One day in the future I have every faith that we will be able to look back at this past Christmas and smirk, but right now we are still getting used to finally being back in our own home and being able to relax without so much uncertainty hanging over our heads.
We were woken up during the wee hours of Dec 22 by our son Johnny who was upset that his clock was not on as he told us, “Mommy Daddy the power is not working.” After we settled him down we looked outside and saw how bad it was and knew this was not your normal storm. By morning we heard that it could take as long as 72 hours before we could expect power back on. Surely it wouldn’t take this long? For six days over the Christmas week we were without power after a catastrophic ice storm draped our landscape in ice which brought tree limbs down on electrical wires all across our city. This kind of change was not easy for my husband and I to handle with a a 3 year old so you can imagine how this must have affected our autistic six year old at Christmas time no less.
On Dec 22 in the afternoon once the sun was shinning bright we decided to take a walk outside, take pictures, and see what damage was done to our property and neighbourhood. Our big old birch tree in the backyard had dropped many limbs but everything was okay. Normally we meander through the neighbourhood before we arrive at the main street when we go shopping or decide to eat out but not today. In the distance I could hear the thunderous crash of big old maple trees dropping their limbs filled with ice. As we looked up and around us all the trees and shrubs looked like giant chandeliers covered in crystals. We saw a power line down across the street from our neighbour’s house, another one around the corner from us, as well as one a block down from us. Luckily the main street was lively and had powers so we were able to shop and eat dinner in a restaurant. By the next day (Dec 23) the temperatures began to plummet suddenly to -19C windchill and the temperature inside our house was dropping to 14C. We had to make a decision on when to leave. On Christmas Eve we spent the day trying to pack and distract the children as we made preparations to leave our house. It was so cold outside that we emptied our fridge and freezer into coolers and placed them on the back porch bungee cords keeping them shut. It turned out to be a good decision because most of the food froze solid and we didn’t have to toss out very much at all. We had options to move to our in-laws or another family’s house but we chose a hotel because we wanted to be close to our house in order to check on it daily. We were not getting any specific information from the utility on when our neighbourhood would get power except to plan for a lengthy outage. We have traveled with our children quite a bit so we knew that Johnny would find this to be stabilizing in a time of so much uncertainty. Was it the way we wanted to spend our Christmas? No but my husband and I were both very sick with colds, full of anxiety that we were hiding from our children and trying to desperately try and preserve their expectations of what they thought Christmas was going to be. For the short term while our finances could take it we would stay in a hotel.
We visited family for dinner on Christmas Day but we let everyone know that for our children please don’t mention that it was Christmas day because we are trying to stall for a few days. When friends and family brought gifts to the hotel room or they opened at the family member’s house we told Johnny and his sister that loved ones were bringing them gifts early because of the power outage to cheer them up. Johnny was trying to deal with all of these changes and appeared to be okay. Those closest to him could tell he was very upset and was having a hard time. Little things would get him very anxious quickly like when I hadn’t unpacked our luggage at the hotel right away so he tried to do it all himself when all I wanted to do was take medicine and rest. He was trying to treasure little things he found and was desperate that we remember to bring them home when we can go home. We could see he was trying to hard to bring some sort of control over such an unpredictable situation as he heard us on the phone or relatives discussing openly with us how bad the situation really was not realizing that this was only increasing his distress.
On Dec 26th we moved from a hotel to a family members house for 2 more nights out of our house. When I woke up on Dec 28 I saw I was getting many messages on twitter and text telling me to phone our house and see if the answering machine was on. Yeah it was and we now had power and we could return home!
Christmas Eve for us then was on Dec 29 and we quickly got the house ready and did our Santa Claus ritual of cookies and milk and put two very excited children to bed that night. On December 30th they woke up and finally had the Christmas they expected. Mommy and Daddy could finally relax and enjoy the holiday season.