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Sandy left us a 'Thanksgiving tree'

The remains of a 40-year-old blue spruce were

The remains of a 40-year-old blue spruce were used as a decoration after Sandy. Credit: Handout

Superstorm Sandy roared outside my window. A streak of lightning darkened the house, cutting telephone communication, including my cellphone. I sat watching the 40-year-old blue spruce tree in the backyard sway.

Whatever would happen, that night was out of my control, so I walked carefully up the stairs, clutching a flashlight. I crawled under all the blankets found in the bedroom closet with the dim halo of light.

In the harsh morning light, the huge tree lay prone across the garden. My car was in the garage, trapped because the heavy door worked on electric power. Luckily, my gas stove could be lit with a match. Hot oatmeal helped.

No one else in town had power. Neighbors walked carefully through the flooded streets, knocking on doors to see who needed help. Fallen trees, roof shingles, house siding lay on downed wires. The second day, a crew of tree cutters on trucks drove carefully by. From these men, we heard about the massive devastation from the storm.

The third day, my son Jeff was able to take me to his house, which had electricity. I stayed for two weeks, grateful for the warmth and being with family.

Thanksgiving was a week away when I went home. It would be our annual holiday extended family visit. My daughter and her boyfriend had plane tickets from Colorado to visit and witnessed the devastation from the air. It became an emotional homecoming.

When Heather looked out the kitchen window, she saw the tree we had nursed from a sapling sprawled on the ground. We hugged, cried at the long separation, pent-up tension and joy of being together, safe. They gobbled all the food in sight, cannoli first. "We'll cut the tree up for you, Mom. We're strong." All three of us hugged again.

Early Thanksgiving morning, I heard the familiar clump-clump of Heather's clogs on the attic stairs. She had promised to sort and throw out years of accumulated belongings this trip.

The aroma of turkey roasting was lovely. Outside, she and Scott worked on dismembering the tree. Branches were everywhere. I called them in for breakfast. "Don't go in the living room, Mom. Don't ask why." Heather wiped the smudge off her face. When the rest of the family came, they also were told to stay out of the living room.

Finally, Heather led us in to see the top of the blue spruce on a table in front of the window, tiny lights and ornaments aglow. We toasted being together, in front of the Thanksgiving tree.

--Elizabeth Horning-Fleming, Hicksville

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