Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow and Community

We had a pile of snow early in the week, and right now the poor East coast is getting pounded. Friends write and call to say their homes are without heat or electricity, sometimes water as well. My great friend Juliet was supposed to fly out here for a visit on Wednesday- cancelled. Disappointing.

My pal Laurie reminded me of the April 1st storm many years ago- about 16 years I think- when we all lost power for a week or more. My then-husband and I heated with wood, and had a gas stove- so Laurie’s family moved in with us. My husband went into NYC for most of the week, as his mother was in the hospital, and he deposited his 90 year old aunt with us, as she was a bit forgetful, and leaving her alone at the shared apartment wasn’t a good idea.

Both Laurie and I, her husband, and all 4 kids remember the week with a big smile. We put 6 garbage cans with big garbage bag liners on the deck, and the kids daily job was to fill them with snow. Laurie’s husband’s new identity was Vlad, the water bearer. His job was to take grey water from the cans (it was above freezing) and bring it in to the toilets for flushing. We all had our jobs, and our little community thrived. Even Aunt Rosie, with her inch thick glasses, had a job; to ask in her thick New York Jewish accent “So when do ya think they’ll turn the power back on?” every half hour or so. The kids could play outside for hours, as it was in the high 40’s. No TV : Legos. Charades. We were very happy in our little cocoon.

After about 6 days, Poughkeepsie, to the south of us, had power. Laurie called a big motel and got us a room for the day, and a dozen extra towels. We hauled everyone down there, including Rosie, and we scrubbed the boys clean, then the girls, then Rosie got a turn, then the 3 parents. The TV entertained the clan with I love Lucy and other benign shows. Clean and refreshed, we had a meal out and returned to the commune.

When the power was restored, there was a not so secret desire to pretend it WASN’T. Maybe it’ll go off again! We were warm, happy, clean-ish , but the real world beckoned. Refrigerators and freezers of rotting food needed to be cleaned out, school was back in session, and work called. None of us can remember anything remotely terrible about that adventure.

I hope my friends back East find some fun in the snow- although Juliet and I are feeling thwarted and disappointed.


  1. Boy, am I ever disappointed. But feeling better now that I am rescheduled!!!

  2. As I walk down the street, three-quarters of the people I pass are on their cells, talking or texting, or wired into their ipods. Nobody says hello any more - god forbid I interrupt a conversation that is going on via a hidden earpiece! Too bad we need to be snowed in to remember how to enjoy each other's simple companionship. When it snows on my street, we are all out shoveling and visiting. It's probably the only time I see some of those neighbors all winter. I know some places - like Haiti and Chile - are suffering terribly right now from the effects of mother nature. But it's a good reminder that we are all in this human thing together. Here's to the weather, the great equalizer!

  3. Those situations either test or cement the bonds between friends. It helps that being suddenly off the grid is actually a more rewarding experience than most people expect."No hum!" we used to say when the electrical appliances went silent during a power failure up north. In the south, locals are horrified by cold and snow. Secretly, I'm thinking how soft people become when there's air-conditioning everywhere, no need to haul wood, no reason to create your own comfort. You can't be so dependent on the larger infrastructure and really feel responsible for yourself. It's so comforting to hear about the Stanfordville "commune" and how you managed!

  4. Ah Lollie, Memories that will last a lifetime!! I'd fogotten that my name became Tessa, and that you and I melted snow on the gas stove and buried our perishable food in huge snow piles that we had to keep adding to because of the melt, moving our food supply from one side of your house to the other to avoid the sun. The only casualty that I recall were the fish in Dylan's fish tank. We "buried them at sea" in the toilet once the power came back on.