Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Irony of the Hurricane

Last week, our area was hit with an earthquake, something I don't recall happening in almost 25 years. The impact was laughable. Folks made jokes about 'rebuilding' and posted pictures on the Internet of their tipped patio chairs and flowerpots. I never even felt the quake; I heard about it from my husband, at work in NJ, and later on Facebook. I felt like the last one picked for a team in gym class: completely left out.

Perhaps Mother Nature is a quiet stalker on Facebook, one who doesn't like being mocked. That's my theory, because a couple of days later, she proceeded to trump the earthquake with Hurricane Irene, who barreled up the East coast like a woman scorned. I don't know who was left laughing on Facebook once Irene cleared out, though, because I lost my phone, Internet and cable television connections for five days as a result.

Rather than wallow (which would have been very easy to do, now being 'cut off' from the world, technologically speaking), I tried to look on the bright side. We still had power. We had running and heated water. We could cook, shower and use the computer. We just became very localized. After a couple of days, the kids got bored and the roads were cleared, so we headed over to the library once they got power restored (I called ahead from my cell phone to make sure). They have puzzles, games and of course plenty to read, plus I thought it would be nice to see how the building and librarians fared in the storm.

Little did I know what a surprise awaited me.

I saw more patrons at the library than I've seen in all my years in this town. I ran into friends I haven't seen all summer. I heard the word 'discombobulated' more times in one day than I think I've ever heard in my life.

Everyone, it seems, had become unmoored by their forced 'disconnect' from the virtual world. No one knew what to do about it, so they headed out into town to find others and share their experiences.

After leaving the library, I headed to the local pizza parlor, where I ran into three more families I haven't seen in a while, and we also got a chance to catch up while our lunch cooked. On the way home, I congratulated my children.

"For what?" they wanted to know.

"For being lucky enough to step back in time," I told them.

"Huh?" they said, as they often do when I try to teach them something.

"Today, you guys got a chance to see what life was like before the Internet, just like it was when I was a kid," I said. "We talked with our friends from town by running into them in various places around town, instead of on Facebook."

I wanted to add, "welcome to the real world," but realized that they might then think the Internet was connected again.

Now that things are pretty much back to normal, I haven't seen anyone laughing about the hurricane on Facebook. People's homes flooded; many lost power, and some still haven't gotten it back. The storm may cause folks to regard the power of Mother Nature with a bit more awe and humility going forward. But I can only wonder if it will make any of us work on becoming a little less dependent on technology from now on. I know I'm going to try.

As for my friends, I guess I'll read about it on Facebook.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Paring Season

There's something about the end of summer, the return home from vacation and the promise of structure soon to be restored by the routine of the school year that makes me, frankly, insane. Not because I don't welcome September with open arms. Quite the contrary: the two weeks at the end of August are riddled with bored children, messy rooms, last minute scrambles for playdates and day trips, and the final fraying of my nerves.

Clearly, I should be living in Florida. Not just because it's warm year round, or because the cost of living is a fraction of that of New York, but because in Florida, school starts tomorrow.

It's not like I'm uptight, one of those women whose houses look like children don't even live in them--like NO ONE lives in them--and can't bear to have a dried flower petal out of place. Truly, my summer has had its share of chaos. The first month consisted of various camp programs that changed each week. The changes had me driving all over the county so my kids could parttake in fun and engaging summer activities. The next four weeks encompassed rearranging my living room, emptying my kitchen into boxes into said living room, and then opening the door to contractors every day to have our kitchen remodelled. Let's just say that carrying dishes up and downstairs to wash them each day was less than fun. Finally, we spent over a week in Vermont, filling our days with shopping, excursions, touring and mountain activities. The kids were exhausted. The dogs were exhausted. We're all exhausted.

Yet all I want to do is rip apart every room and organize it. I want to get rid of the junk, the things we don't use and have no space for. I want to rotate the summer clothes into bins in the attic, bring out the comforters, change the tapestries and curtains and organize the magazines. It sounds like a lot of work for someone so exhausted, I know.

The only way I can explain this sudden burst of energy is to tell you that the focus is the only thing pulling me forward. To stand here surrounded by Nerf guns and sponge bullets, teddy bears and Goodwill donations, four days of newspaper sections and trays of perler beads littering my dining room table is causing a Sybil-esque reaction: my brain is escaping its present surroundings to go where it needs to in order to survive.

It happens every summer, this need for clearing, paring and straightening. A mom can only take constant disorganization for so long. And thanks to New York State's education schedule, in my case it's two weeks longer than I need it to be. So I will make lists and schedules, shop online for baskets and containers, and collect pictures of simplified homes from magazines to soothe my discomfited soul. And while I'm at it, maybe I'll take a look at real estate offerings in Florida. Just, you know, for fun.