December 6, 2012 —
We will always remember Hurricane Sandy. Not for the mighty wrath of her destruction, but for the odd serendipity of her timing.
The day she struck, a Monday, we received an offer on our loft in the city. We had been planning to put it on the market for months, and had packed away frighteningly massive amounts of memorabilia, papers, photographs and household goods in preparation. We had made plans to have the whole place painted—something we had not done since our children were little and never all at once, professionally. (I still remember the terrible stiff neck and shoulders that came after I decided to paint the ceiling myself one year in a manic Martha Stewart-inspired spruce-up.) We rented a storage unit (near the East River—not the best location during a hurricane) for excess furniture and “stuff” so the loft would have that airy open look buyers desire and dream about when they think of loft-living. If I have learned anything from having too much space, it is: you can have too much space.
Space to store a decade of childhood artwork for each child—four in our case. Space for drum sets and guitars and old amplifiers and microphones, two pianos—only one of which ever gets played. Space for a complete set of National Geographic magazines from the ’60s onward, thousands of record albums and their twin cassette tapes, enough science fiction to stock Mars, stubs of candles, toys, a cradle, Mason jars, videocassettes... I could go on. But I embarrass myself. At this point, I can hear my daughter’s admonishment “First-world problems, Mom!” I know. I am drowning in first-world problems, while friends in Breezy Point and Staten Island are still digging sand out of their houses, I am packing up the excess of our lives and wondering how to let go.
How to let go of the home my husband built, first for himself and his two little boys and then for me and the family we would make together. How to let go of the pebble wall my son and I tiled, where we had added a few stones from the Delaware River. Only we know which ones.
When I wake up early in the city now, my thoughts racing to keep up with my newly-active life, I look out the front windows on Franklin Street at the beautiful red brick buildings across the street and at the sliver of open sky facing south. The new World Trade Center rises like an elongated pyramid toward completion. Its reflective coating lets it appear to float in the day-lit sky. At night, it sparkles with light. (Perplexingly, it even sparkled when the rest of downtown was dark after Sandy.) I never thought I would miss its dreadful reminder of the day we saw it fall. But in these early mornings, I think I may.
The offer came before we could paint. Before we even cleaned out the pantry or polished the floors. It was easy to accept, coming as it did without much effort on our part. No hordes of open-house gawkers or haughty brokers condemning our humble home. Just a phone call and a few hours spent waiting in the corner diner, while the potential buyers inspected their future home. After accepting the offer, our family spent the week together in the dark, lighting candle stubs (they came in handy after all) and enjoying each other’s company in our family home. This week, a thought appeared during silence that we will be home wherever we are. Sandy, we will never forget you.