February 27, 2010. The local Holiday Inn has become our oasis. The sounds of ping pong and air hockey echo across the huge solarium, permeating a steady refrain of “Marco, Polo” coming from the pool. Sophie and Peter are in the hot tub but will join the splashing, screaming fiesta, red-faced, any minute. A snowstorm arrived Monday night and still clings stubbornly to the valley, the front refusing to yield to the tug of the ocean waters. Our power went out Tuesday and hasn’t been restored yet. Two nights of no electricity, water, heat, or flushing toilets were enough. We checked into the hotel with both dogs on Thursday afternoon and resumed flushing, showering, and tooth brushing with absolute abandon. Although the kids love the indoor pool and game room, the aftermath of this storm will take days if not weeks to melt off Peter’s precarious grip on reality and balance. Five days with no semblance of schedule, he’s talking to himself out loud, repeating nonsense words jumbled together in a foreboding litany of disorganized thought. “Five dimes make ice cream feel jet blue!” I ask him why he’s saying this and he replies, laughing, “Fun, I’m having.” But then he regroups, struggling to process his thoughts. “I don’t like dark, Mom. I don’t like dark. Don’t like it. I don’t like it, Mom.” And it’s true. Peter’s terrified of the dark, of the ordinary noises that with nightfall amplify and transform in his head into dangerous monsters and terrifying predicaments. During the two nights we spent at home without power, Peter obsessively flipped the light switches. He couldn’t remember or accept that darkness wasn’t a choice right then and that candles and flashlights were his only option. This experience, disruptive for everyone, devastates Peter. I’m ashamed I haven’t been more patient. After swimming, I watch as he flaps his hands and skips askew down the hall, startled, like a baby bird fallen from its nest, tumbling toward disaster. A woman stares unpleasantly as she passes, looking through me as if to ask what’s wrong with my sideways son. I bark at Peter to quit the gyrations and when he doesn’t, I catch up and grab him by the upper arm. “Stop it, now!” I hiss, shaking his wing, a little too roughly. “You’re embarrassing us.” He cowers and yells, “You stop it” and I endure an even nastier look from the woman, who has now stopped and turned her head in witness. He’s done gobs worse during the past five days but this semi-public display sets me off. “Come on, Pete,” Sophie urges. “Get it together.” She’s begun mimicking Pat’s and my approach to handling Peter, which can be good or bad, depending on how we’re modeling – or coping, on any given day. When Pat and I have our next private moment, whether later today or three days from now when our power hopefully is restored, he’ll reassure me that I didn’t do anything wrong. “You were exhausted,” he’ll say. “We both were. Give yourself a break.” We do this for each other, Pat and I, defending each other’s “Peter” mistakes and shoring up our fragile confidences; only occasionally do we interject a gentle reprimand, or even more rare, an outright criticism of the other’s handling of a situation. Our carefulness with each other is a large part of why I’m able to cope, to look forward to the next day, without constant emphasis on the potential difficulties. I haven’t told Pat what happened yet, but as we spill into the room, the dogs licking the water off the kids’ dripping legs, I smile at Pat, who’s reading a manuscript on one of the two double beds. I let him handle getting Sophie and Peter out of their swimsuits and escape into the bathroom. Three days into our holiday at the Holiday Inn, I’m no longer as cognizant of our temporary deprivations: rather than marveling over the miracle of working toilets, my thoughts turn to my husband as I flush. He is my joy, my center, my confessor, and counselor. Whether good, bad or mediocre, he’s why I’m the best mother I can be.