A week ago tonight, the ice storm hit. Bringing rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow, it spanned all of New England and upstate New York leaving over a million people without power for days on end.
When you are without power in this part of the world, you also are not just without lights, but you are also without water and heat. Your water comes from a well that is run by electricity. Your furnace is fueled by oil that is turned on by electricity. Without a generator, it's a triple threat.
Having been through severe storms there before, my sister-in-law, Maria, had the foresight to fill both tubs full of water before it hit. This is so that they could flush their toilets. This water ran out after Day 3. Fortunately, the fire station in town had water available. She and the kids would grab every container available and fill them up. At least it was warm in the car.
Later she learned she could drain the water in her water heater and use that.
Taking advantage of the wood burning fireplace in the living room, they would hang a sheet in between there and the kitchen to keep as much heat in as possible. Even still, one morning it got down to 42 degrees. The day it hit 55 and melted all the ice, they opened the windows. It was warmer outside than it was in the house.
They heated water over the fire and ate Cup o' Noodles.
They heated water over the fire and put it in the cage with Twizzler, the pet bird, to help him stay warm.
They ate a lot of Pop Tarts.
When the food in the freezer thawed, they grilled what they could on the propane barbecue.
The first day included a lot of organizing and gearing up. The second and third days were adventuresome for the sheer novelty of it. The fourth day it was starting to get old and Eric took Olivia, the twelve-year-old, to work with him where they had not lost power.
By the fifth day, it was getting more than old. The perishables were going bad, no one had showered, and they were tired of being so cold all the time.
During the days, the kids, home from a school that was without power as well, would make up games and play with Twizzler. They didn't miss TV. They did miss the computer.
At night, Maria would read to the kids by candlelight. Each night she read a different chapter from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, and always the chapter that took place at Christmastime. It was amazing how easy it was to connect to their simple yet difficult lifestyle.
On Day 6, Maria was starting to get quite concerned about Christmas and all that was not getting done. Her mom was flying in in two days, and she was worried about her comfort if this continued. The official word was that it could go on until the upcoming weekend.
The neighbors had left on Day 2 for a hotel in Boston.
This was never an option for my brother's family. Maria put it this way, "We all really pulled together and it was a good thing for the family. And now approaching Christmas, we are so grateful and appreciative of the things we have and of beautiful Christmas lights and warmth. I think it will make for an especially memorable holiday."
And though her mom didn't have to bring a store of D batteries and her own toilet-flushing water, Maria sensed that she was a tad disappointed to be missing out on the Great Adventure.
I believe that my brother's family will be asking Santa for a generator this year, but the true spirit of Christmas is alive and well in their home in this blessed season of love, gratitude, and peace.
May the true spirit of Christmas be ours to share with those we love this holiday season.
And may we not have to learn this by being without power for 7 days beforehand.