there was coffee…
I know a day will come soon when well be back at home, the house will be a cluttered mess, Molly will be having a total drama-queen hissy fit, Liat, in the midst of potty training, will be peeing on the couch while the Fresh Beats kick up their heels at an insane volume, Elie will be on a business call locked in the office and I will just want to pull out my hair and escape to the someplace quiet. Yes. I know that day will come. And I hope I will think of this moment, take a second to count my blessings, and keep moving forward.
Hold your loved ones tight. Love them even more for the babies you’ve lost or yearn to conceive. The tremendous love in your heart is a special gift to you. Use it. To love better, love more selflessly, love more people, with fewer conditions and expectations. And not only others, but love yourself as well. Generously and gently. That is the way I’ve found to honor my daughters. I continue to be humbled by the enormity of the gifts our angel babies give us. My hope is that all baby loss moms will ultimately learn to see those gifts in their own worlds. It can be hard inside the darkness, but there is always light when you are ready to see it.