Things don’t always turn out as you’d expect.
After having children I developed a sixth sense (otherwise known as Mom logic) for figuring out what might happen, then preparing for it. Part of my job as food stylist was to anticipate the unexpected. I’d pack my kit, knife bag, and various tools, but in addition I’d have plans B, C, D & E ready for when things went sideways. And trust me – they almost always went sideways.
My best friend and I are both firm believers in imagining the worst possible scenario in any given situation so when it doesn’t happen, as it usually doesn’t, anything else which might have cropped up is a cake-walk (note my husband and therapist are not fans of this last method even if I think it works for me).
The point in noting all of this is simply to say that usually I can deal with most of what life throws at me and mine. Not always gracefully, but I manage. Occasionally even with a modicum of aplomb.
So when we recently travelled to Florida for our daughter’s graduation ceremony I was feeling both excited and prepared. I’d packed:
✓ shorts, sandals, and plenty of sunscreen for the warmer weather
✓ gloves, hat, and a warm coat for the return to Massachusetts in October
✓ cards for our graduates
✓ books and books on tape because traveling without books is the equivalent to walking around naked in public, and I categorically refuse to do either
✓ reusable water bottle (the Gulf Coast of Florida is not big on recycling)
We were ready for the adventures ahead of us and headed south happily. Shawn flew down first and was able to spend a few days with Belle. Since I don’t fly the train got me down a few days later, and our son Russell showed up near the end of his work week.
It was a proud moment to be at the graduation and watch her get her wings pinned on. The celebratory meals were delicious, and our family reveled at exploring the stunning beaches, fresh water pools, and lakes of northwestern Florida.
What none of us had thought to prepare for was a hurricane. Less than a week after graduation hurricane Michael blew through Florida Panhandle where our daughter lived, and devastated the military base where she was stationed. While I’d packed pretty well for the trip, even I had not anticipated nor expected a hurricane.
The list of necessary items when dealing with a hurricane and its aftermath are slightly different than when you’re traveling north to south for a celebration:
✓ cash – because with no power cash is king
✓ flashlights, though headlamps would have been even more useful
✓ potable water
✓ access to the internet
The Commander at her base called for a mandatory evacuation of all base personnel Monday, October 8th. Given the severity of the storm (it made landfall with winds of 155 mph) it was the safest decision. A week later when we were allowed to return to check on her apartment and driving through the town we realized how lucky we were that we had been told to evacuate.
One sign someone had spray painted on a board and leaned up against a tree in their yard read,
“Beware of the Whomping Willows”
During the evacuation our cooking and eating centered around what each of us thought of as comfort foods. Our first evacuation stop landed us, and Belle’s cat Apollo, in NOLA where we hunkered down in our friend’s beautiful apartment. There was a grocery store a few blocks away which allowed us to cook for ourselves. Plus a short meander in the other direction took us to Cafe Du Monde and the French Market. So despite the stress of being evacuated we were always well-fed. While I didn’t prepare a recipe for this post I can highly recommend the sugary goodness of beignets, hot from the fryer, and coated in powdered sugar.
This past week we received the good news that Belle received her orders to move on to her next base. Since then I’ve been reflecting on the experience of being evacuated, knowing we were some of the lucky ones. It will be some time before things get back to normal in the areas devastated by the hurricane, but as one of the Colonels said, “We are better today than we were yesterday and tomorrow we will be better than today.” Having done a limited amount of hurricane recovery work in the past after Katrina & Rita I want to give a huge shout out to all the men and women who helped, and who will be working for the foreseeable future, to get things up and running in the wake of this hurricane.
I also want to thank our friends Rick & Thomas for generously giving us a place to lay our heads, cook our meals, and put our bags as we figured out the next steps in the days immediately after the mandatory evacuation. Miss Apollo loved the views out their window.
My husband pointed out that New Orleans seems to be a place we only visit in connection to a hurricane. Back in 2006 our church sponsored our family to go down and help rebuild in western Louisiana post hurricane Katrina. Work was suspended over New Year’s so we visited NOLA for the first time, staying at a friend of friends’ house on Bourbon Street. Since the evacuation from hurricane Michael found us in New Orleans once again, Shawn and I walked back to the same house to take another picture on the steps twelve years later.
Satellite photo of Hurricane Michael courtesy of RAMMB
All other photos by author or author’s husband