Colorado is under water according to the news, and the New Jersey Boardwalk is burning. Nature is certainly exacting her pound of flesh this year between the flooding, fires and tornadoes. This brought to mind my flooding experience. Yes, I have one of those to recall as well. When it comes to disasters I started at A and worked my way through the alphabet. If there’s ever a zephyr in the area, however mild, I’m probably in trouble.
We were living in Massachusetts at the time, the children still wearing Dr. Denton’s. Wakefield was a small, typically charming New England town replete with all the perks afforded such a title. Church steeples peeked through the trees and graveyards held markers recording history several centuries gone. I loved it there. It was a slow pace, the sidewalks tidily rolled up when the sun slid behind the hills. Sunday’s were reserved for worship or baking pies, or for the less pious, a chance to mow the lawn or dip a line in the beautiful lake which was the centerpiece of the town.
Summer brought with it stifling humidity in sharp contrast to the bitter cold winter would likely deal out. Sultry days my hair, hanging towards my waist at the time, would curl the minute I stepped out the door and remain in ringlets about my face most of the day. Both my husband and I worked in Boston, about a forty minute commute depending on the weather. A data processing major hired by a huge hotel firm, he often pulled long hours toiling to bring their antiquated systems into the current decade making it necessary for us to use creative planning to find time to spend together.
On this particular day it was steamy early on. I had the day off, so my hours were filled with games in the yard and laundry and whatever a young mother busies herself with when her children are present. The house, built in the 1800’s, was airy. Fans rotated in nearly every room. An old building, air conditioning had never been installed. It was hot, and still. Still, yes, unnaturally so. Plans were made with a babysitter several towns over to free me up late afternoon for a “date night” in the city with my hubbie. Not sure if I would recognize him in a crowd, I suggested he wear a clown suit and carry a bottle of seltzer so I could locate him in the restaurant.
Durgin Park was to be our meeting spot. A favorite of mine. You ate fresh Yankee fare at tables seated next to everyone from theater goers in full finery to people just getting off work for the day. The servers were hired for their acerbic personalities and could literally dish it out as well as they could take it. Fun. Excited, I chose my outfit carefully, opting for a lovely summer dress of delicate voile in robin’s nest blue with sheer sleeves and an empire waistline. Shortly after four, the children dressed in PJ’s were buckled in the back seat, their overnight bag tucked between them. Once secured myself, I backed the car out of the driveway.
On the road the sky took on a menacing demeanor, black clouds replacing puffy white ones present earlier in the day. Pulling onto the Interstate a large drop of rain splashed across the windshield. Wishing I had brought an umbrella, I switched on the A/C in the car. Worn out from the day, my little pirates nodded off from time to time in the rear view mirror.
Lightning flashed outside the car and a thunder-clap followed loud enough to vibrate the steering wheel. Both children’s heads popped up, not ones to miss excitement, just as rain spewed forth from the heavens. Awed by the lightning flashes and rolling thunder, both children fell uncharacteristically quiet, my daughter inserting a well sucked thumb into her mouth. Twice in my lifetime I have been caught in a deluge of this magnitude. It came swiftly and with no mercy. Cars simply stopped on the highway, lights blinking as the rain obscured them from view. For a while we all sat, and waited. Getting worse rather than better, I started the engine. Creeping at a snail’s pace I pulled over to the right hand lane, eventually exiting at an off ramp. Water was cascading in a natural waterfall from the overpass bridge, and on the roadway branches of trees and debris rushed by. Not wanting to alarm the babies, I made a game of it, but a hint of panic began to form below the surface.
Afraid to keep moving forward I pulled over to the side of the road behind another car parked with its lights on. Water was rising outside the car. Pushing the door open I waded to the car in front of me. Knocking on the window, it opened revealing man I would guess to have been in his fifties and his female companion. I yelled over the wind I needed help and amazingly he came with me. Inside my car he explained there was a Holiday Inn about a half a block up. He suggested we each take a child and make our way there. As I didn’t see any other immediate solution, I nodded in agreement.
Stopping at his car, after a brief conversation we retrieved what I learned later was to learn was his mother-in-law. Not able to walk in the heels I was wearing, I abandoned them. Barefoot and toting a wet baby, my lovely diaphanous dress now clung to my frame like cellophane might to a raw filet. Struggling against the wind and current, our strange band of travelers finally reached the hotel, and entered the lobby. As luck would have it, the lobby was filled with Shriners overflowing from an already packed and rowdy bar. Glasses in hand, most were already well on their way to a good time. Suddenly noticing a young woman standing before them bare feet puddling on the carpet wearing a see-through dress and carrying a wet baby seemed to immediately catch their attention. Quiet fell over the room. Sloshing forward passed the stares, I held my head high and stepped up to the desk. Summoning what dignity remained, I inquired about a room. Fortunately, I had a credit card with me. The clerk explained there were two rooms available, a single and one with two queen beds. The single went to my rescuers and the other I signed up for. Exchanging contact information, thank you’s and hugs we parted company heading to our separate floors.
Phone lines were down and no communication possible to Boston. I ordered huge cheeseburgers, fries, hot coffee and steaming chocolate from room service. Wrapping the children in towels after a warm bath, I fed them on the bed. Around two the following morning I was able to get a hold of my husband, now frantic. He joined us in the morning for breakfast. I’ll never forget the look on those Shriner’s faces when I walked in that lobby. It was like the sequel to Nell, for those two of you who actually saw that movie.
This soup was perfect. There was a bit of nip in air last night so it hit the spot. Usually my pics are better than this, but I was hungry and the hour was late.
French Onion Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
6 onions, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup port
8 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated
garlic bread (recipe below)
Heat oil and butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions. Cook for 8-10 mins. until tender, stirring often.
Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 45-60 mins. until onions are a lovely golden brown color. Add garlic and continue cooking 1-2 mins. until fragrant.
Add port and bring to boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Add stock, salt, pepper, and thyme. Reduce to med.-low and cook for 40 mins.
4 slices of baguette or Artisan bread
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
Generously butter bread. Sprinkle equally with garlic powder and top with Parmesan cheese. Place 6″ under broiler until bubbly and browned. Leave broiler on.
Place one slice of bread in bottom of dish. Ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serves 4.