|NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy|
Hurricane Sandy hit New York City a week ago. The kids are back in school today. After a few days home, we were out and about in our Upper West Side neighborhood as if nothing had happened.
The only signs of anything being off or odd were all the big kids on the street in the middle of the day; a few more branches and leaves on the ground than on your average fall day; and the grocery stores looking sad with their half-stocked shelves.
And yet we were a little island of normal in a sea of despair and destruction.
So many of my friends sat in their cold, dark houses, cut off from the world, yearning for heat and light.
People lost homes, businesses, and lives.
A mother's young sons were ripped from her arms. Lost. (The family needs help paying for their funeral costs, please click HERE if you can give, even a little.)
And yet, here we sat, untouched, my biggest problem keeping a pair of jangly 10 year-old boys entertained and away from each others' throats.
It felt - it feels - surreal, odd. I feel uncomfortably disconnected. If I didn't have these children on my hands I would have tried to go out and do something to help the relief effort. But have them I did, 24/7, for a whole week.
My husband, a writer who can work from home as easily as anywhere, had many projects demanding his attention, deadlines to meet, and really no excuse to not work (we had lights, heat, food, internet). So he did. A lot.
So much human drama was unfolding all around us, I should have been electrified, writing away. But I wasn't. I wasn't writing a thing (facebook updates don't count).
I felt moved, horrified and numb at the same time.
The fact that this came at breakneck pace, right upon the heels of our very small, local tragedy (the Krim children's murder) just pushed me further out from my center, thunderstruck.
I feel scooped and hollow, yet vastly lucky and deeply guilty all at the same time.
Today the children were back in school. But I still had no time to myself (train rides, surrounded by jabbering strangers don't count). I wanted to go to the Krim children's memorial service to support the family and gain some closure there, but other needs pressed: my mother. (Always my mother, these days.)
So I boarded a Long Island Railroad train today, as I had just before the storm, and went to spend the day with my mother, who has forgotten there ever was a storm, but was deeply happy to see me, as ever. (And evoking ever more guilt, as whatever I may have to give is not enough; she needs a companion, and that I just cannot be.)
She, who is now the eldest of her clan, was the one who first taught me the phrase "survivor guilt" when describing her own mother, my Grandma Dunia.
My grandmother was a difficult, gruff and mostly unloving woman. The eldest daughter of a large family in Eastern Europe who all stayed behind and vanished in the Holocaust, she was the sole adventurer, come to America. The sole survivor.
She would not talk about her family. She shut down her feelings. Her oft quoted retort to my mother - who had answered her question of "Why are you in therapy?" with "Because I'm not happy, Mom"... The classic: "Happy! So who's happy?"
|Me, Mom & Grandma Dunia in 1974 (Mom was 52 = my age now!)|
I hope to spare Ethan that. But then again, it's impossible to truly control what emotional baggage we pass on to our children, can only hope it's knapsack-sized and not the whole damn steamer trunk.
Tomorrow morning we'll make cookies and bring them to Ethan's school for the traditional "Election Day Bake Sale" this year's profits going not to some school project but rather to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy; assuage our collective guilt with a little sugar.
For though our buildings may have been untouched, here, our hearts have been breached by this storm. And only by reaching out with our hands, and doing... something... anything... just a little baking, even, will we move forward, together, into the sun.