Surreal Times in the City

It’s a week like this past one that makes your head spin in more ways than one. Our family, like so many others, gathered batteries and flashlights and stocked up on groceries and water in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Our kids have been dying for a black out – we didn’t have one during Irene. In fact, they have NEVER experienced one and think of it as the ultimate adventure.

Living on the Upper East Side, we went to bed Sunday night fully prepared to awaken in darkness. When that didn’t happen, my kids were disappointed. When we turned on the TV and got a sense of the devastation all around us, we were dumbfounded. It felt completely surreal to be so directly unaffected and yet know that homes and lives had been turned upside down, over night.

We checked in with family and friends and heard how the majority of them in the ‘burbs and boroughs, and even downtown, were without power. The stories of damage started coming in and school was canceled.

Despite the chaos on the news, life in our neighborhood went on as usual. We gathered donations and took them to drop-off points, but it was bizarre to see everything else unchanged. You couldn’t help but feel guilty in a way when it seemed like so many were suffering. Our thoughts and prayers for those impacted got stronger with each awful image we saw on TV or heard about.

The unexpected week of school being closed threw us all for a loop. Work schedules were amended and sanity plans were put in place for the kids and adults. The kids, of course, were ecstatic. They didn’t comprehend the severity of the situation – and while we tried to give them the big picture, a part of us felt that they have all their lives to learn about the details of devastation and that, for now, let them revel a bit in the excitement of an unexpected week of no school or homework.

Of course, the fact that Halloween was thrown in the mix that week was also completely strange. Our kids dressed up and we took them trick or treating – all of the posh brownstones on the Upper East Side were decorated to the hilt. I had to laugh at the difference between my suburban memories of bundling up and going house to house and  that of my children’s experience growing up in the city. They go from doorman to brownstone, from boutique to bodega, filling up their bags with ridiculous amounts of sugary treats. At Mayor Bloomberg’s house, they were even given FULL size candy bars!

Once school reopened on Monday, we were all ready to get back to somewhat of a normal routine, if only for a day. Tuesday, their school was closed (again) for Election Day. I took my daughters with me to vote. As I talked to them about the privilege and duty of voting in our country, my second grader told me about her class elections. They had studied the election, created voting booths, and each child was given a chance to cast a ballot. She had voted for Obama because he was from Chicago (a place she’s dying to visit), he loves pizza (her favorite food) and he loves basketball (her favorite sport). Those were her important ‘issues.’

She was excited to have had the chance to have her vote count and hopeful that he would win the class election as well as the national one. I was excited to see her engaged in the process and hopeful that her enthusiasm will continue to grow. I pray that once she turns 18 she will be at the voting booth, at every election. Obviously I also hope that the issues that influence her vote expand quite a bit beyond favorite foods and sports!

In less than two weeks, our family (sort of) experienced a hurricane, celebrated Halloween in the city, and took part in an exciting Presidential Election. So many teachable moments for our children – and so many moments of reflection for us adults. It feels like the full spectrum of emotions has been experienced.

As rebuilding starts and power is restored, as campaigning ends and preparations for the next holiday begin, one thing remains certain: life continues to move on, and with it, an undeniable element of unpredictability.

It is weeks like these that make me thankful for each uneventful day during which we go about our ‘normal’ routines and everyone is healthy, safe, free and with power.

Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.

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