Gloria, 1985

A hurricane seemed too exotic for her central New England hometown. As part of the excitement of storm preparation, she had to learn tropical vocabulary like “the eye.” But the name of the storm, Hurricane Gloria, seemed more like that of a fun aunt, or a big-haired Latin pop star, too full of joy to herald much damage. Her mom took out the kerosene lamps, always close at hand for the run-of-the-mill power outages common to rural New Hampshire, and lined them up on the kitchen table. Pails of water sat in the bathtub next to the toilet. Her dad checked the radio batteries, and climbed onto the roof to secure the T.V. antenna. She and her two sisters craned their necks from the pine deck below to catch glimpses of their father’s work boot as he clambered around on that forbidden pitch. Everybody brought an armload of rough-hewn split oak logs into the basement and loaded them into the bin next to the woodstove. Though it wasn’t necessary, because her Dad always kept it clean, she opened the little iron hatch built into the chimney in her bedroom and peered into the black hole for signs of creosote buildup.

The family gathered in the living room, huddled under blankets (more out of habit than anything, accustomed as they were to brutal nor’easter winter blizzards—it was a balmy fall day). The sky darkened, just as the weatherman Joe Cupo had promised on the television, spiffed up in his nicest suit reserved for delivering the direst weather news and indicating the radioactive-looking swirl projections lurching across the green screen toward the familiar land mass she knew as home. The wind picked up, no longer resembling the natural force that delivered scents of hemlock and moss from the surrounding woodlands, and the power snapped off—another promise the children had secretly hoped to see fulfilled, to vindicate all of the preparations. Gleefully they flew to light the lamps. Nothing could happen to them. Their parents had known to prepare. This hurricane would be fun, an adventure, a trip to the tropics, but surrounded by tall creaking oaks and pliant birches. It grew darker than expected. The big picture window, overlooking the wooded property that sloped down to Route 25, afforded everyone a front-seat view of the show. Excited and safe, the sisters waited for the promised “eye,” a half-time respite from the excitement and an opportunity to take stock of the damage.

Everyone ventured outside as though testing the waters of a new beach, and the weather was surprisingly mild and calm. The car was the primary concern, open to the elements on the gravel driveway, and it had remained unscathed. She privately hoped that the hurricane would return; she wasn’t ready for the thrill to end, or the unifying effect that it had on the family. The eye passed, and the winds resumed, rustling her flannel shirt collar and shooing her back indoors, to watch the remainder of the storm, tucked in alongside her family members, from their vantage point at the picture window.