Ready or not!
Light the candles.
Pour the bottled water.
Jump in the shower that’s cold, not hot!
We watch the national news each night with an aching heart. We have never experienced a wildfire or devastating flood, but we have felt earthquakes and we lived through Hurricane Gilbert when it struck the island of Jamaica. Watching the news, we relive our experiences and we can honestly say to all those victims, “We know how you feel and someday your life will return to normal.”
When the hurricane hit Kingston, we learned how to cope with hope. I pretended I was a teenager at Girl Scout camp, where we took cold showers, washed our dishes in buckets of creek water, and slept in tents when nights were 90 degrees. We ate cold canned spaghetti and used galvanized tubs as our swimming pool, tossing tin cups of water at each other to cool off in the midday sun.
Let me tell you how to survive three months without electricity.
First thing in the morning, you run the bathtub full of cold water, add soap and dirty clothes, and then stomp-stomp-stomp them clean. Rinse clothes and hang on any available surface catching the sun. While they are still damp, you drape them over chairs as you stretch and pull out the wrinkles.
You prepare all meals out of cans or boxes. I now have a recipe file containing recipes for the “creative” dinners I served using tuna, corned beef, and canned chicken, most of them ending with “add chopped onion to taste.” Salads were concoctions of mixed fresh fruit. Thank goodness there were still “higglers” (vendors) along the roads selling any fresh fruit that survived the storm! We ate lots of canned fruit cocktail and bananas spread with peanut butter. Dessert consisted of edacious cravings for ice cream or freshly baked pie.
You start your morning with a glass of room temperature Coke instead of a hot cup of coffee.
Your daytime activities consist of doing all the things you cannot do at night, without light. Reading, writing, stitchery. The writing and stitchery count as your therapy. A British quilting group gathered me into its fold and taught me to quilt.
There is no television to watch. No dinner parties to attend. No meetings to conduct. Everyone is running around town during daylight hours trying to find gas stations where they have gasoline and a grocery store where there might be fresh bread or fresh vegetables and fruit. You soon learn which stores have generators, also known as “miracle machines.”
You eat by candlelight, wash dishes by candlelight, read (everything but daily newspapers) by candlelight, brush your teeth by candlelight. Know that in a year or two, you may be able to eat dinner by the glow of candlelight — it took us a few years before candlelight became romantic again.
You gather together with friends and/or family to gripe, complain, or grouch about everything. Misery certainly does love company when natural disasters occur. Omnipresent chaos takes on a new meaning.
You swap ideas on “how to keep your sanity” or make lists of things to do “when the power and phones return.” You count your blessings and give thanks that you are still alive, suffered no injuries, and have basic needs being met, and you trust, obey, and say your prayers.
The joys of the modern world fill your heart after three months. That morning cup of hot coffee never tasted so good, and the return to routine erases all the bad memories of storms and disasters and devastation.
We hope that all nations around the world are able to return to a normal world as soon as possible.
Tuna surprise sandwiches
1 can tuna, drained; 1 small apple, chopped; 1 tbsp. onion, chopped; 1 tsp. dried parsley; ½ tsp. dried red pepper flakes; salt and pepper to taste.
Spread on crackers if you don’t have bread. You won’t miss the mayo or relish you usually add to tuna sandwiches.