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Lessons from the Storm

February 11, 2014

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA 

We lost power for 5 days. 5 days of staying with my closest friend who is more like a sister , my brother and sister and in law, visiting with my Aunt and Uncle. We weren’t alone and some had it much worse – serious injuries, trees through houses and cars, and staying in shelters because they had no where to go. Utility trucks from Bedford Mass rolled onto our street on day 4 trying to solve a complex issue with lines running through the woods and on day 5 power was restored. The miracle of light, and heat, and appliances.

It was inconvenient. Trips that normally took 5 minutes took over 40 because of all the closed roads with large trees baracading the passageway and power lines like large pieces of spaghetti or party streamers danging from branches and across roadways.  Trying to get to my brothers which is a 15 minute trip took over 2 hours and he finally had to come find us and lead us to his house. This is what we do. Friends open their homes, someone drops off a warm meal, you deliver firewood to a friend and hope for the best. It is the loaves and fishes.

And as we were driving about I pointed out to my children the ice like shards of glass on trees and driveways and branches coating the landscape in pristine crystal and noted that the trees that broke were the ones that couldn’t bend, that couldn’t be flexible and go with it. They were rigid in the storm, they refused to move, and they perished. Like us, like life. Swaying through the storm is the only way to survive.

And the amazing thing is that while I was lamenting my home, and not being able to be there, the inconvenience of running in and out for items, my children didn’t mind at all. They had 5 nights of sleepovers! They got to play with cousins and their closest friends and visit with family. No power? The Lego village had an outage and they played by flashlights and lanterns. They had 2 additional days off from school! They were fine. They were flexible. They swayed.


Photograph courtesy of Rachel McGinn photography 

“Only miss the sun when it starts to snow” – the great irony of life, like a dog chasing it’s tail. The gift of an ordinary day. A day when there is electricity, the house temperatures rise and fall from the setting on the wall, buses arrive, children go to school, roads are accessible. Until it is taken away it can be so hard to remember to appreciate something. Everything is a gift. Everything is transient. Everything can fade.  I have been extra grateful for the warm circle of light cast from a table lamp, the hum of the dishwasher, heat pouring through vents.

At dinner and finally home we did our  nightly “high and low” of the day conversation and my children didn’t have a “low” for the storm. The low was moving out of our of friend’s house. And there you have it – The Teachers. They are smaller than us, and don’t have the same level of education, and life experiences and wisdom we have gathered, they may prefer some rather unhealthy life choices like cookies for breakfast and no bedtime if left to their own devices. But when life sends you an ice storm, I am going to remember The Teachers and take my cues from the under 4 feet set.

They live in the moment and appreciate the gift while it is happening. It doesn’t have to be taken away to realize how valuable it is – a friend’s house, a day at the movies and out to lunch, playing with cousins, curled up on the couch with their Aunt reading by the fire. They did not lament where they weren’t – they celebrated where they were. It was that simple.

Gratitude, flexibility, playfulness, living in the now. There is a lot to learn. I am glad we have some really good teachers.

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  1. Heidi Farmer

      on February 11, 2014 11:25 pm

    Gorgeously written, Marykate. And yes, a lesson for us all. I also had no idea that you had been hit so hard!


  2. Anne Schenendorf

      on February 12, 2014 6:43 am

    Oooooh my GOSH Katiebabes, they amaze me and how true this is. I love that I needed to hear it told by the under 4 ft crowd. Well said munchkins!!!! I was a pine tree during Sandy and fell right over. 😉 I lamented everything- the falling temps, the hiccups, and folded. On the eve of another superstorm, I needed to read this and love it. I too will appreciate the present moment… :) xxxxoooo


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