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Suburban Island

Tropical Storm Isabel Drops By for a Visit
Saturday, Sept. 20, 2003, 12:53 a.m.

QUESTION: Got bottled water?

WHAT I LEARNED: My emergency preparedness skills need work.

There is something fascinating about storms. Last night, for instance, we all sat up in my son’s room to better watch the sky turn an exquisite brilliant blue as power generators arced and made noises that sounded an awful lot like explosions. Each time the house went dark and then light again. Things we didn’t even know hummed or whirled suddenly started up humming and whirling anew and the lights across the street glowed unevenly. This was better than those firework extravaganzas at the theme parks on summer weekends.

Progressively, over the course of the evening, we were divested of all those wonderful electronic luxuries we take for grant. The cable went first, so we switched to the VCR and a replay of a family favorite – the latest remake of Disney’s Parent Trap. As the power came and went we decided we must forgo the rest of the Parent Trap – missing the best part as far as all of us are concerned – the bit where the horrid gold-digging girlfriend is tricked into going camping with the dad and those crazy twins and winds up blowing her cool and her engagement. I never understood what she had against trout.

I got in one last Diaryland entry before realizing that constantly cycling computers, printers, and other electronic equipment on and off without shutting them on and off on purpose was a surefire path to problems – post storm. I shut everything down. The silence in that little command center was deafening. We turned off almost all the lights in the house and lit every candle we could find. We scrounged up all the flashlights too – just in case the electricity didn't come back on at some point.

Did you know that teenagers will actually argue about who is going to light candles when there are about 10 of them to be lit? Imagine my surprise. They'd rather burn their fingers with a lighter than let each other have access to any candle that they had a chance of lighting first.

The candles did get lit though after I had a major meltdown – no pun intended - about the candle-lighting battle. A mom can only take so much after all and these quarreling candle-lighters were spoiling this hurricane-derived Hallmark moment.

With electric lights down to the minimum and in a regular state of flicker, the scent of candles wafting through the house, and the sound of the storm whipping the trees around and power generators booming ominously in the dark, an interesting metamorphosis occurred in my modern-day household. Everything slowed down and people occupied themselves in old-fashioned ways.

My daughter, and a friend who was over for the night, retreated to her room where a long happy spat of reading occurred. My daughter finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban while her friend re-read childhood favorites by author, Roald Dahl. Downstairs my son was hard at work with a bunch of puzzles that hadn’t seen the light of day for years. Eventually, he found some yarn and began to make a candle for me by dipping the yard in all the candles in the house until he had made a most unique hand-molded candle – patent pending - that smelled like flowers and lemon pie and fresh laundry. Now that’s thoughtful. He wrapped it in a piece of paper towel with a note written in orange pencil, apologizing for some earlier obnoxious behavior with a nice - I love you, mom tacked onto the end of it. I like the color orange, and apologies when they are merited, and a good I love you too.

This morning there was no water, no work, no school, and no electricity for many people in our area. Streetlights were out. People were floating down roads normally just a routine car ride away,in little boats. One of my friends waded waist deep in the floodwater, although if he had asked me first I would have advised against such wading. I personally purchased the last 8 big bottles of Evian water at Whole Foods and was damned glad to get them. Restaurants, malls, and other fun places were not open for business today; except for a local pizza joint for carry-out only, and that go-getter of all local food joints - McDonalds, which was doing a booming business. Most traumatic of all closings for me was that of our local Starbuck’s. I need my latte on ice but got a headache and a diet coke instead.

This afternoon I got on a plane to make the trip to visit my friend who had recently undergone surgery after a cancer diagnosis. She is doing great and thanks to everyone who kept her in their thoughts and prayers over the last week.

And although it’s a tough way to get hold of a tall iced skim latte – I did finally get that much-desired latte at the airport.

Tonight I am visiting another Suburban Island in beautiful Georgia. I'm in Atlanta for a few days and so I can say - greetings and goodnight this evening from Atlanta.

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