No power? No problem for parents

Parents of young children have had their work cut out for them this month. Between ongoing power outages and an unexpected, extended winter vacation from school, they’ve had to rely on resources reminiscent of their pioneer forebears.

But for many, living in the dark has been an enlightening experience.

“It gets a little hard at times,” said Amherst resident Christine Torres, who was doing laundry at the Soaprize laundry in Milford with her 8-year-old son, Jordan, last week. “But we’re thankful for what we have. Other people have been in the shelter and we’re in our house.”

Amherst resident Julie Rafuse and her daughter, Juliette, 5, were enjoying a mid-afternoon treat at the McDonald’s in Milford, an excursion close to home meant to break up the day.

“We’re getting out of the house,” Rafuse said while her daughter nibbled on a french fry.

The mother said her family has had power since Tuesday.

By contrast, she said, a neighbor with three children was still without power, and staying at a hotel in Massachusetts.

“You just want to be home in your house,” Rafuse said, reflecting on her neighbor’s predicament.

Many said the loss of electricity has fostered or invigorated relationships, offering families and their neighbors a chance to help each other and contribute to a common cause.

“I sent them out to collect kindling and sticks,” said Hollis resident Roberta Franzini. “They didn’t sit around. They went out and did chores.”

Franzini said the abrupt halt to life as usual has prompted her to reconsider what is most important to her family’s happiness.

“We’re making the best of it, re-evaluating everything we do at this time of year,” she said. “We’re asking, ‘What really matters and what do we need to make it happen?’ ”

Then she answered her own question: “It’s being together, being healthy, being warm . . . An ordinary occasion is turning out to be a treat.”

Franzini, who brought her children, Nicholas, 9, and Renee, 7, to the Amherst Wal-Mart on Thursday afternoon, wasn’t alone.

Across the Souhegan Valley, parents, grandparents and older siblings said the extended power outage has changed the way they look at life.

“I’ve told the kids to be thankful for what we have,” said Linda Scripter, a Greenville grandmother who was doing laundry at the Soaprize in Milford, four cherished grandchildren in tow. “There are so many people a lot worse off than we are.”

Scripter’s grandchildren, who live in Greenfield, had been staying with her since the storm knocked out power across the region. Her daughter, and the children’s mother, Debbie Zwicker, met them at the laundry.

Scripter has been sharing a generator with a friend, trading it back and forth.

“We’ve played cards by candlelight. We sit around the table and talk as a family, which is awesome,” Scripter said. “I hope more people can do this.”

While the dryers spun and whirred nearby, the grandmother and her grandchildren, Kaitlyn 3, Kelly, 5, Kristin, 13, and Brandon, 15, huddled together on either side of a booth where they could eat lunch or fold laundry.

“It’s very challenging. I’m doing laundry to keep them in clean clothes,” Scripter said, adding that she’s cobbled together meals at home and taken the children out for fast food since the power went out.

Lyndeborough resident Amy Chase and her 3-year-old twins, Emma and Lily, were keeping warm inside Soaprize while their clothes completed a cycle in a dryer.

“They’ve been going a little stir crazy,” Chase said, adding that her children weren’t the only ones running out of patience. “I’m out of every dish in the house, and there’s no water.”

Like other families, however, Chase found something to appreciate, in spite of the difficulties: The family has a wood stove that has kept them warm and provided hot water during the past week.

“Yesterday, they played in the snow and I boiled water on the stove to do dishes,” Chase said. “It’s warm in the house with the stove.”

Merrimack resident Suzanne Coady, the mother of three boys, 7, 11, and 14, was loading her vehicle with bags of Christmas gifts, the result of a one-stop shopping spree at an Amherst retail store.

“Today was the first day. Thank God, they’re back in school,” Coady said, explaining that she had been waiting to do her Christmas shopping.

Coady that earlier in the week, she and her children walked inside a mall “with fifty thousand other people” to stay warm.

At the Merrimack retail store where she works, Coady said she had waited on customers who spent two hours in line to buy generators.

Many told her that after spending close to a thousand dollars for the back-up power source, they would be unable to buy holiday gifts.

Coady realized that she was in better shape.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have to go out again,” she said, adding that she and her husband agreed to buy gifts only for the children.

“It’s all for the kids. We can wait,” she said.

When she considered the past several days, Scripter, the Greenville grandmother, said that what stood out were the pleasures of making do: playing cards by candlelight, preparing a turkey in her Fryolator, snuggling up in winter coats and hats in the booth at Laundromat and sitting quietly as the dryers droned.

“They say we won’t have power until after New Year’s,” Scripter said, without a trace of bitterness. “I’ve told the kids, “Be thankful for what we have, not for what we don’t have.”