“Think of this as a polar hurricane,” says Al Roker. No thanks, Al; I’d prefer to consider it cold. Really, really cold. Over the last few hours, the polar vortex extended its reach into Long Beach, where thousands are still recovering from Sandy. Now that was a hurricane.
It seems right that our building job is all about heat this week. The furnace and hot water heater are going in. Pipes and ducts worm from room to room, looking for someone, anyone to warm. And the questions rise in the air as from a radiator: Can we heat the lower level of the house that FEMA requires we only use for storage? Or in the next polar vortex, will we have to go downstairs with boots and a jacket on, just to grab a hammer or choose wrapping paper? What does FEMA say? (nothing) What does the insurance company say? (don’t ask us) What does the city say? (do what you want) What will FEMA say in a year? Could what we do now and what they say next year raise our insurance rates by $15,000?
Meanwhile, in our new apartment, we count down hours and degrees to the12 degree weather forecast for later tonight. Our exterior door is currently a board with a knob, surrounded by an inch of open air where, eventually, steel will be wrapped and insulation affixed.
But not tonight. Tonight, the wind marches right in like it owns the place. Last night, we set our thermostat at 80. This evening, we may need to aim for 90 and see how high we can get. But we will be warm enough. Every time I pass our breezeway I think of the homeless without a place to stay. I think of Sandy-affected people living in half-built houses with no heat. I think of the construction workers building those houses. And I feel fortunate tonight.
It would be easy to feel unlucky. It is too cold to lay the concrete that should have been poured in November. The frozen ground may force us to wait until spring. The seventh estimated move-in date we’ve been given—March 8—is starting to seem not just unlikely but downright impossible. And although our lift is finished, we cannot complete our ICC application to receive reimbursement until the concrete is in. We are at everyone’s mercy. And of course, we are at nature’s mercy. That, we will never forget.
We are on day nine of the moving-into-our-new-apartment-and-downsizing-the storage-unit project, living among boxes that we bring in and empty and sort and shelve or bring to other people’s attics. For our new apartment, we bought floor to ceiling shelving units for the larger of our two bedrooms, so can we save a measly $100 by renting a smaller storage space. At this point, after nearly a year of paying hundreds on top of rent and mortgage, any little bit helps.
I could feel overwhelmed, and helpless, and wanting, but tonight I will be grateful. We have stuff to store! In our house, we have pipes and ducts. And in our apartment, we have a bedroom. In our bedroom, we have a bed. In our bed, we have each other.
In each other, we have a home.
P.S. I have to admit I faltered in my gratitude when our heat went out immediately after I published this! (our landlord came and fixed it, thank goodness!) Is anybody surprised???