Things are strange here. Maybe it’s just us. Like during this Hurricane Florence, for instance. In my four decades of living in New York City and its suburbs, I remember exactly two hurricanes. One happened when I was in high school or at least on my way to it. Everybody got to school in the morning as usual but there were gates up when we arrived and administrators telling us to go back home. Then, about sixteen, seventeen years ago, I was walking home from my job at the limousine company in Long Island City and, while waiting for a light to change at a very busy intersection, I blew into the middle of Queens Boulevard. (Luckily I was able to fight my way back to the sidewalk and grab onto a telephone pole until the light changed.)
We had only been in North Carolina a couple of months when there was a tornado warning. I nonchalantly stopped in to a supermarket to pick up a few things.
As I stood in the express check-out line, I took a gander at the shopping carts around me: Bottles and bottles. In fact, cases and cases of water. Piles of batteries of all shapes and sizes. I looked at my hand basket: Raisins and yogurt. My husband, Lloyd called my cell phone while I was standing there. He had desperation in his voice.
“Did you check out yet?!”
“No. I’m waiting to.”
“Thank Gd! We need salad dressing.”
“Oh yeah.” I said. “We’re prepared.”
While the North Carolinians went home, put their supplies away in case of emergency and went on with their lives, we arranged our babies on a blanket and all huddled together on the bathroom floor like we were waiting for an enemy attack in a scene from M.A.S.H. Lloyd and I looked at each other, faces against the tile and said simultaneously:
“It was your idea to move here. Look what you got me into.”
Another thing we haven’t quite gotten used to in the decade plus since we moved here: How, what and when places decide to close as a storm approaches. While schools, stores and medical facilities may have a more wait-and-see approach to impending weather, churches are always the first to bail. The hurricane could be two states away and there comes the announcement scrolling at the bottom of the screen on the six o’clock news: “All services canceled.” You always have to wonder: “Is all of that ‘faith’ talk of theirs bullshit or do they know something we don’t?”
And the schools don’t have districts like we were used to. So if you live in a huge county here and the roads are fine where you live, your kids may still be home from school for weeks because the county’s schools are all closed at the same time even if the road problem is an hour away from you.
Our kids go to a year-round school which everyone but us loves. That means they go to school for nine weeks and have three to five weeks off all year long. When the schools are closed because of weather, instead of lopping off one of their weeks off and using them as make-up days, they have them go to school on Saturdays. If the county goes through with their proposed plan, this Saturday would be the first time that my kids would be subjected to this weirdness. And they’re not taking it well.
“Saturday? Well at least you’re not going to make us go. Right? Right? We don’t have to go. Right? Right?”
But my husband and I couldn’t hear their pleas over our own gleeful thoughts:
“The kids will be at school all day on a Saturday?” Cue the organ at the hockey game: “Date! Date! Date! Date! Date! Date! Date! Date! Ta dum da dum… Charge!!”
Images wafted through our minds. The first was of us being cooped up the past five days and who knows how much longer with these people. (How have families ever spent years together in one room hiding from Nazis, guerrillas, drug cartels…? After five days in our five bedroom house, I’m about to run outside and offer myself to Florence as her love slave) The next images were more pleasant: Lloyd and me- fourteen years younger. He and I were at that innocent, carefree, age: forty. Okay, so it wasn’t our ages that made us as youthful as much as our children’s ages: “Not yet born.” I’ve mentioned often how Lloyd and I had met and married “later in life”. (I hate that expression. It sounds like we were introduced at a card table in the nursing home.) So we kind of hurried it up to get married and trying to start a family. In fact, we got engaged seven months after we first met and married three months later. We are pretty lovey-dovey in general (much to my kids’ dismay), but I can’t help thinking that we long for dates in part because we’ve never given up on trying to have those dates we never had when we were dating. So in answer to my kids’ question an hour ago: “Damn right you have to go to school on Saturday. Those are make-up days! For us anyway. You’ll probably just be sitting there doing nothing for seven hours but oh well… And take the bus home, will ya? And remember to bring your key. Just in case…”
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