Last year, I wrote about my experience as a divorced mom during Hurricane Irene and detailed how my bitterness toward my ex turned to envy and then, finally, to gratitude. Despite more than a year of emotional progress since my divorce, things started out much the same this time.
As is our custom, my ex and I agreed in October on a parenting schedule for November. And then came Hurricane Sandy. Once we realized there would be no pre-school for our three-year-old, we had to determine who would be on parenting duty during the storm. I felt conflicted. Just like I had in the previous year, I felt resentful that I might weather the storm with my son alone, but I also didn't want him anywhere but with me. It's not that I didn't trust his dad to take good care of him, I just knew I'd be consumed with worry if he wasn't with me.
I was happy with the decision to keep my son with me during the storm. Except for a few hours at night when the screeching winds spooked him and he insisted on sleeping in my bed, he had no real understanding of what was happening outside and the devastation taking place just a few miles away. In fact, he kept asking "where is the 'Frankenstorm?'" I told him that the 80 mph wind gusts howling through the trees outside were the storm, but he expected to see buckets of rain and hear bolts of thunder. This was different than any storm we had experienced before.
As the news of Sandy's destruction began to surface, I no longer felt bitterness toward my ex. I felt only gratitude.
In our little village, high on a hill overlooking Brooklyn, we were spared the peril that many of our neighboring communities experienced. We had no flooding and limited destruction of property. We had shelter, heat, food, water and electricity. We only had the minor inconveniences of no subway trains and no school for our children. My ex was in the same situation in the next neighborhood over. He had a warm, dry house and plenty of food and water. It may not have been the home life I once imagined, but in this situation, I realized that our son was blessed with an embarrassment of riches -- not one, but two homes in which to feel safe and loved.
My ex and I alternated between our professional and parenting duties. There were no arguments about logistics. Thankfully, with us, there rarely ever are.
After Sandy had subsided and the sun came out, my ex and I went ahead with our Halloween plans and took our son trick-or-treating together. It was a beautiful autumn night and the kids in the neighborhood were out in full Halloween revelry. Despite a few fallen trees, you would never have known such a brutal force had swept through the city only days before. I was grateful not only that we were unharmed by the storm, but that we could enjoy the holiday together as planned. We may no longer be a couple, but we were still a family of sorts -- the three of us connected by our mutual DNA and love.
I posted a picture of our son in his Shrek costume on Facebook and one of my friends who lives in New Jersey was astonished. "How could you leave your house? We can't step foot outside because of fallen trees and powerlines," she said. I confessed, with a hint of survivors' guilt, "We were spared."
I wanted my son to understand just how fortunate we were.
As the week went on and relief efforts grew, I tried to explain to him the importance of giving to others. I told him that the storm had left many people without homes, clothing, food or water, and it was important to help them. So he sat with me while I sort through clothes he had outgrown and put them in bags with diapers, baby wipes, sheets, towels and cleaning supplies to take to a local collection point. I told him how lucky he was to have two homes with two parents who loved him and would always do their best to take care of him. I think he understood because he wrapped his little arms around my neck and said, "I love you, Mommy. And Daddy too."
Even though we live in two separate homes, we are one very lucky family.