This post has taken me longer than it should to sit down and write, mostly because it involves difficult memories. It's also a post that I can take in many different directions, so it has been hard to decide which course I want to take. Even as I sit writing now, I continually type and delete, type and delete. I'm not even sure where to begin. I think I'll just start with my own small story of Hurricane Sandy. I think it will help explain why the book that I want to tell you about is important to me. This is a long post, but please stick with me. No Sand in the House! was written for a very good cause with proceeds donated to organizations rebuilding the Jersey Shore.
Four days before the storm, I woke up excited for my mother's first visit since we'd moved to New York City. She was scheduled to fly in that day and during her stay we had plans to go yarn and fabric shopping, visit the Cloisters along with beautiful Fort Tryon Park, and head out the the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. At 83 my mom was energetic, healthy, and eagerly anticipating the trip. As I was making my coffee that morning, the phone rang. It was my sister explaining that my mom had a bad headache, and wasn't feeling up to making the trip, but perhaps she'd come a few days later. Within a few hours I was on a plane to North Carolina. My mother's headache had gotten much, much worse, and a CT scan showed that she had suffered a stroke.
We sat at my mother's hospital bedside, holding her hand, hugging each other and following Sandy's progress as the storm made its way up toward my family and friends in New York & New Jersey. My sisters and I reminisced about my mother's stories of the hurricane of '38. She lived in Cranston, Rhode Island at the time, and attended a school in nearby Providence. Upon realizing that this was no typical storm, her father had driven to the school to pick her up. On the trip back, with roads blocked by fallen trees, my grandfather abandoned the car and carried my 9 year old mother the rest of the way home. It was a terrifying memory for her, leaving her with a lifelong fear of storms. If she had been alert, my mother would have been glued to the reports of Sandy, and horrified that her grandchildren, son-in-law, and many good friends were in its path.
October 29th dawned and it was clear that Sandy was headed straight for New Jersey and New York. Our apartment, although not in the mandatory evacuation zone, was only a hundred yards or so away from its border. My husband joined his mother in her apartment on the Upper East Side, and each of my kids remained in their dorms/apartments, scattered throughout the city. That night I sat, hundreds of miles away from the storm, glued to the TV, switching between channels. A tree fell in the NJ town where I had lived for 22 years, killing two people. A power station blew up 10 blocks from my son's apartment, and streets in his neighborhood were flooding. NYU Hospital was being evacuated. And all the while, my mother remained gravely ill in the ICU. It was the longest night of my life.
The next day I was relieved to learn that none of my friends or family were seriously injured or lost their homes. There was some property damage, including my mother in law's home on Long Beach Island. Friends in New Jersey had a lot of clean up to contend with, and most of the people I know in the area lost power for a week or more, but this was nothing compared to the loss that so many in the area were dealing with.
A week or two later my dear, dear friend Karen, who lives in New Jersey, put out a call to knitters. She was making blankets for victims of the hurricane, and hoped that people would help her make squares. My mother had passed away a few days earlier, and we were just beginning to think about how we would find the strength to clear out her home. My mother was an avid knitter and quilter and among the many WIPs were 48+ afghan squares. My sisters and I quickly agreed that these should go to Karen's project. Always a speedy worker, Karen quickly sewed the squares together and passed the resulting blanket along to a deserving family. You can read Karen's post about the blanket here.
Photo by Karen Clark, used with permission
It seems that kindness, giving, and creativity all run in Karen's family. No Sand in the House! was written by her sister, Jennifer Crawford. Jennifer is donating proceeds from the sale of the book to organizations working to rebuild the New Jersey shore. Although I've never met Jennifer, it's as if she wrote this book about my own family. The story is about Abby (I have not one, but two nieces named Abby), a little girl who loves to visit her grandparents' house at the shore. Abby loves to spend time playing in the surf and sand with her Pop-Pop. He only has one rule; "No sand in the house!". (A frequent refrain at my mother in law's beach house.) Visiting the house after the hurricane, Abby is horrified at the amount of sand in her grandparents' house, but her Pop-Pop's wonderful attitude shows Abby that with love, everything will be okay.
The charming illustrations in No Sand in the House! are by Hannah Tuohy. Although the text of the book never mentions where at the shore it takes place, those familiar with LBI will recognize a few of the locations in the drawings. Maybe one or two of you even have a Black Whale T-shirt like Abby's Pop-Pop.
I plan to pass my copy along to the youngest Abby in our family. I'm sure she will enjoy reading it with her grandma. Jennifer has offered to send a book to one of my readers, but don't wait to see if you win the blog contest to buy the book. As I've said the proceeds go to a good cause. If you are lucky enough to win, you can always donate the extra copy to your local library or give it to a friend. To enter to win a copy of No Sand in the House!, simply comment on this post. I will close comments and randomly select a winner on July 1st.