In honor of my son, Jack’s seventeenth birthday and the approach of Hurricane season….
As summer rolls around most people think of mountain escapes, beach bumming, and barbecues. For us South Floridians, those thoughts turn to batteries, bottled water, and my favorite–canned culinary cuisine. In other words—“Hurricane Season.” From June until December, my pantry is stocked from floor to ceiling with foods I wouldn’t normally consider buying, much less eating. Vienna sausages, pork rinds, Spaghetti-O’s, and beef jerky become gourmet delicacies. And who could possibly live without that mouth-watering treat—Cheez Whiz in a can? I hate to say it, but once I nearly wrestled a little old lady to the ground for the last can of Spam on the shelf. It’s a time to rely upon your wits and survival skills, even if you’re only in the wilds of the canned meats and vegetables aisle at the grocery store.
When Jack was three he and I made the annual pilgrimage to my neighborhood grocery store, Publix, whose motto by the way is, “Where shopping is a pleasure.” Usually that’s true, but not when 10,000 others have the same idea. I decided that year things would go smoother if I tried to get into the spirit of things. After all, Hurricane Season, like the Holiday Season, comes every year—ready or not. Hmm. Maybe a few tunes would lighten the mood as I loaded my buggy and waited for another truckload of moon pies to show up. Funny thing about those childhood comfort foods and stressful hurricanes, it’s the only time you can convince yourself it’s totally okay to inhale cases of them even before the storm hits.
Down the aisles of the store I could be heard singing such hit tunes as, “Fill your cart with chocolate chip cookies fa la la la la la la la la.”
And who could possibly live without, “Chestnuts roasting on a propane fire, mosquitoes nipping at your nose…”
But my very favorite hit song would have to be The Twelve Days Of Hurricane Season.
“ … Six cans of bug spray, five jugs of water, four loaves of bread, three battery packs, two-oo bags of chips, and a big roll of toi-let pa-per.” With all this commotion and singing about hurricanes, it was inevitable that Jack would be curious.
“Hurricame?” he asked, confused.
“No, Pumpkin. Not hurricame. Hurricane,” I corrected. “It’s just a little storm, nothing to be worried about, but we want to be ready for it.”
He watched intently as I carefully stacked the groceries roof-high in my pantry. When Todd got home that night, I proudly showed him my “survival stash.”
“Is all of this for the three of us?” he asked, his eyes still traveling upwards calculating the bill.
“I just want to be ready if it comes our way. Besides, we can always share with the neighbors.” I laughed, slamming the pantry door shut and pressing up against it praying it would hold this time.
“Yes, those neighbors and the ones three states away,” he said, popping open a box of chocolate chip cookies.
I slept peacefully that night knowing I was ready for the “Big One.” Actually my entire block was ready for the “Big One” they just didn’t know it.
A couple of weeks later I noticed two things—hundreds of little black ants notorious for infiltrating many a Florida sugar bowl were taking up residence in my living room and toothbrushes were disappearing from my bathroom. You wouldn’t think the two were related, but then again you don’t Jack.
“Did you take my toothbrush?” I asked Todd one morning as I tore the bathroom apart.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” he said. “Looks like Jacks’ is missing too.”
Obviously Jack was taking them, as my puppy, Stella wasn’t tall enough to scale the vanity-yet, but we could never catch our little Houdini in the act. All in all I purchased nine toothbrushes that week alone.
As for the ant parade marching across my sofa, well, the jury was still out on that one.
“What in the world?” I exclaimed one afternoon when I discovered a trail of the tiny vermin making tracks across Todd’s chest as he dozed in his chair.
“Hey!” he yelled, as I doused him down from head to toe with a blast of Raid causing him to raise an awful fuss, and accusing me of trying to poison him.
“Are you serious? If I wanted to bump you off I’d slipped something into your coffee years ago,” I laughed, handing him his favorite cup of java as I searched for the source of my obvious insect infestation.
Being the “Commando Mom” I naively assumed I had the bug situation well in hand. Stupid me. When I spotted a few hundred tiny black feet blazing a trail into Jack’s plate of Cheerios where he sat happily engrossed in Barney and chomping away I came unglued.
“Oh my stars. Jack no!” I yelled plucking him up with an ant covered oat ring in his tiny hand in the nick of time.
There comes a time in every mother’s life when she has to admit defeat and call in the big guns. The exterminator.
“Hi, could you please send somebody down here right away! We are under siege down here in Boca by an army of killer ants and Paramount Studios has offered to shoot a horror flick right here in my living room,” I said, not missing a beat. Yes, I said under siege. Better bring some tear gas or a net! They overtaken my toddler’s morning snack, and just last week they tried to consume my husband in his Lazy-boy.”
The “bug” man came immediately. I was to discover exterminators are a serious lot when it comes to a full blown-infestation. I showed him the trail of ants that were now making a bee-line across the sofa pillows. With a magnifying glass all Sherlock Holmes-like, he traced them to my end table and up the cord into my huge, red, wicker lamp. Then to my surprise he picked it up shook it. I thought he was nuts. And then to my horror out came a plethora of goodies. The mother lode. Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, some small AAA batteries, Legos and nine toothbrushes.
“Here’s your problem,” my exterminator June, as in bug, said as he pointed to the pile. (And they say people aren’t born into their positions.)
I was embarrassed the “smorgasbord” that now sat scattered across my coffee table. That’s when I called Jack into the room.
“Why did you put all this stuff in Mama’s lamp?” I demanded.
He looked at me earnestly and said, “For when the hurricames.”
I couldn’t help laughing. Neither could Junebug.
“Looks like he made his own survival kit,” he chuckled complete with food and entertainment.
I’ll be damned. A real Hurricane Lamp. It was resourceful if you think about it. My son going green before it was even cool. After you finished eating your stash, you could brush your teeth afterward.
June laughed again, “First time in twenty-two years, I’ve ever exterminated a lamp.”
I used to shake that lamp out weekly and find a few surprises in it from time to time. I never minded. If we ever ran low on supplies in the pantry I knew we’d survive. We had an “official” hurricane lamp.
I’m happy to report Jack’s long given up stuffing treasures into my lamp. At 6’3” tall and two hundred pounds, these days he’s more interested in feeding his stomach. And as for my lamp, if you look really close you can still see a couple of those toothbrushes stuck inside which I have refused to remove by the way. Todd has offered to replace that lamp many times over as it has seen better days, but I’ll have nothing of it. Call me sentimental, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Until next time….see you in the Publix BOGO aisle. The Possum Queen.