Hurricane Season brought out the best in our community. It is where the seeds of being a gatherer and welcomer were planted. People often say to me, “You are a gatherer, an encourager.” I was taught those skills by my family and community in the early 1950s. This is a memoir piece about that time. The tide came in. The tide went out. The wind howled. We were scared, but our community of friends and neighbors pulled together to take care of each other. I love to gather people at our home and now on Zoom. We need community now every bit as much as we did in the hurricane season of long ago. Community keeps us alive and well.
HURRICANE SEASON – COMMUNITY
Anxiety filled the house. The already threatening sky darkened, Long Island Sound began to churn. The hurricane was not far off.
Bikes had been stored in the living room. Family silver hastily stuffed in boxes, valuable paintings wrapped in sheets, the cat and dog, Marshmallow and Queeny all waited together in the front hall. We children had evacuated earlier. The water rising quickly, mom and dad loaded the boat and rowed away from the house. Companions on their voyage were wrecked bathhouses from the beach club next door wrenched from their foundations by the ferocious hurricane winds. Rowing against the strengthening conditions, they wondered if our house would go next. Reaching the top of the street, the boat, quickly unloaded, was stored. We realized we were refugees in a friendly neighborhood.
Wind shook our refugee home. Rain pounded the roof. Suddenly all was dark, a power outage! The darkness was replaced by the soft glow of candlelight. Outside was fierce, but inside offered relief from fear. We were glad to be in a safe haven with our friends. Preparation for evacuation followed by leaving our home in the path of the storm exhausted us all. We nestled down to get a night’s sleep while the wind and rain whipped around us. In our imagination, we feared the worst as the hurricane symphony played itself out. Our home ripped from its foundation? Drifting out to sea? Only tomorrow would tell.
Next morning the sun shown bright in a clear and cloudless sky. Tide receded. No more need for a rowboat to return home. With helping hands of friends, we returned with our boxes, paintings, cat and dog. Our home stood proud and drying itself from high tide, waves and rain. Water was denied access to the first floor, but the basement had two feet of dark brown smelly mud. September 6th, mom’s birthday, what a gift, a basement full of mud. She happily reminded us that it could be worse. The living room, dining room and kitchen could have been mud catchers as well. Next door the beach club bath houses were gone.
Our journey as refugees was over. Glad to be home, digging out the cellar took several days. Neighbors and friends arrived to help. Food was brought to support the cleaning crew. A birthday cake was presented to mom with lit candles. We all laughed at her surprised expression when she saw that it was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. A far better gift than the mud in the basement, however similar the color. We learned a lesson about the blessing of community through this hurricane experience. This childhood experience of community opened my eyes to the importance of people helping people in crisis. The storm filled us with fear but brought me to a deep sense of caring for one another.