Yesterday morning, pre-ice storm, I decided to cut up some vegetables so we would have part of dinner prepped in case the power went out. Eventually, my husband, who is off this week, came around the kitchen wondering why I was chopping carrots at 11 a.m.
“It’s for our warm vegetable salad tonight,” I said. “In case we lose power.”
“Are we going to lose power?”
“Well, I don’t know. Best to be prepared though.”
I recognized my tone was a little strident, possibly holier-than-thou, but I primly kept chopping. He stepped away silently and, post chop, I proceeded with my day, feeling extra smug about the fact that I thought to work out on the elliptical and then have a shower while we still had hot water.
Man, I thought to myself. My survival skills are on point.
When it comes to any kind of serious weather or, it turns out, pandemic event, I get enormous satisfaction out of being prepared. I wouldn’t say I am an actual prepper — I don’t keep food or water in a bunker, and I don’t have an elephant gun on reserve in my rec room à la Reba McEntire and Michael Gross in the movie Tremors — but I would describe myself as an aspiring one. For example, I love the pre-storm grocery shop. I love pre-storm chatter about whether or not things are going to get bad. And I love the feelings you get — the need to hunker down in coziness, the excitement that something big is happening, and, of course, the desire for comfort food (hello, cheesy carbs) — once you’re home and settled.
It’s like setting up and then being inside a blanket fort. You have your Cheerios snack. You have your stuffed animal. You have your blanket for sleep. You have your tiny purse in case you need some cash. You are set.
By 4 p.m., the storm had officially hit, and I was peering out the windows at the weird, whispering rain that kept falling. At 4:24 I received a text message from a friend who asked me how things were shaping up.
“All systems go,” I responded, wishing I had a CB radio. “Ready for anything.”
“Remember to charge your cell phone?”
I looked at my device. It was at 36 percent. Whoops.
“That’s next on the list.”
I quickly ran downstairs to plug it in, immediately rejoicing in every percent that started tacking on to its total.
Then I thought it might be useful if I took inventory of our lighting resources before the sun fell. I set up a series of candles on the kitchen counter. I gathered my oil lanterns. I dug around for the rechargeable candle lighter and then — wait for it — I remembered to plug it in to recharge.
Once again, there was that feeling of enormous self-satisfaction, a feeling that I was really taking charge, protecting the household, draping it in a big blanket and tucking us away inside it.
We lost power at 6:03 p.m. and I felt a giant thrill zoom up inside me in turn. I reminded myself I was prepared for days without electricity. After all, I had showered. I had pre-cut the vegetables.
I crept upstairs in the dark house and found William sitting in the living room with the fire on. He seemed absolutely calm while I was beyond hyped up.
“I’m texting your mom. I’m texting Julie. I’ll see if their power is out too.”
My phone started lighting up in response and I felt even more hyper.
“I’ll light more candles. I’ll set them up strategically.”
William and the dogs watched me bustle around.
“You might consider having a glass of wine,” William suggested.
“No time. I need to light up the charcoal grill. It’s risky — I know my charge is precious — but I’ll use my cell phone flashlight to guide me. It will be more precise than a candle.”
I started scrounging around in the pantry for a wire mesh basket that could help cook the vegetables over an open flame. I made a lot of noise and I felt enormously useful.
Then I got bundled up to face the weather. I put on boots. I zipped up a parka. I would cook our meal for us. And it would be a huge success.
Then I got outside in the dark. The deck was slippery. The tree limbs already looked like they were in serious pain. The rain whispered on.
I picked up the bag of charcoal and tipped it into the bowl of the grill. I ripped off a starter, snuggled it in the center of the black blocks, and lit it with my rechargeable candle lighter.
It flamed in response.
And then, thinking about how I would have to cook the vegetables in a basket in the dark, I felt incredibly tired.
Surviving, it turns out, is exhausting.
I went back inside and accepted the glass of wine William had poured me. He had meanwhile established that a line was down across from our house and a crew was there to work on it. He explained to me how lines get fixed and then explained how electricity runs through them and into our individual houses.
And then the power came back on.
So, I steamed the vegetables in a pot in the kitchen and badly wished I’d made something with cheesy carbs instead. But I did feel the comfort that comes from a winter storm — and electricity.