Friday, Dec 09, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Storm proves worth of a good neighbor

Look at it this way. The freezer is clean. You don't have to wonder what's in the blue plastic container that's been on the shelf back in the corner for at least two years because you hate to throw anything out. The refrigerator now has a spotless interior and all the mystery bags and boxes are gone. The shelves are wiped clean and the crispers had baths in hot, sudsy water.

So you were going to put the little bit of beef gravy in a stew some day and use the good half of the lemon when you got around to making a pie. The bottled salad dressings that were almost gone anyway now are. Now the refrigerated cupboards are almost bare and we can begin to fill them up again, and this time we will keep them tidy without itsy bitsy leftovers.

It's almost thrilling to begin at square one with a clean refrigerator and freezer, though losing electric power to reach the goal is the pits.

Still, we may as well try to look on the bright side. Damaging winter storms are synonymous with Michigan and Ohio. This is when the old adage - Take it or leave it - aptly applies. As we know, a lot of people do leave it. When we travel to warmer climes, transplanted Midwesterners enjoy telling their stories of how they had had enough winter problems and moved to get away from it.

I had just returned from a leisurely walk on the beach on Amelia Island in northeast Florida when the telephone call came from home that there was no electricity, limbs were all over, including on the roof, some had broken lawn furniture, and there was water - about six inches of it - in the basement.

Southerners consider such reports as our punishment for living here. At least a couple of people asked what I expected when I told them I was on stand-by flights to get home ASAP because of storm damage.

I should have known there was no need to worry with Mr. Ed in the neighborhood. Therein lies a very bright side to the storm issue. Neighbors helping neighbors puts the sunshine in troubled times.

Mr. Ed is one of those rare men who can do anything around the house. He proved it last summer when his talents were used in everything from hanging cupboards and wallpapering to painting the dining room furniture red and cleaning the garage. The list continued right up until Christmas when I needed help fetching unwieldy boxes of decorations from the attic and putting lights on outdoor shrubs.

One of my smarter moves was to suggest that he might want to check the house while I was out of town. Otherwise I would have returned to a swimming pool instead of a basement and frozen pipes. To jump-start the sump pump to drain the basement Mr. Ed used several extension cords that would reach from my house to the neighbor's generator. He also persuaded the Kent County power crew working in the area to reattach the power lines to the house that were severed during the storm four days previous. The highest pile of limbs on the side lawn were once on the roof. Mr. Ed removed them. He moved the food from the freezer into a cooler and put it on the cold porch to save it.

As if that wasn't enough help, he returned today and cleaned up the mess from the flooded basement. When I told him I couldn't help because I had to write a column, he suggested, “Write about the storm.”

In a way, that's what I have been doing, Mr. Ed.

Happy Valentine's Day to a one-of-a-kind neighbor and to his wife, Mary, who always says when I call, “What's wrong now? No problem. I'll get him. Ed, it's Mary Alice.”

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at mpowell@theblade.com.

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