Sitting in the path of a hurricane on the news – the likes of which were supposed to be cataclysmal – didn’t phase us. Every year, it feels like, we bottle up clean water (because people yell at us until we do), buy a few extra batteries and hunker down for a few hours without electricity. Then, nothing really happens.
Our town is notorious for overestimating the effect of weather. The stores run out of basic necessities for life like water and bread two days before and it’s all they want to cover on the radio, like it’s literally the only the thing going on in all the world. This storm! Right here! This unprecedented, ruinous event. “I mean, Delaware just doesn’t see weather like this,” they say.. every time.
It was only a category one so far, but this one was different because it was actually coming straight at us, and it’s size was just… seriously incredible. Even my husband who’s the skeptic of all skeptics and never watches the news, didn’t mind us having it on. I don’t know much about hurricanes, (except that they never really happen to us) but the 20 foot thrashing waves that proceeded it’s landfall weren’t laughably small. So, mostly because we were the only house on the street or ..you know, the East Coast who hadn’t yet, we took an afternoon to stack patio furniture, potted plants and tricycles into the garage. Spencer cleaned the gutters, we tied the trash and recycling bins shut, I lugged the Shop Vac into the basement where it tends to flood on bad enough days, and together, we deflated our Halloween decorations.
It wasn’t until then that I stopped to think: Wow, Halloween. Maybe it really would have to be cancelled.
The talk that had started bubbling up a few days ago all over the eastern seaboard of postponing the holiday literally made me laugh out loud. But my attitude was changing.
It was getting serious enough now that Halloween – HALLOWEEN – was actually the last thing on everybody’s tongue. As we packed up the yard, neighbors vowed to pray for one another – out loud like it wasn’t even embarrassing to be so dramatic, and when we got back inside, relief funds were being discussed and negotiated in press conferences all over the news. The president urged us to take this seriously. At one point the Governor of a neighboring small state announced that it was officially too dangerous for any more rescue crews to go back in for people who never evacuated the beaches, and that they’d have to ride out of the disaster in their public shelters, which were sure to be little more than a memory within a few hours, until morning. Our prayers were said to be with them. It was grim.
Then, it happened.
In the middle of the afternoon, every room went dark. There was a quick flicker, some beeping, and then it was out for good. Days, they said, we’d be without power – and here it was, arriving sooner than we’d thought.
Generators could be heard kicking onto a start up the street, even over all the eerie commotion. The five of us hunkered down beneath blankets, a little excited with nothing to do with ourselves but grin and giggle and gossip about all the exaggerated stories we’ve heard. We leaned on each other for a while, listening to the swaying and the creaking of sideways rain torpedoing through compromised branches some 40 feet above us. It was still light outside so it wasn’t long before all of us were bent over the sofa, peering out the living room window into the misty, grey street. You couldn’t even see the rain because it was moving so fast in the air that it never seemed to land. The trees, still pretty thick with leaves that hadn’t even changed much in color, caught the wind like a sail and bent these unsinkable ships of mother nature’s design, like they were a bushel of old, white dandelions.
The kids were entranced; quiet, and in visible awe. Spencer and I traded a few looks over their heads, suppressing laughter. It was pretty cool to see them this way, knowing more than they did that they were entirely safe.
It was also only two hours before the power was back on. In the morning, the storm had passed. A few lines were down and some branches fell, but the brunt of it hit the beaches, as always, and basically fell asleep, snoring kind of loud. At one point, when we realized that the power wasn’t going to be lost again, we tossed around the idea of manually turning off the power just to stir up a little excitement. I mean, it seemed such a shame to plan ghost stories by candlelight and flashlight crafts without ever getting the chance to do them. Come on! It wasn’t even dark outside when the lights went out.
As for now, the only catastrophe around here is that Halloween will go on in really shitty weather, which is certainly nothing new to Delawarians. The storm blew in air as cold as hate and, even though it isn’t uprooting trees at this point, doesn’t exactly beg you to greet it in razor thin nylon.
But this, to me, is an eastern seaboard Halloween: weather that isn’t dangerous enough to cancel tradition, but blows at high velocity all the same. Costumes at 40 bucks per kid, all hidden under bundles of outerwear; hats, having to fit awkwardly under masks that kids don’t want to wear three houses into the night; and teenage girls that look ridiculous, trying desperately to be sexy at the totally-worth-it cost of Pneumonia and full-body freezer-burn, taking up space in line at doors that make the whole process of going to every house take so much longer than it has to.
Surprisingly, though, it’s never as much about that stuff as it is about the other stuff. It’s also kids, who will be totally entranced; steadfast in their excitement and in visible awe that’ll take more than a long, hot, chatty bath to wear off. It’s also Moms and Dads trading grins over the heads of their distracted children, who have utterly no idea how senselessly much they are treasured. And it’s sending the kids to bed finally, curling up under the hum of a heater kicking on for the first time all season, and eating 90% of everything the baby collected because – well, she’s a baby and that’s just good parenting.
So today, knowing that it’ll all be just fine, I’ll prepare for disaster; for blustery winds and inconsolable children and what is sure to seem at times like the end of the world. Because it wouldn’t be a Delaware event without drastically over-estimating the damage.