I’ve always admired pioneer women of earlier times. They had a strength and fortitude that was remarkable. They raised and fed their families under the harshest conditions; much like the women of Pawling have been doing this week, when electricity, phone and cable deserted us as over a foot of snow blanketed our area even before the frost gathered on the pumpkin patch out at Dykeman’s Farm.
It’s hard to admit, but I am completely spoiled by the modern conveniences of 21st century living. So much so in fact, that when electrical power failed on Saturday during the snow storm, I fretted. I gathered every candle in the house and though we had filled the bathtubs to the brim prior to the first falling flake, we were ill prepared for what lay ahead.
Oh Sure…we lit the fire in the fireplace and hauled in the wood from the garage, since what was conveniently stored was quickly consumed. We hauled and hauled until our shoulders ached, and still, the only warm place was directly in front of the hearth. We set up camp there, moving three chairs (only two were very comfortable, and the cats thought they were placed there for them) into position.
As dusk fell that first night, we brought out the Scrabble game and hoped that the outage would be short lived. Dinner was a bowl of cereal. After all, one night with a bowl of cheerios topped by banana slices should see us through! We clearly had NO idea what damage the storm was doing, and remained optimistic that by the next day, all would return to normal.
As the new day dawned, and it became clear that we still had no power and the temperature in the house had dropped by ten degrees overnight, the reality and the chill settled into my bones. It was cold and my family (cats included) was not happy. I cheerfully made a warm breakfast on the gas cook top by the light of the morning sun. A cup of cocoa warmed my icy fingers, and we waited…all day…for electricity. None arrived, and as another night loomed ahead, we stoked the fire and sent my husband, Jeremy, out to Dante’s (which was open but not delivering) for dinner. He reported back to us (with dinner in hand) that trees were down everywhere and all was very dark. I found paper plates in the pantry (no hot water to wash dishes, so paper seemed like a sensible choice) and after eating a meal that could not be reheated, we played Boggle in front of the fire, and went to sleep under mounds of quilts and blankets. At three in the morning, the electricity popped on (for 90 seconds). It was just enough to send visions of normalcy swirling in my head. I was certain that by morning, the power would permanently return.
Day Three: NOTHING! All Day: NOTHING!! I tried making reservations at about half a dozen hotels, but there were no rooms available anywhere. Jeremy was at work In White Plains with heat and light available to him (after showering at a friend’s house so that he could go to work looking spiffy). My daughter, Jamie, was reading a very neat Neal Gamen novel out loud, but decided that she needed some time away from the cold, so she headed to the book store and Starbucks. I made the decision to stay home and keep the home fires burning (literally). The cats (neither of which are lap cats) were now fighting over mine, (since it was parked closest to the fire) and the misery level was deep…like the newly fallen snow!!!
I enjoy alone time. Me and myself get along really well. But, I gotta tell ya…We were not very happy with each other… and as another night in the cold and dark approached, I lit the candles and watched the afternoon light wane. By this time hopelessness had set in along with depression. All I wanted was a hot shower, a hot meal, and a warm house. The laundry was piling up. Everything smelled like burning wood. The cats were fighting, and I was seriously considering abandoning ship. And then, it happened. Without warning, NYSEG pulled the switch, and the house was flooded with light…It was a miracle! Truly!! Electricity is a complete and total miracle!!! The house began to warm, the cats stopped fighting and found their own heating vent to sit by, and the tears of joy streaming down by cheeks were not freezing in place. Things were looking up.
It has taken me two days to get everything back in order, and I’m trying not to think about climate change and the possibility of this happening again anytime soon. Many of my friends and neighbors are still without the very basic comforts, so I have been offering meals and showers along with warmth and light. In truth, though my respect for my sisters of earlier times has grown immeasurably; I don’t want to try my hand at this again. My pioneer spirit has been tempered by years of technological advance…and I’m thinking a generator is definitely in my future!