We’re battening down the hatches here on Cape Cod for tomorrow’s scheduled appearance of Hurricane Earl (or, as my more geeky friends are calling it, “URL”). It’s got quite a few of us concerned, especially those happy few residents of Nantucket, where the eye of the storm is projected to pass over.
Yeah. Good times!
For me, it’s bringing back all sorts of great memories of Hurricane Bob back in 1991. I was a wee lass back then, of course, just about to enter my junior year at Mount Holyoke College. I had spent most of the summer near school, living in Northampton with friends, but I must have come home to visit my family for the last few weeks of summer, because I was here for the whole thing.
Now that was a storm!
Being 19 years old, I romanticized the heck out of it, of course. I mean, it gave me a chance to feel all maritimey! Rough and tough Cape Codder battles monster hurricane! If I had only had a sailor sweetheart, perilously out to sea, and a widow’s walk to haunt all night in a long, white dress, I think I would have considered my life complete.
But instead I had a mother (still have one!) who volunteered for the Red Cross, specifically by opening up shelters during disasters. So I went with her to open up the shelter at the Tech school in the next town over, naturally wanting to be where the action was. Naturally!
We were the closest shelter to Nickerson State Park, so we filled up pretty darn quickly with folks who had been camping and hiking and such. My job was to help new arrivals find a place to lay their sleeping bags, to calm worried toddlers, and to tell them all (not just the toddlers, that wouldn’t be fair!) that they could find juice, soda, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in the cafeteria once they were all settled in.
Pretty soon we found ourselves at capacity, and Mom pulled me aside and asked me if I would feel comfortable taking her car and opening up a satellite shelter at the elementary school down the street.
This, of course, meant that I got to put a very official-looking RED CROSS sign in the dashboard of her trusty minivan, showing emergency vehicles that I had a right to be on the roads — the official State of Emergency we were under meant that you weren’t technically supposed to be out and about unless you were some sort of “essential service.”
Suddenly, that was me!
So I remember driving down dark, wind-lashed streets, leaves and small branches blowing all over the place and lending the evening a very dashing air. The romance of opening the shelter ended pretty quickly, though, when it became clear that my main role was to make about 250 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in about a half an hour.
Really, once you’re in an elementary school cafeteria, it all comes down to who has the best sandwiches.
After the storm had passed us, Mom and I went back home and started clearing up the debris that had fallen in our front yard. No major trees or anything, as I recall, just a lot of small to medium-sized branches, and an alarming amount of trash that needed to be picked up and brought to the dump.
We were without power for about a week, which for me was AWESOME, since it meant that I could write long letters to my friends (this was before I had a computer, or even a typewriter, mind you) on some of my more formal Crane stationery, in cursive, by candlelight, OF COURSE.
Of course, this meant that I had to wait until after dark to start writing these long, dramatic letters, telling my friends in school about How I Survived Hurricane Bob And Saved The Children, or something, because it just wouldn’t be the same if I weren’t writing it by the light of a long, single taper in an ornate silver candlestick. Growing up in my Great Aunt’s house, with all of her awesome antique knick knacks, really came in handy sometimes.
I was very sad that I did not find an old quill and inkwell among her belongings. I looked everywhere.
Naturally, I was quite disappointed when the lights finally came back on again. No more living the 19th century dream!
But perhaps old Earl will be obliging enough to give me the opportunity to bust out the candelabra again, and waft dramatically around the neighborhood in an ankle-length nightgown. Heck, I might do that even if the lights DON’T go out.
And may nothing more serious than what happened to me 19 years ago happen to any of us this weekend.
Feel free to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the dark this weekend, in solidarity with us on Cape Cod and the Islands. I like mine with crunchy peanut butter and raspberry jelly!