When Hurricane Sandy crashed into Evette Ríos’ parents’ home, everything was destroyed. For the next few days, her family channeled all of their energy into saving their old photos. Here are her best tricks to rescue and restore photos, in case yours ever fall victim to water.
- Photos separate best when wet, so before they dry, pull them apart slowly and carefully.
- Don’t let them dry faster than you can separate them: Put them into freezer bags, with some air space so the bag doesn’t make contact with the pictures, and freeze them. Defrost once you’re ready to continue separating.
- For the shots you can’t get to before they dry, dampening and warming them with a blow-dryer on medium is a decent emergency measure.
- To prevent future picture panic, invest in a photo and negative scanner (we found a $150 one online). Four thousand images later, we have a digital photo vault. And now we know exactly how much that means.
…Is what my mom said when Patty Smyth—the singer/songwriter aptly known for “Goodbye to You”—attempted to repo our stove.
You see, the coastal Brooklyn house my mom bought in 1976 had long been a second home to Patty, whose stepmother, Cookie, had grown up there. The stove that came with the place was indeed a beauty: the same vintage Chambers model Rach used to have on her set, except ours was powder blue, not yellow.
Every once in a while Patty would swing by the house to see how the stove was doing. Well, to say hi to the family, too, but mostly to make sure her cherished heirloom was still around.
Once, when I was in college, my mom called me and said, “John is here and wants the stove.”
Me: “John who?”
Mom: “Johnny Mac.”
Mom: “Yeah—and I told him over my dead body.”
Yes, she summarily shot down the era’s most famous tennis player—who also happened to be Patty’s husband.
My mother loved that stove. Never mind that we had to light the burners with a match. Or that the oven wasn’t spacious enough to hold a decent turkey (sort of crucial when you host Thanksgiving every year). Or that the merest breeze would kill the pilot light along with the burners, and we’d have to wait at least 30 minutes before turning the gas back on—or risk getting blown off our feet by a gas surge (believe me, I know from personal experience).
Despite all the stove’s shortcomings, her love for it was unflinching, no matter how much her culinary-minded children pleaded for an upgrade. After all, this stove had been her trusty sidekick throughout her adult life. Those burners heated the first meal she made as a homeowner—and the water for my first bottle. That oven helped us celebrate every conceivable family milestone—and achievement, big or small.
But after this 36-year love affair, everything changed in an instant: The night Sandy hit, five feet of water swallowed the stove whole.
You know the rest of this story by now—about the devastation and loss that reached far and wide. And while the household essentials were comparatively minor casualties, my mother couldn’t bear to part with the stove. She often said it had a soul; the prospect of discarding such a beloved being broke her heart.
Now, even after her herculean mold-, rust-, grime- and debris-removal efforts, the poor thing is still “resting” outside while we search for ever more advanced resurrection methods.
In its place sits a shiny new oven big enough to hold a 40-pound turkey—much to her children’s delight. But somehow, mom hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that knobs alone can fire up burners. No matches required.
Patty did stop by the house after Sandy to make sure we were okay. And of course, to check on the Chambers. She was saddened by its streaks and corroded innards, but relieved it was still there.
I’ve urged my mother to pay it…backward and relinquish the stove to Patty. And you know what? Mom’s almost there. But I have a feeling that “almost” could last for a while.
Written by Chris Jette, Meredith senior marketing manager
Marge Perry, blogger of A Sweet and Savory Life, has joined forces with Every Day with Rachael Ray and Meredith to spread the word about our work with the amazing organization Rebuilding Together. On June 6th we’ll visit Gerritsen Beach to spend the day giving back to those who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy–be that painting, assembling furniture or planting flowers. Learn more about this national not-for-profit group here and read on to learn more about our exciting project.
By: Marge Perry of A Sweet and Savory Life
It is eight months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the seashore town of Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, New York. She took the town’s sheltered innocence, their floorboards and sometimes their livelihoods; she stole baby pictures, marriage certificates, cars and precious little somethings—and she sent kitchen parts, like limbs of the homes to which they belonged, soaring down rushing rivers of debris where once there were streets.
Gerritsen Beach, courtesy of WeRebuild.com
Eight months is a long time to be living and reliving the night you are trapped in your home with no phone or lights or cell service, as the waters rage outside and begin to fill your first floor. Eight months is a long time to remember the fear as you make your way upstairs, worrying about your grown children and their children, and the neighbors, and you and your husband; worrying because you never learned to swim, and water was filling your home, higher and higher, destroying 40 years of possessions, both precious and not.
Finally, after watching out the little window upstairs as the neighbor’s home seems swallowed up by the rising water, you lay your weary body on the bed, wondering if you will be engulfed in your sleep.
Sometimes now—and not because you are older and having senior moments—no, this is something very different from that—sometimes you can’t remember your son’s birthday or how old he is, and you know—you even say it right out loud—you just can’t think right yet. The first floor of your house is a jumble of salvaged possessions, a new couch, raw floorboards and barren walls. The home you kept so nice for all these years is reduced to unfinished wood; a flimsy barrier against the elements. Your son worries there might be critters scurrying beneath you, and there was that mold at first that made you all sick. At least the bathroom finally works okay, and you went out and got a range and new sink so you can cook up a hot meal, but certainly nothing fancy. Maybe someday if you ever have a kitchen back, maybe then you’ll bake up a batch of your ginger-molasses cookies. When was the last time you even had a taste of your beloved molasses? Well, no point thinking about that.
For now, you, with your one blind eye, and your husband, who can no longer climb up on ladders and stools to fix things…well, you are doing what you can, bit by bit. But it’s been eight months, and it seems like it may not ever get much better than this.