Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Call Security

As another storm churned its way through the Gulf, determined to pick up speed and make landfall in yet more evacuated parishes along our coastline, I couldn’t decide between lasagna and homemade mac and cheese. Shoppers swirling around me were loaded up with water and batteries. Had this been another year, another time, I would’ve noted their frantic faces, their looks of determination and fear. Now, their mugs were mainly hidden by masks and their eyes showed nothing but resolution. This is 2020. We’ve been freed of shock and surprise. Our expectations aren’t doused. This storm isn’t shaking our weekend plans—there are no weekend plans. We’ve been beaten down to expect the worst.

I stood on Aisle 8 and scrolled through my phone for favorite comfort foods. After noting Brunswick Stew (kids won’t eat it) and Shepherd’s Pie (same), I decided to stay regional and simply make a gumbo. Best not to introduce comfort foods of different areas of the country during a time of crisis and downed power lines. This hurricane season is personal, this epidemic is personal, this social distancing and economic downfall and I-can’t-get-a-to-go-drink-in-New-Orleans crud is personal, and nothing less than a homemade gumbo is going to comfort my people.

That’s when I remembered my weighted blanket.

Tucked into the bottom of my linen closet, heavy and forgotten due to lack of use, the blanket waited. A comforter with tiny pellets woven throughout makes you feel like you are resting beneath a cozy cocoon. Its evenly distributed pressure claimed to alleviate everything from anxiety to insomnia. It feels like a big hug. In short, it makes you feel secure.

My grandmother was a on a knitting spree when one of my sons was born, and she crocheted a blanket for the baby that he slept with well until he was into double digits. By that time, it was nothing but a scrap of itself, but when I woke him for school, that security blanket piece would be covering his face. There is something about being covered in love and familiarity that makes us feel secure.

“Does he have a thunder jacket?” a friend asked, as I recounted a while back how my yellow lab had a panic attack during one of our many storms. No clue what she was talking about, but a quick online search revealed that this weighted coat can be wrapped around the dog to offer gentle, constant pressure to relieve anxiety. Seriously, 2020? Every last one of us needs a stress reliever?

But now was no time to ask meaningless questions in the year of our Lord. It was time to gas up the car in case we evacuated, batten down the hatches, and dig up that heavy weighted blanket for security measures. Strap the thunder jacket on the dog, clear the downstairs closet for possible tornado staging, look up online classes for kids and see what is due this week, and coordinate pickup for the one child still in everyday school because bus service has been canceled. Make sure the grill has propane if the power goes out, and pour a drink I’ve concocted myself because the bars have been closed so long, I feel like we are in Prohibition.

It’s been a long, strange trip, 2020, but we are used to being put through the wringer down here in Louisiana. We know how to rally, how to prepare, how to hunker down. And when we eat our feelings, we do so with the most outstanding regional food in the nation. When we emerge from this mess, we will be stronger—if that is possible.

Until then, I wrapped the heavy blanket around my shoulders and snuggled down on the sofa with a bowl full of piping hot gumbo and waited for the wind and rain. Nothing. And we never lost power. The dog lumbered over and I petted the portion of his fur not covered in the weighted coat. Better safe than sorry, of course. An unfazed kid sauntered in.

“Can I have two friends spend the night since school is canceled tomorrow?” I glanced outside at the bluebird day.

Might try that Brunswick Stew after all.