Following a tumultuous week of evacuation and anxiety, we were on our way home.
The bridge to our island opened at dawn. Traffic reports indicated long lines of cars slowly snaking across the causeway. Impatiently waiting until early afternoon to venture back home, we sighed in relief approaching the bridge, noting no long lines or flashing lights.
Concrete barriers spanning the road prevented cars from driving further than the first traffic light into town. We parked the car and walked the last few blocks.
No one stopped us. It was eerily quiet, but we observed nascent signs of activity. People walked tentatively to their destination, eager yet apprehensive about what they would find. A couple of bike riders passed, and a few business owners were hard at work clearing debris from their property.
And there it was, sitting serenely, our cottage, beckoning us to enter, find comfort, and mend the damage.
Mulch and debris, scattered all over the driveway, sidewalk and flowerbeds, blew around in the light wind. Inside the garage the garbage can had been knocked over and the contents strewn everywhere. Bikes, garden supplies, beach chairs, sand toys and other paraphernalia had fallen, collided, and settled awkwardly across the still wet concrete floor. The backyard was messy, but a few hours of manual labor would restore the area.
Unlocking the front door and stepping inside, the house was cold and quiet, with nothing disturbed. A small puddle remained on the second step of the ground-level laundry room, indicating how close the water came to flooding the rest of the house.
Our town officially reopened at 4:00 p.m. We walked back to the car and waited in a long line of vehicles inching their way to the checkpoint, flashing IDs and finally being allowed to drive home.
Our house had no heat, no hot water, no air conditioner (but who cared in November), and the washer and dryer were kaput. Insulation in the crawl space under the house and electrical wires needed replacement. But the house was intact and dry and belongings safe.
Before cocooning for the evening we strolled to a local deli and bought sandwiches for our first post-storm meal at home. The store reopened just in time to welcome residents returning to the neighborhood. Offering a limited menu, the owner was thankful to be back in business and heartily welcomed customers, each briefly recounting their personal and unfolding Hurricane Sandy story.
Tired of being vagabonds and road warriors, we looked forward to time spent in couch potato mode. The weather was turning cold, the days shorter, and the storm had blown whatever leaves remained off the trees and ruined any flowers lingering on plants. Winter gray descended.
Yet we were relieved to sleep in our own beds, feast our eyes on unharmed belongings, and begin repairs. We can manage remarkably well without most material possessions, but they are nice to own and we feel an emptiness when special items are lost or destroyed.
We are people on the go, not in the least hesitant to lock our door and spend hours driving to visit family or flying somewhere, whether for business or pleasure. It is ideal, however, to relax, hang out in our own home and savor warm, cozy, safe surroundings before heading out again.
Sharing with family and friends is a step towards normalcy and moving forward. We prepared Thanksgiving dinner, the house still without heat and hot water, space heaters and candles supplying warmth. Family members drove to the Jersey shore from Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New York to enjoy a turkey and tofurkey dinner together.
With repairs completed and spring on the horizon, we hosted a wine and cheese tasting for friends, thankful for our personal rock – our home – in a world often chaotic and crazy.
About the Author: I am a freelance writer and blogger enjoying a new flextime career after fifteen years in the financial field. I love the freedom of writing about anything that interests me, including and especially travel and food. Check out my blog Six Decades and Counting.