After spending much of Sunday preparing for the power to be out on Monday, I was pleased to wake up and find it still functioning. I wasn’t expecting it to last though so the first decision of the day was whether to eat breakfast quickly (and encourage everyone else to do the same) so I could run the dishwasher one last time, or whether to check Facebook. I can wash dishes by hand, I reasoned, so Facebook it was. I needn’t have hurried though. The power was on the rest of the day and all day it seemed like a miracle. Every time I used the computer or opened the fridge and felt cold air or switched on the radio or the television so June could watch Angelina Ballerina I felt grateful.
It was a rainy, windy day—the rain started Sunday night—but in the morning it just seemed like a blustery autumn day, nothing catastrophic. I even wondered if the kids could have been in school. Montgomery County had cancelled school for Monday and Tuesday on Sunday afternoon, before the first raindrop even fell. As parents received the news on their phones on the sidelines of June’s soccer game I heard the cries of dismay over and over. So the kids were home. Beth was, too, because in a rare move, Metro had cancelled service and she was working from home.
I spent a lot of time on Facebook, mainly because I kept thinking it would be the last time I could check it for a long time, but we didn’t spend the whole day at our various computers. Beth did some organizing and straightening in the basement in preparation for possible flooding. Noah and I worked on clutter in the dining room, and June cleaned the kids’ room and even swept it.
June also found some plastic pearls Noah used in a diorama back in fourth grade and she started stringing them onto thread to make necklaces for Beth, me, and herself. She also found a Styrofoam cooler and decided what it needed was to be beautified with magic marker drawings of a flower and a sun on the lid and pink polka dots all over its sides. As Beth noted, where we see utilitarian objects, June sees a blank canvas.
Noah practiced his drums and we read the last chapter of Artemis Fowl: the Atlantis Complex while June played with Megan, who’d come over for a play date. She came bearing chocolate chip cookies because not wanting to throw out her large tub of cookie dough, Megan’s mom had baked the whole thing and now had cookies to spare. Apparently baking is a common response to an impending hurricane (or an extratropical cyclone to be precise). All day Sunday and Monday I was looking at pictures of home-baked goods (cookies, pies, etc) on Facebook and I, too, had a very strong urge to make brownies.
This was because when I’d picked June up from Maggie’s house on Friday afternoon, I’d asked Maggie’s dad if his wife, who just lost her father, would appreciate some brownies and he said yes, so it was on my to-do list to make some but we had a busy weekend and I really didn’t expect to have power on Monday so I didn’t even put the ingredients on the shopping list when Beth went shopping on Sunday. I was thinking the butter would just go bad before I had a working oven. But as the day progressed and the power continued not to go out, I started to reconsider.
Late in the afternoon, after the winds had picked up considerably, I decided to walk up to the 7-11 for butter and sugar. Beth was concerned, but I’d been turning the idea over in my head for hours and I knew I wouldn’t be able to let go of it unless I just went and did it. I called ahead of time to make sure the store was open and had butter and sugar stocked and the clerk said yes.
The walk was uneventful. It was raining hard and the wind buffeted my umbrella but it only turned inside out once and I was able to fix it. There weren’t even any puddles worthy of my rain boots until I got to the 7-11 parking lot. Once inside I realized I had not asked exactly the right questions on the phone. They were open and they did have butter and sugar, but only one box of four half-sticks and I was making fancy mint brownies, which have a layer of crème de menthe flavored frosting and then a hard chocolate shell on top of that. A pan takes a whopping three and three-quarters sticks of butter. I bought the small box of butter anyway, figuring I could at least make the brownies. The two top layers don’t require baking, only melting and we have a gas stove so if I got the brownies baked, I could go out and get more butter and finish them another day.
Now it was a question of getting home and getting the brownies baked before the power went out. The lights flickered as I beat the batter and again about fifteen minutes into the baking, but the power held. And it held through dinner preparations and eating dinner and June’s bath and her bedtime preparations and Noah’s, too. When I put him to bed at 9:20, he said, “I hope the power stays on.”
“Me, too,” I said. And then the lights flickered again.
Beth and I went to sleep listening to the pelting rain and the wind rattling the windows, and wondering what the night and the next day would hold.
Tuesday: After the Storm
But Frankenstorm ended up being rather anti-climactic, at least in Maryland. (Obviously that wasn’t true in New Jersey or New York.) A few branches fell off our trees and one of the pickets was ripped from our front gate, still tangled in the Halloween caution tape we’d neglected to remove. The power never went out at our house, or as far as I could tell, in most of Takoma Park and Silver Spring. One friend’s house did sustain some roof damage but everyone else I know escaped unscathed. Two of the local families we know who did lose power live near each other and the Co-op. So it wasn’t a surprise that the Co-op was closed. I was wondering if the CVS had butter when Beth volunteered to drive to the supermarket, as we also needed eggs. (I’d used nine the day before between the brownies and spinach omelets for dinner.)
Beth worked in the morning, or tried to amidst all the chaos, and then after lunch, we took a family walk to Capital City Cheesecake to get ourselves out of the house and moving after a day and a half cooped up inside. Noah walked quickly, waited for us at each corner, and asked why we were so slow. On the Carroll Avenue Bridge we stopped to look down at the roiling waters of Sligo Creek, and Beth noted that the leaves on the sidewalk were an interesting mix of fall colors and still green ones, which are more unusual to see on the ground.
Once at our destination and enjoying our slices of pumpkin and Oreo cheesecake, lattes, and hot chocolate (Noah shared his after June spilled hers), June observed casually that we were close the video store and she had been asking to see a movie. Noah didn’t want to go and I needed to get back home to start the beans cooking for black bean and quinoa stew, so we split up.
Beth and June came back from the video store with Mulan, which I’d suggested to June many, many times, only to come home with a movie about some more delicate Disney princess. So I ditched my plans to do a little work and watched it with the kids instead. Next I cooked dinner while Beth and the kids restored most of the Halloween decorations to the yard and porch, as well as some we’d never gotten up in the first place. For this chore June dressed in her Helper Girl Outfit, a superhero cape and a tiara turned upside down and pulled down over her eyes to serve as a mask. (She also wore this get-up to help Beth prep the yard before the storm.)
After dinner I finished the brownie toppings but by the time the chocolate had set it was too late to take it over to Maggie’s house, so I resolved to do it in the morning. What better day to deliver frosted brownies to someone’s house than the most sugar-intensive day of the year? Oh well, I did my best.
Maggie lives about a block from June’s school so I walked June to school instead of putting her on the bus and we delivered the brownies. I had my first normal work day in several days and when June got off the bus at 3:10 we put up more decorations. Beth had left the big spider web and the tree and bush ghosts for me. Noah got home around 4:30 and we prioritized his homework. He’d do his English and math but he’d have to skip percussion practice. There just wasn’t time to do everything and still be at Sasha’s by 6:30. (Apparently his math teacher told them sixth grade was too old for trick-or-treating. I disagree.) After a rush to light the pumpkins, get the police light flashing and the color-changing coffin fog machine going, Beth and the lion left around 6:25 and the metronome was out the door at 6:30. (I was this close to calling Sasha’s house to say the metronome would be late, but I decided not to over-parent.) And then I was alone to distribute candy.
By seven we’d had three groups. The first one consisted of a teenage girl in a letter jacket, a younger child with a cardboard jack-o-lantern on his head and a few kids Noah’s age with no costumes at all. I often wish I was assertive enough to enforce a no costume, no candy rule, but I’m not. To their credit, they did say thank you. Then we got a couple teenage boys dressed as members of Kiss and girl who I think was wearing a sari but her coat covered most of it. She and her mom lingered to admire the decorations, especially the fog machine and the skeleton emerging from the ground. “So festive,” the mom said.
In between the second and third groups, Beth and June returned to the house. “I’m not done,” June said breathlessly. “I just have to go to the bathroom.”
“Don’t get your tail in the toilet,” Beth advised. Soon, they were gone again.
They were back for good at 7:20. June lined up all her Kit Kats. There were around ten of them, much to her satisfaction. I was going to put her straight to bed, but she begged for a bath so I gave her a quick one, and put her to bed. We got a few more trick-or-treaters, a teenage cat, and then two girls from June’s school bus stop dressed as a bee and a witch.
Noah had been given strict instruction to be home by 8:00, but by 8:10 he wasn’t home so Beth called his phone. No answer. At 8:20 I called Sasha’s house, after going out the broken gate and peering down the deserted sidewalk. They weren’t at Sasha’s house either, but a few minutes later they arrived. I was angrier with him than Beth was, which is ironic given that she’s usually more insistent about punctuality than I am. I’m stricter about bedtime, though, and I’d been worried. I explained that to him once he’d been home and safe for twenty minutes and Beth came as “an ambassador from Noah,” wanting to know if he could have a piece of candy. (I’d snapped no when he first came home.) I told him how parents get scared when their kids don’t come home when they’re supposed to and how that fear turns to anger as soon as they see the kids. Then I let him have a piece of candy and he went to bed. It’s good I got to practice this speech on Noah because I have a feeling I will need to give it to both kids at least a few times during the teen years, which are just around the corner.
We had a few more trick-or-treaters. Megan, dressed as Maid Marian and disappointed to hear June was in bed, came to the door shortly after Noah came home, and then there was a group of teens, including Batman. Around 9:25 I blew out the candles in the pumpkins, and turned off the police light and the glowing ghost head, skull and coffin, and called it a night.
We’d thought Frankenstorm might ruin Halloween, if it was still raining or if there were massive power outages. Every time we warned the kids of this possibility, Noah said I sounded like someone in a Christmas special, talking about how Christmas was cancelled. But in those specials Christmas always goes on and so did Halloween, complete with the sweetness of a long line of Kit Kats and a little taste of fear as well.