If you’ve been following the news, you know that Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey with a vengeance a few days ago. We've had power outages, downed trees, closed roads, no heat, no refrigerator, no freezer, no working washing machine or dishwasher, no Internet access, no school, long gas lines and a lot of spoiled food. There's been the constant sound of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars pounding their alarms as they race from emergency to emergency.
This is not the normal course of events out here in the New Jersey suburbs.
Our house has been cold and dark. We are one of the many millions of people in New Jersey who have lost power but in a way, we’re lucky. We’ve been lighting candles and going to bed under a big pile of blankets. My brother and sister-in-law, who live several towns away, do have power and took my kids in. They also have my sister-in-law’s sister and her family living there, as well as assorted friends and neighbors, so their house is full. My husband and I have been hunkering down at night, wearing layers of pajamas and long underwear, and reading by flashlight and candlelight. It’s kind of romantic except when it’s not. Last night, we headed over to my mother's, who had the foresight to install a generator two weeks ago. That wasn't particularly romantic, since we slept in the family room and our dog nudged us to wake up at 4 a.m. but at least we didn’t have to wear ski socks to bed.
Last October, we also had a massive storm. It happened during one of my nephew's bar mitzvahs, and though the lights went out, the food was cold and the music stopped, it was one of the most joyous occasions I have ever attended because my sister-in-law and her sisters gathered everyone together and led us all in dance and song.
This hurricane has made me think about what we don’t have and what we do. I decided to make a list of what I'm grateful for what we do have so I didn't start drinking old, red wine, alone, at 4 p.m. Here's hoping that wherever you are, you and the people you love are warm and safe.
I’m grateful I can wake up in the morning and boil water for coffee.
I’m grateful that before she left town, my neighbor showed me how to pour boiling water through our drip filter, let it seep, then press the little button at the bottom with a spoon, and whoosh! Coffee comes out!
I'm grateful I lived on a chicken farm in France one summer when I was 16 and watched my French “mother” sauté chicken parts on the stovetop every day for lunch. She used bars of butter, handfuls of garlic, mounds of onion slices, plenty of salt and pepper and did not remove the chicken fat. Hot, buttery chicken makes for a very fine, French mid-day meal, one on which you can snack all day and which is so good, you end up feeling that anything is possible.
I’m grateful I made Magic Bars (shredded coconut, condensed milk, chocolate chips, Graham crackers crumbs, and a stick of butter), lasagna with sausage and chicken Marbella (chicken marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, and white wine, and cooked with olives, capers and prunes) before the storm hit because all that buttery, marinated, sweet, salty, fattening stuff keeps for a while.
I’m grateful no trees fell on our house.
I’m grateful that my mother had the foresight to buy a generator two weeks ago, and that even though it stopped working yesterday, a nice man came to fix it today.
I’m grateful my brother and sister-in-law, who live half an hour away, do have power, and are willing to take my kids in.
I’m grateful that LL Bean is willing to do two-day delivery for fleece blankets and a battery-operated radio.
I’m grateful that our dog doesn’t seem to care much that the house is cold and dark.
I’m grateful that all of my students in New York and New Jersey are basically okay, especially my student who has cancer, and my student who lives in a rural area, has no power and kids at home but still managed to email us her submission this morning.
I’m grateful that the supermarkets still have food and ice.
I’m grateful that red wine doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
I’m grateful for the three pairs of candlestick holders we received as wedding gifts.
I’m grateful for flashlights and batteries.
I’m grateful that our two coolers are filled with ice and are keeping our eggs, cheese, and milk cold.
I’m grateful for free Wi-Fi at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.
I will be grateful when the trains start running back into New York.
I’m grateful that my writing partner reminded me that we could wear ski hats and socks to bed!
I’m grateful for running water, especially hot water.
I’m grateful for washing machines, and wondering when we’re going to be able to use ours again.
I’m grateful for the ability to slow down, read, think and talk to my friends and family in an unhurried way that I haven’t felt for the past thirty years.
I’m grateful we are not on respirators.
I’m grateful for this soothing and wonderful book, Home, by Marilynne Robinson, which is about family, love, prodigal sons, friction between adult brothers and sisters, piss-poor decisions, religion, leaving home, coming back, and being together in the Midwest in the 1950’s. Robinson’s book, Gilead, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005, and this book Home, which came out in 2008, is a companion piece to that book---it deals with the same characters, some of them in greater depth. The book has a lovely, slow, rhythm. It calms you down, makes you think and and feel grateful for whatever love you do have.
I’m grateful that yesterday morning, I finally had the energy to go for a run with our dog, worked up a sweat and felt warm for the first time in days.
I’m grateful that Café Beethoven in Chatham is up and running, and that even though you can't get free Wi-Fi there, they serve a delicious latte in an elegant glass with a handle. And I’m particularly grateful to the woman behind the glass counter, who not only confirmed that the frosting on the cupcake was buttercream but also offered to heat it up for me.
I’m grateful that when two guys got into a fight at the gas station because one cut the other off in line, two cops showed up to give them tickets, even though it meant the rest of us had to wait 30 minutes to get past them.
I'm grateful that when I went to clean out the last bits of food in the freezer today, I spotted half of a red velvet cake that I made a year ago. Before I tossed it, I sampled the thick, cream cheese frosting. Reader, I ate it all.
I'm grateful that for 30 minutes today, I remembered to feel grateful.