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Archive for November, 2012

(This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post, on November 21, 2012).

The juiciest turkey I ever made was Thanksgiving 2001, though it came about by happenstance. I was preparing the meal at my mother’s home in Florida and was supposed to cook the bird for three hours at 350 degrees. Once the plastic meat thermometer popped up, I was to put the bird back in the oven for about 15 minutes at 500 to crisp the skin. But when the alarm rang after three hours, I looked at the turkey and saw the thermometer hadn’t yet popped up, so I left it in the oven longer to continue to cook.

juicy, juicy

About half an hour later, I checked the bird again and still the thermometer had not yet popped. Thirty minutes later, same thing. This went on for about two-and-half hours. Finally, my Aunt Gloria came into the kitchen and said, “Caren, it’s almost 8 p.m. The thermometer must be broken. It’s got to be done.”

And sure enough, it was. What I didn’t know about my mother’s stove is that when the timer rings, the oven automatically shuts off. I had been cooking a bird for hours and hours in an oven that was no longer on. The result was a bird that was so moist, it was downright juicy.

My mother didn’t tell me about her oven because she had gone upstairs, locked herself in the bathroom and sat on the side of the bathtub all day and refused to come out because she was upset and angry, on account of the fact that my father was dying of cancer. He was so gaunt and withdrawn at that point, we knew it would be his last Thanksgiving.

Given my father’s rapidly deteriorating condition, we’d actually had our Thanksgiving a week earlier, with lobster instead of turkey, because we’d always celebrated birthdays and mother’s and father’s day with lobster. The gravity of my father’s condition was clear even then when he asked me during the meal to open his can of soda, not because he was too weak but because he didn’t understand how the can worked.

When the actual Thanksgiving rolled around a week later, it seemed silly to sit there and do nothing. So I went out and bought a turkey and began to cook a meal with all the fixing’s. But no one was really interested. I’m not even sure my father knew what day it was.

Nothing says “bummer’ like a hearse.

My father died two weeks later, on December 4, 2001. It’s been 11 years, and my life has changed quite a bit since then. I became a full-time freelance writer, bought a brownstone in Harlem, got married, and gave birth to a son, whom I named Eddie, after my dad. But every year at this time, as I prepare a Thanksgiving dinner, I remember that the best bird I ever made was the year no one cared about the meal.

My son is actually going to have his first Thanksgiving today, at school. All of the classes will congregate in the church’s Fellowship Hall for a dramatization of a Thanksgiving meal and then grace. They’ll then eat Chicken McNuggets and macaroni and cheese. When I dropped him off this morning, the spot where I usually park was blocked by orange cones. I figured it had something to do with the children’s feast, or even the Thanksgiving dinner the church will be serving to the needy on Thursday. Perhaps it was for a delivery of food. I double parked, grabbed Eddie out of the car and carried him inside to his classroom. When I got back outside to my car, a hearse was parked in the spot where the cones had been, and soon, I saw several people dressed in black heading toward the church. It saddened me because I knew that like me, not a Thanksgiving will go by that they don’t associate with the death of a loved one.

E-laine!

While cleaning my apartment in New York City last weekend, I found a box with some old VHS tapes. I got excited because I’ve been searching for two particular VHS tapes since my father died. One is a movie he made of the 1970s that was like a time capsule of events going on at the time: the hairstyles, the clothes, Nixon and the Vietnam War. My father included some animation in the film that he made himself by drawing on pieces of clear plastic with multi-colored Sharpie markers and moving the pieces up and down to simulate movement. He made someone talking, for instance, by drawing a mouth, and he filmed a few frames of it open and then a few frames of it closed. In another part of the film, he filmed a map of Asia with little flags on it to show viewers what was going on at the time in Vietnam. Much of the film was set to Simon and Garfunkel’s soundtrack for the movie, The Graduate. When people hear the song “Mrs. Robinson,” some probably think of Dustin Hoffman banging on the windows of a big church yelling, “E-laine! E-laine!” as he tries to stop her from marrying another man. I think of plastic pieces of acetate moving around a white background, showing the U.S. Army’s move into Cambodia.

But the tape I was really hunting for was a recording my father made in the final months of his life. Knowing he would be dying, he sat down in front of the camera and spoke into it. I watched it once, not long after his death, and shockingly, I can’t remember what he talked about. I was still too grief-stricken to absorb it. Since then, I’ve been wanting to watch it again, but I can’t find the tape.

I’m actually afraid to watch the recording. I was so utterly shattered by my father’s death and overwhelmed by the loss of him that I’ve buried the memory of him to avoid the pain. I didn’t cry at his funeral, and I seem to have lost a sense of him, the specifics of what he looked like, the sound of his voice. I’m afraid if I see him talking on the tape, it will bring him back to life, and I will then have to experience his death. You can’t lose something that you forget you had, right?

I brought the bag of VHS tapes into my son’s room, where we have an old VCR player, and sat down on the floor. With Eddie on my lap, I inserted the first tape into the machine and braced myself. There were a few frames of fuzz as the tape was “tracking,” and then the movie began to come into focus. It was a recording of Ken Burns’ epic series, “New York,” the episode where the sewing factory downtown catches fire with the workers inside.

Mystery tapes.

I stuck in the second tape. It was a recording of Peter Jennings covering New Years’ Eve in Time Square, December 1999. The third tape was a recording of my accountant, Alan Brachfeld, being interviewed on ABC News. I’m not sure how I came to possess that one.

I braced myself before inserting the final tape. Bored from sitting on my lap, Eddie had started playing with his train set but then went over to the bookshelf which contained his own VHS tapes, plucked out an episode of the Australian group, The Wiggles, and started trying to jam it into the tape machine. I grabbed his tape, put it on the floor, and picked up my tape. It had a sticky note taped to it that said, “Jitters” in my mother’s distinct cursive handwriting. I ripped the note off and stuck the tape into the player. The screen was blue for a while. My heart began to pound. At long last, I was about to be reunited with my father. Suddenly, the tape came on. It was a woman with big wide eyes standing in front of a meat counter. She was flirting with the butcher, who appeared to be an old flame. I was disappointed but relieved. I ejected the tape and threw it in the bag with the others. I’ve gone 10 Thanksgivings without my father now. One more wouldn’t make a difference.

I picked up the Wiggle’s tape and put it into the player. I then grabbed Eddie and sat him in my lap and wrapped my arms around him, a little more tightly than usual.

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My son, Eddie, is almost 21 months old, and he can now say “Up,” “Hello,” “Bye,” “Mine,” and “Popeye,” the name of the pit-bull who lives down the street. Soon, he’ll actually be able to say the word “Pit-bull,” and he can then teach it to the man who owns the dog, who apparently has never heard of one because he claims his dog is every other breed except for that one.

Turning letters into words.

Eddie says, “Mommy/daddy/daddy/mommy,” woven together so tightly, I can see why kids have so much trouble when their parents divorce.

He likes to say, “Why?” but not that kiddie-oh-my-God-if-he-asks-me-that-one-more-time-I’ll-hang-myself kind of “Why?” His is more of a little “Why?,” an innocent, hollow little “Why?” devoid of meaning and uttered like one might say “Shoe,” or “Ball.”

One of his first words was “No,” but I’ve learned that he doesn’t necessarily mean it. Do you want some apple? No. I then give him a piece of apple, and he readily takes it. Raisins? No, but really yes. More oatmeal? No! As he helps himself to another spoonful.

No, I would like some apple, yes.

Sometimes, this No-Means-Yes game confuses me. This morning, he sat in the bath and whenever I’d walk over to my computer in the adjacent room, he’d yell out, “Mama!” as if he wanted me to take him out of the bath. I walked back over to the bath and said, “You wanna come out?”

“No.”

“Okay,” I said and started to walk away.

“Mama!”

I turned around. “You wanna come out now and have breakfast?”

“No,” he said and started playing with his bath toys again.

“You sure?”

“Up,” he said.

‘You want me to pick you up? You want to come out?” I said, reaching down to lift him out of the tub.

“No,” he said and went back to playing.

My head hurt.

At dinner, I gave him some apple sauce for dessert, and he said, “No.” I told my husband, “Watch. He really wants it. He sometimes says, ‘No,’ now, when he really means, ‘Yes.’ I don’t think he really knows what ‘No’ means yet,” I said with the authority of someone who spends a lot of time with their child.

And with that, Eddie nearly flipped the bowl of apple sauce off the edge of his high chair.

“I could be wrong,” I said.

At our last visit to the pediatrician, she asked me if Eddie had begun to speak. I told her he says some words now, but he wasn’t yet saying complete sentences. She said he may not speak at this point, but he probably has 100% comprehension.

100% comprehension, I thought. That’s more than me! There’s so much I’m yet to understand. Forget “Why is the sky blue?” I want to understand why the fellow writer I consoled on my writer’s forum didn’t write back to me when I sent him an email, or why I handed a perfectly good story in to an editor four months ago, and he still hasn’t printed it? Why is it the person who spaces out the most when I’m speaking is my husband? How come so many crap blogs have a large readership, and mine, which people say they love, still has just a few dozen regular readers? I’ll ask these questions of my son later. For now, he’s busy pulling tissues out of a tissue box and putting them up to his nose and saying, “Achoo!”

Eddie actually does seem to understand a lot, though in that way people who speak another language sometimes seem to understand you. They’ll say, “Yes, yes,” and nod their heads, and then you find they painted all of the oak wood trim that you’d just stripped. After Eddie finished his bottle the other morning, I told him to share it with his stuffed animal monkey, and he did. He took the bottle and began feeding the monkey. He then grabbed it away from the monkey, and said, “Mine!”

Is that a pony?

He likes to sit on my lap when I’m at my desk because I have a drawer full of stickers and pens and highlighters that he uses to draw all over my paperwork. I don’t always let him up there because I sometimes have to work, and he gets in the way of my typing. The other day, a friend gave us a plastic chair for Eddie. It’s a children’s chair about two feet high, just the right height for him to sit at his kiddie activity table. I watched him carry the chair into my office and place it on the floor at the base of my desk, thinking it would be the same as sitting in my desk chair. It reminded me of that scene in the book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” when the narrator says another planet aimed all of its rockets and ships and destroyers and sent them barreling toward earth, and after they entered our atmosphere they were swallowed up by a small dog, due to a miscalculation of scale.

Eddie has also gotten good at repeating things. The other day, we were out at my mother- and father- in laws’ farm, where they have horses of every color and size. Eddie saw a pony up the hill, and my husband told him the pony’s name was Bobby. I then heard a small little voice say, “Bobby.”

My mother-in-law then said that she was talking to a veterinarian, who said Bobby was possibly the oldest pony in existence.

“Oldest?” I said. “I thought a pony was a baby horse?”

Okay, that one’s a pony, right?

My mother-in-law began to laugh. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen her laugh like that.

Apparently, that’s not what a pony is. I guess we’re all still learning new words.

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The key to making a gratin out of yellow squash, onion and potato is to slice the vegetables paper thin using a mandolin. The vegetable slices are then placed into a baking dish in rows like decks of playing cards that have been fanned out. Drizzle them with olive oil, top them with fresh rosemary and grated parmesan cheese, and the result is a dish that’s easy to make and gets rave reviews. I know because that’s what I was making last Monday night just before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore just south of me.

I hadn’t understood the magnitude of the coming storm until I visited my brother last weekend in the Finger Lakes, two days before it was supposed to hit.

“Uh, yeah, that’s why they’re calling it a Frank-en-storm?” he said, with the know-it-all tone of someone who follows weather.

As we drove home from my brother’s house back to our home on the Jersey shore, the storm just 24 hours away, I kept asking my husband if we should stop at various friends and relatives who lived along our route. “Maybe we should see if we can stay at Mark and Cheryl’s in the Catskills.” “How about your parents place in Pennsylvania?” “Maybe we should stay in Harlem.” “Do you think we should have stayed in the Finger Lakes?”

We arrived back at the Jersey Shore late Sunday afternoon and went for a walk on the beach, to take stock of things we weren’t sure would be there the next day. We took photos of the art deco casino that separates our town from the next. We walked on the boardwalk and out on the fishing pier, on the end of which there is a small building that houses the local fishing club. We walked out onto the beach and climbed the large dunes the public works department had built in a feeble attempt to keep the water back. With the full moon coming, 80 mile an hour winds expected, and the storm estimated to hit the coast near us at high tide, the waves were expected to surge as much as 25 feet. The little dunes that were erected reminded me of Wile E. Coyote, who, just as a boulder is about to fall on his head, will shield himself by opening up a little umbrella.

Eddie with fishing club in the background. It disappeared in the storm.

I felt nostalgic for the beach and boardwalk and fishing pier, even though they weren’t even gone yet. But more, I was pained at the prospect that the memorial bench I had bought for my dead father was likely to float out to sea, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It reminded me of when my father was dying, and I tried to save his life by feeding him organic food, removing all of the items containing sugar from his cabinets and taking him to see an acupuncturist. I wanted to stand on the boardwalk as the huge waves came crashing down and with Herculean strength hold on to the bench, but I knew I couldn’t change the inevitable.

That night, we went to a dinner party at our neighbors, Sherry and Will. After dinner, Will and I practiced the three songs we’ll be playing on our guitars at an upcoming Chanukah party while my son, Eddie, played with the toys Sherry still has in neatly labeled boxes stacked in a closet from when her sons, now adults, were children.

As we left, we invited everyone over to our house the next night for dinner, though by Monday afternoon, the wind began to whip through the trees, and the sea was getting so frothy, most people didn’t want to leave their houses. The hurricane was projected to make landfall at 8:00 p.m. At about 6 p.m., I had just baked the meatballs for my Italian wedding soup, and my husband, Bruce, and I decided to take a drive down to the ocean to see if the sea was rising as the weathermen predicted it would. We walked out on to the boardwalk and the wind was so strong, I had to hold on to a bench to stop the wind from carrying me backwards. The ocean hadn’t yet reached the boardwalk but the waves were already crashing in to the fishing club at the end of the pier. The fishing club sat on stilts, and with each wave, it would sway ever so slightly. I knew that by morning, it would be gone.

Beachfront two hours before hurricane hit land.

As we drove home, we saw a figure in a winter coat standing at the foot of our street hugging the pole of a street lamp. I opened my car door to see if she needed help, and the wind almost blew the door off of its hinges. I ran over to the figure and saw it was a woman of about 65. I told her to get into our car, but she would not let go of the pole. Bruce and I finally pried her off and stuffed her into our car. We asked her how she wound up there. She said every evening, she walks from her house, which is about two miles inland, up to the beach, and so she treated tonight like any other. It wasn’t until she reached the last ocean block that she found the winds were too strong to bear. She suggested that we drop her off just a few blocks inland, but we drove her all the way home.

When we got back to our house, I finished cooking the soup, made a salad with greens from our local CSA, and put the squash and potato gratin into the oven. I also threw in a pork roast because I knew if we had a power outage, all my meat would go bad so one by one, I planned to cook everything I had in the freezer. A few friends managed to make it over, despite the wind, and indeed at about 8 p.m. that night, just as the high tide rolled in, our lights went out. By the time we finished dinner, the wind gusts were so strong, we drove home our friend, Joyce, even though she lives just a block away.

Throughout the night and into the morning, the storm stomped through our town like a petulant child, kicking down trees, ripping out power lines, throwing sand and water everywhere. But in the end, the only damage our house suffered was a ripped screen. As for our town, we lost a few sections of boardwalk and the parts that remain now undulate up and down like an amusement ride. Large chunks of the roof on the big church in the center of town were torn off. One person said it looked like someone had peeled back a tin can, exposing everything inside to the elements. The fishing pier remained, but the fishing club that stood at the end of it was gone, as if a giant shark bit it off and left behind a couple of pilings and shredded bits of wood.

After the storm passed, the three of us went down to the boardwalk to investigate the damage. As Eddie ran up and down the boardwalk, I walked off to look for my father’s bench. Despite being concrete, most of the benches were thrown from the boardwalk onto a greenway nearby. Some were smashed apart. Others were upside down or half buried in sand. I walked from bench to bench reading every plaque and after looking at about a dozen, I spotted two benches knocked onto their backs but intact near the roadway. I ran over and saw one was my father’s. I touched his nameplate with my finger a few times and then ran off to catch up with Bruce and Eddie.

My father’s bench was thrown but survived.

Over the next several days, concerned friends and relatives from Florida to Ireland tried contacting us to see how we were. They’d all seen photos of devastation on the Jersey shore. The only ones who hadn’t seen the extent of the damage was us, because we had no television or internet. I wondered if that was how it was for the victims of Katrina, though it reminded me of a t-shirt I have that bears the name of a girls basketball team. Whenever I wear it, someone will say, “Go Blue Hill!” and I’ll look at them askance.

“Your t-shirt,” they’ll say.

The biggest impact of the storm, for us, was the loss of power. For five days, we had no electricity or heat. And because we have an on-demand hot water system, which has an electronic igniter, we had no hot water, either. For the first two days, we didn’t bathe, and we were afraid to go running because we didn’t want to sweat. By the third day, we filled the bathtub with buckets of boiled water, and the three of us shared the same bathwater.

As we and all of our neighbors sat in the dark, and watched the meat in our freezers begin to thaw, we all began to cook, and cook, and cook. On Tuesday night, I had a dinner party for 12 neighbors, who walked over with flashlights and bottles of wine. We crowded around my candlelit table and ate rib eye steaks that I’d left out for an hour with salt and pepper until they’d reached room temperature, just as Saveur magazine advised. We had lamb chops rubbed with minced garlic and rosemary and chicken thighs that I’d brined and then baked. I was about to slather them with St. Louis barbeque sauce when my neighbor, Lee, who likes to drink, grabbed the bowl of sauce and poured some red wine into it.

“That’s what it needs,” he said. He then brushed the chicken with the sauce and carried it outside to the grill.

For dessert, I made a chocolate bundt cake with Kahlua and chocolate chips. Before bringing it out to the table, I sifted some confectioner’s sugar on top of it and stuck in a few candles because it was our neighbor Emily’s 83rd birthday.

For lunch on Wednesday, we had mussels in a white wine and garlic broth that was so finger-lickin good, we ate half a loaf of ciabatta with it to soak up all the sauce. For dinner, we walked over to our neighbors Jan and Emily carrying a little red lantern, to light our way, and had spaghetti with sausage and meatballs, and butter lettuce tossed in a sweet vinaigrette.

On Thursday afternoon, our neighbor, Lee, set up a barbeque in front of his house and began cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs, and soon, people were coming out of their homes like the inhabitants of Whoville carrying steaks, sausage, pork chops, anything that was about to go bad. Lee cooked for four hours, at first cooking for all of the neighbors and after that, he began feeding everyone who walked by. That night, I made my first ham. My neighbor Jan stuck cloves intermittently all over the outside of it, and I kept basting it as it cooked. Just before taking it out, I drizzled maple syrup all over the top, raised the heat to 450 degrees, and cooked it another 10 minutes in order to crisp the skin. We were about 10 for dinner that night, so I roasted some asparagus, zucchini and onions, and then steamed some broccoli that I tossed in butter, lemon and garlic.

The beachfront was ransacked.

Friday afternoon, our neighbor Mary made a big vat of chili, and that night, our next-door-neighbor, Shelley, made pelmeni, an Eastern European dish that’s similar to tortellini though Shelley serves it in chicken broth with sour cream and drawn butter. After dinner, we dug into Shelley’s Halloween candy, which had been sitting in a basket untouched because the holiday was cancelled on account of the storm.

On Saturday, our neighbors Cindy and Eileen cooked up enough fish and roasted peppers and rice to feed 25 people. During dinner, our neighbor, Lee, said he planned to pull out his barbeque the next day and cook all afternoon again, only this time he wanted to do it in the park at the end of our street because it was more visible. He wanted even more people to bring him their meat, and he wanted to feed anyone in need of a meal. At this point, he was running low on charcoal, so that morning, he pulled a couple of wagons out of his basement and started loading them up with twigs and branches from fallen tree limbs. Our son, Eddie, helped him find twigs and pulled one of the carts.

But while tragedies make saints of some, they make sinners of others. There were hour-long lines for gasoline and hot coffee prompting some to cut in line and tempers to flare. In Belmar, the windows of a clothing store were blown out and people ran in and stole merchandise. Another man was awakened in the middle of the night because he heard his generator go off, and he thought someone was stealing it. But seconds later, he heard it go back on, and he fell back asleep. When he woke up in the morning, he saw his generator was gone but that his lawnmower was left on, by thieves who were obviously experienced.

The broken boardwalk.

There were allegations of price gouging across the state, for everything from gas to generators to batteries. Scammers posing as contractors were taking deposits from people. There were reports that a fight broke out at a local Wegman’s grocery store, which was operating on generators and offering wifi and a place to charge phones and computers. But so many people wanted to use the plugs, a 30-minute time limit was imposed, and there were squabbles when people failed to obey the rule.

Coffee line at Wegman’s stretched from one end of the store to the other.

There were people with metal detectors scanning the beaches in search of other people’s belongings that may have washed away. Even the birds were capitalizing, picking at dead fish that had been swept up as the lakes overflowed and then deposited onto the streets when the waters receded.

With few traffic lights working and police stationed at only the busiest intersections, driving was hazardous. The upside? I had to drop my husband off in a nearby town, and a journey that usually takes about 20 minutes took seven.

The disaster turned our area into a police state. A curfew was imposed, prohibiting residents from being outside before 7 a. m. and after 7 pm. We got into the car one afternoon to see how our neighboring towns were affected, and police cars and cones were set up everywhere, blocking people from getting to the beach. In Asbury Park, I’d heard rumors that the storm literally threw the boardwalk into the plate glass windows of several oceanfront restaurants, and I wanted to see it but couldn’t get to it from any angle. Cones blocked the streets to cars, the boardwalk entrance from my town was blocked to pedestrians. The only way in was along the beach, but even that was blocked by police tape. One afternoon, I stood on the beach just outside the line of tape, but because it was low tide, I could easily walk around the line of tape if I walked close to the ocean. But I saw a man sitting on a loading dock off in the distance who appeared to be a cop, though he wore no uniform. I stood for a couple of minutes at the edge of the barrier, afraid to walk through, but I finally put one foot over the line.

The lake overflowed and then receded, leaving striped bass laying out on the streets.

“Stay back!” he said.

Damn, I thought.

The tidal surge came up just two blocks before receding.

Every day that went by without power, we grew a little more frustrated. I did all my cooking by candlelight and twice nicked my finger slicing vegetables. By the end of the week, I had band-aids on both thumbs. I watched my son, Eddie, playing with one of our two best flashlights one afternoon and thought nothing of it, until the sun set and we had just one flashlight between the three of us.

Every morning, our neighbor, Lee, would walk by our house saying, “There’s a truck coming in to the hardware store,” and he’d head off to see what was on it. I think he envisioned it would be packed with flashlights and generators and batteries, coffee and gasoline, everything that was hard to find right now. And every afternoon, I’d ask him what was on the truck, and he’d say, “It didn’t come in yet.”

Our neighbor, Jim, inherited a generator that he began to run early in the morning and into the night. The machine was loud, like a jack hammer, and initially, we all liked the sound because we thought it was public works and power company employees sawing downed trees and fixing power lines. When we realized the noise was so that one man could have power, it became a nuisance.

That’s a funny place to put beach lockers.

“I’m a good neighbor. I really am. But this is just too much, ” complained one woman.

Just then, Jim walked by with his dog and without prompting, apologized for the sound of the generator and said he would shut it off once he and some friends had watched a movie. He then told the woman who was complaining that she could plug into his generator with her phones, computers, even her a refrigerator, if she liked. Minutes later, she had a power strip set up in her backyard and had created a little charging station. She asked me if I wanted to plug in – once there was room. But at the moment, she and her husband had taken up every outlet on a strip.

As time went on, the temperature fell, dropping below 40 degrees at night. Some began to fear that we dodged a bullet with the storm only to have our pipes burst because our homes had no heat. The power company kept predicting it would be 10 to 14 days before we’d have power again. On the fourth day, I was standing in front of my house when a utility truck went by.

“How much longer? A week?,” I shouted as the truck went by.

“Tonight or tomorrow,” the man said.

“Really? Woo hoo!” I said.

I told everyone who would listen. About an hour later, my neighbor, Steve, walked by and said, “I hear you’re spreading rumors.”

“I’m just repeating what the power company said.”

I initially felt like the bearer of good news. Now, I felt like a charlatan.

Even my son, Eddie, was affected by the storm. Every story he told this week seemed to end with, “Boom,” and with his hands, he’d illustrate a tree falling to the ground from the wind. When he fell on the stairs, he said, “Boom!” When he dropped a toy, it went “Boom!” One morning, I gave him a pad and some magic markers and a package of stickers. He drew swirls and then placed stickers of fish all over the page, making it look like he had drawn a giant tidal wave.

My son’s depiction of the hurricane

On Saturday evening, just after I arrived at the fish fry down the block, I got cramps so bad, I had to run home to go to the bathroom. I must have eaten bad meat, I thought. I ran my mind through the food I’d eaten and made a mental diagram of those who said they’d felt sick over the last few days and which foods we’d eaten in common. I came up with chopped liver. By nightfall, I was shivering with fever.

I was sitting in the bathroom at about 7.30 p.m. when through a crack in the door I could see a bright light. I thought either my kitchen is on fire or the power is back on. I could hear cheers in the street. My husband said when the lights went on at the fish fry down the street, everyone began hugging each other and laughing, like it was New Year’s Eve.

I was glad the power was back on. It was beginning to get cold. I felt sick. I wanted a hot shower. And I was tired of having to travel in order to use my cell phone or charge my laptop. But just as the lights came on, I thought about the pot of chicken soup I’d made, and how with my freezer off, three packets of ground beef in the cooler had to be used, and I was planning on inviting some neighbors over for shepherd’s pie. And there was still the pork tenderloin and the chicken breasts. I was only beginning to think of ways to cook them. Well, there’s always the Nor’easter…

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