Bump in the night - and the day letter from this old house
Photo: Michael Lewis
Scared at home This Old House editor Scott Omelianuk, shown preparing for his annual Hoboken Saw-it-all Pumpkin Massacre, these days fears rain and rumbles more than ghosts and goblins.
October 2011

When I was a kid we used to like being scared. I don't mean "Oh, no, Great Aunt Dora is coming for a visit and she's going to try and kiss us with her stubbly mustache lip" scared.

I mean more like Ouija board scared. Ghost stories with the lights out scared. Dare you to say "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary" scared.

Hope you weren't standing in front of a mirror when you read that last one.

Anyway, it was fun to flirt with the supernatural; to go out on Halloween and challenge each other to lie down at a graveyard tombstone; to creep up on old Mrs. Jackson's porch late at night to see if she really was a witch. It was fun because we always knew there was a safe place to run to. We always knew we could go home.

And though I still love Halloween, now, in my own home, I don't feel nearly as safe as I did when I was a kid.

It's not Aunt Dora—she's long gone. I guess some of the feeling is from the economy, and the worry it births about always being able to pay the mortgage. The earthquake that's not supposed to happen where we live but happened anyway didn't help my state of mind either. The biggest part of it, though, has to have been the hurricane, Irene, that also isn't supposed to happen where I live, but left half my neighborhood awash in floodwater.

In the hours before Irene came ashore, my house, the safe place I tried to create for my family, suddenly needed its own protection. We boarded our windows and sandbagged our doors, and still we were asked to evacuate. That night, with winds howling and rain beating down—that night when we needed it most—we couldn't go home.

In the end, my house fared okay. The storm did its worst damage elsewhere. And as Irene moved on and we returned, I felt lucky. Lucky but not relieved. Not relieved for the people whose homes were damaged. And not relieved because I might not be so lucky next time.

Which leaves me wondering. Surely many TOH readers have been affected by natural disasters, if not Irene herself. So how about you? How do you deal with the realization that having a home— keeping this sanctuary and refuge that you pour so much time and effort and love into—might not be your choice but Mother Nature's? If you have a thought and some time, please drop me a note. I'd like to share what you think with the rest of the TOH readers.
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