When our daughter, Molly, decided to attend graduate school in Baltimore, I viewed her choice as a mixed blessing. The two top contenders were Baltimore Hebrew Institute and Hebrew Union College. The HUC program involved spending a year in Jerusalem and two years in Los Angeles. In contrast, Baltimore seemed right around the corner.
I can list everything I know about Baltimore in one paragraph. It has a great aquarium. Edgar Allan Poe is buried there (in Baltimore, that is. Not at the aquarium.) What little else I know about the self-styled “Charm City” I learned from watching “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” There it was depicted as a grungy, hardscrabble town populated by murderers, thieves, drug dealers and a half dozen noble, albeit damaged, police detectives.
Molly has been there for several months. Finding an apartment was a daunting task. Rents are close to double the rates we see here in North Georgia and it appears to be a landlord’s market. More than once she lost a promising dwelling to another renter who was willing to pay half a year’s rent in advance.
At last she and her roommate settled into a tidy townhouse in an historic section of town know as Federal Hill. Molly started school and secured part time teaching jobs at a nearby temple and the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
She quickly learned her way around. She found a favorite coffee shop and a route for her daily run. She started making friends and began to get involved in the community. I breathed a sigh of relief. Other than being 10 hours away, Baltimore didn’t seem so bad.
Then came Hurricane Sandy.
By the end of last week, we knew there was serious trouble brewing. My husband, Arthur, began to obsessively watch the Weather Channel as they began speculating about the hurricane’s probable trajectory. At that time, the bull’s-eye seemed to be hovering right over Baltimore.
While I’m our household’s resident tornado expert, Arthur is the only family member to have ever actually weathered hurricanes. Twenty years in Florida taught him the ins and outs of hurricane survival.
He peppered Molly with growing to-do lists: charge her cellphone, fill up her car with gas and her bathtub and all available containers with water, buy flashlights, batteries, bottled water and lots of Pop Tarts.
He thought of things that would never have crossed my mind, like making sure her car was parked on the highest possible ground. Luckily, her neighborhood is called Federal Hill for a reason.
While Arthur was busy being Red Cross Daddy, I took another approach. I just wanted my baby home. I quickly learned that what parents want and what their adult children choose to do are sometimes at cross-purposes.
Molly was determined to stay put. Last-minute plane ticket prices were prohibitive. She didn’t want to chance missing school or work. By Sunday, as the storm moved over North Carolina, I gave up trying to persuade her .
The Weather Channel was our constant companion. We watched endless hours of footage featuring reporters standing knee-deep in surf at Kill Devil Hills, N.C. I’ve noticed that is a prime spot for storm stories. I’m sure there are plenty of other equally photogenic beaches along those barrier islands but that name — Kill Devil Hills — adds a certain touch of foreboding. Like I needed that.
Sunday night, my sleep was fitful. I don’t think Arthur slept at all. Every time I woke, I’d find him watching weather reports and texting Molly with addendums to his hurricane preparedness instructions.
On Monday, Sandy bore down on Baltimore. Molly kept us updated with calls and Facebook posts. She busied herself by alternately studying, cooking and watching episodes of “Dr. Who” on Netflix. The wind and rain were brutal. She reported there was a small leak in the kitchen ceiling but power was still on.
Miraculously, that’s where the story ends. My fervent mother’s prayers were answered almost perfectly. Despite all my imaginings of power outages, crashing trees, relentless floods, gale force winds, looting and, in my darkest moments, a zombie apocalypse, Molly experienced none of that.
She had a leaky roof and two days off to bake pies and study biblical Hebrew.
By Wednesday, Baltimore was back to business as usual.
Of course, other parts of the eastern seaboard did not fare nearly as well. Lives were lost, homes and businesses were destroyed and millions are still without power. Utility crews and Red Cross volunteers from our area are there, helping with the clean up and recovery.
News reports are full of stories of strangers helping strangers, of people sharing food, cell phones, clothing. Anyone wishing to help from afar can do so by texting 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
On Facebook, my friend Anna Belle Ill-ien’s son, Jayme, extended a heartfelt invitation: “nyc friends you are welcome to my home pls do not sit in an apt without power or water for days when I am blocks away ... I have everything. I am very grateful for being totally untouched by the storm and am happy to share my good fortune w friends.”
And that, my friends, is the rainbow after the storm.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.