The Griffin home in Harbor Isle went dark on Saturday as the family, celebrating 11-year-old Christopher's confirmation, hosted dinner for 14.
As they sat around the table eating pasta e fagioli, sparks flew from the roof of the waterfront home. A pine tree pushed by gale-force winds had slanted perilously close to the house, ripping down an electrical line.
The party ended close to 5 p.m. when a firefighter came to the door. He warned that the tree looked like it was going to land on their house, on Island Parkway. "That's when everybody left," said Mike Griffin, 70, Christopher's grandfather.
Since then, the tree has stayed put and the family has decided to stay in the house without power, making do with battery-powered lights, a gas stove and a cooler packed with ice, milk and other perishables. "That way we keep the refrigerator closed and as cold as possible . . . [still] I think we're going to lose all the food," he said.
Happily, the confirmation went off without a hitch Sunday at Sacred Heart Church in neighboring Island Park. Firefighters helped by hooking up a generator, and the candles flickering inside the church not only lit the space, they imbued the ceremony with a prayerful aura, Mike Griffin said.
After two days in the dark - and with no school Monday - Christopher was starting to get restless. "I'm getting tired of being bored," he said. With no television or computers, and with the battery in his his portable video game player drained, Christopher kept busy by piecing together a puzzle, building objects with blocks or reading by daylight. "I make stuff [up] in my own imagination," he said.
The lack of high-tech gadgets has also encouraged the family to turn to one another for entertainment. After dining out in Oceanside Sunday, Christopher and his mother, Michele, 45, and grandparents Mike and Marilyn, 67, sat around a battery-powered lantern at home and chatted for hours. "It was like camping out," Mike Griffin said. "This is what we used to do years ago . . . when I was a Boy Scout; we'd sit there for hours talking."
Even as he may have found a silver lining to the family's hardship, it's not over yet. The leaning pine may not be removed until Wednesday because the company they contacted has so many other clients to serve. And they still don't know when the lights will come back on, or when they'll be able to take a hot shower. By 7 p.m. Monday, more than 25,000 other customers in Hempstead Town remained without power, according to the Long Island Power Authority.
"If you have any connections with LIPA, let them know we're here," Michele said.