Tale Tues: The New Normalcy

I rarely ever clean out the freezer. As I rarely ever clean out closets, content to keep doors jammed shut against chaos that reins within.

And most years I can get away with that,  ignoring closets (as well as kitchen drawers).

But not freezers. Not when we lose power for days and days from hurricanes.

Which seems to have become an annual occurrence! I was forced to clean out the freezer just a year ago, after hurricane Irene! Everything went bad quickly then. I tossed out bad chicken cutlets (and sausages I didn’t even remember buying). Was forced to mop up meat juices and melted pops, had to wipe down the freezer completely. Until it was spick and span! You might not want to lick my floors, but you could have licked our ice trays!

This year before Superstorm Sandy hit, my freezer was back to its usual chaotic state. You could no more find the frozen waffles crammed behind piles of frozen veggie bags than you could a clean crumpled face towel lost behind jumbled toilet paper rolls in the linen closet.

The freezer became more chaotic as I stuffed freezer bags of water in, to keep it cold, as they’d advised on some news channel. Now you couldn’t find anything.

But the ice bags worked! We held onto our frozen meats for a good five days! Longer than Irene, when all I did was try to keep the fridge and freezer doors shut except for daily hungry family meetings as to when to grab cheese sticks or defrosting lamb chops.

Sadly, the ice bags did finally begin to melt. And it was time to surrender. To cleaning out the freezer again. (Nevermind the fridge; that stuff all went bad much sooner. Sour milk etc.)

I dumped the ice bags in the sink. Pulled out what was left, waterlogged frozen waffles; rotting fish sticks I couldn’t bake; melted pops we’d neglected to scarf down as soon as the power went out (lesson learned: devour all ice cream and sugary frozen desserts first). And shoot. Bacon! Too-long defrosted. Into the garbage.

Any ice blocks that still remained I shoved into a tiny cooler, along with butter sticks and fruit cups just to keep cold so the boys could bear to eat them.

Then I went at it, sponging up old spilled coffee grounds (we freeze our coffee) and whatever ancient frozen goo that had finally melted enough to be wiped up.

Until…spick and span! Once again!

I was pleased and proud of my clean freezer. I could open it at will, to admire its (howver dark) pristine cleanliness, as it would still be days until we’d regain power and I could actually restock it.

By the time the power came on, we were left with those few lone sticks of butter. I heard they don’t go bad?

Otherwise, in the sudden bright light of electric, the rest of the house was filthy; leaves everywhere from trekking in and out with firewood, and lots of boys passing through with plastic swords; more fun than sitting in front of blank computer screens.

Wish I could say I’ve come away with some revelations from having been in the dark – only eight days (not nearly as long as for some) that seemed an eternity. I wish I could say we cozied up with board games. We didn’t. We fretted. We sat in the dull glow of Iphones, and continuously cranked up the hand-cranking radio to keep up with the disastrous Sandy news:

Listening to the blow by blow of people swimming away from their houses, or crushed by trees, and of one hundred homes burning down, leaves you despairing and claustrophobic, trapped by your own helplessness in the dull small circle of a battery lit lamp.

We are blessed with this and offered up its warmth to neighbors:

And a gas stove we could light and actually cook on (when we still had food to cook).

Oh! And a 30-something-year-old drip coffee pot that I remember my own father making coffee in every morning. It never once has malfunctioned! (How many electric pots have I had to replace since then?) We were the lucky few who didn’t wait on mile long deli-coffee lines (before those lines were replaced with gas ones).

Otherwise, if not blessed, we are damn lucky. All our rotting trees were taken by Irene so we were not left with such tree sculptures as our neighbors:

Or cars crushed…

…by this:

We all made due, as even our neighbors who were partiularly innovative when their mail box broke off its designated post:

Even now, with power back and the luxury of reconnection with the cyber world, normal does not feel quite like the old normalcy. There’s a new hitch to it; it’s far more precarious than I’ve ever known it to be.  We didn’t lose our home.  We didn’t lose our lives. All the same. I wonder. A lot. Not only about whether my children will grow up remembering hurricane days more than snow ones. But about how  “normal” may no longer mean simply returning to old routines. Normal now seems laced with an uncertainty that is perhaps just that. The new normal.


About Sandra

Author;editor of The Woven Tale Press at thewoventalepress.net; mother; weaver
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9 Responses to Tale Tues: The New Normalcy

  1. Absorbing to read a first-hand account! Yes, I’m sure this will all leave traumatic memories! How could it not?

  2. leigh says:

    Sandy, you were so brave! I am honored to count you as a friend! Sadly, I am afraid the new normal isn’t the normal you and I knew growing up. Thank you for sharing your insight on how to survive! Growing up in Northern Michigan, with typical power outages due to snow storms (back then it was normal – no longer) I have never lived in a house without a fireplace…

  3. Jenn says:

    I am very thankful you have your power back and that you were all safe and unharmed. That right there is great news!!

    I can’t imagine having to deal with the power outages and having a storm the magnitude of Sandy hit. In 2004 we lost power for 4 days over Christmas 23rd to 26th due to an ice storm, which was terrible–but it was the ice putting weight on power lines that knocked everyone out. I have to say–that was a bit inconvenient–and while all our food in the house stayed good (heck it all FROZE), we froze along with the food. On Christmas Eve we finally got a place to rent us a hotel room–and when we left our house it was a whopping 19F inside my house. (Way below zero outside). The other storm that knocked our power out for days was Ike. Ike brought winds up from Texas into the Ohio valley–stream lined winds–up to 70mph. It was a short lived wind storm–maybe 35 minutes–but the damage was unreal!! Trees down, people killed, cars crushed, all in less than an hour. No power again for 6 days. It was fall and we lost a lot of freezer food that time! The worst part about losing power? Having an autistic daughter who can’t cope with it–and having meltdown after meltdown. Both times I was so happy to see the power come back…and our lives head back to the new normal.

  4. Bronwyn Gordon says:

    I’m afraid you are right, we are entering a more precarious period — where you live, it is hurricanes, where I live it is forest fires. Either way, it’s pretty scary. Glad all you lost was food.

  5. Kathy says:

    How devastating to have had to endure the hurricane. So glad you lived to tell the tale without extensive damage.


  6. Incredible. Thank you so much for sharing this ordeal.

    I am so glad that you are okay.

    The ice bags were a great idea, and that coffee “pot”!! Bliss in a state of chaos. It’s amazing how at the mercy of nature you feel in those times. It really makes you stop and take stock, doesn’t it?

  7. I am so happy that the power is finally back for you. That poor car of yours. Hope you would have time to fix it soon. As for your fridge … I guess it is good to clean it up once awhile even it means we need some kind of *negative* force for motivation 🙂

    • Sandra says:

      Oh, thank goodness that wasn’t actually my car; well not thank goodness for our neighbors. another neighbor lost both their cars to a fallen tree. Ironically, they had a tree person come the day before the storm and do all this tree trimming. Then the trees fell anyway.

  8. Roshni says:

    So very glad that you all and your home is safe! It must have been a hellish experience.

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