I went for my mother’s 87th birthday but stayed for the storm.

In October it seemed as if everyone on the Island was talking about the acorns. How in all their years they’d never seen so many. Night and day they hit the eaves and hoods of cars as though they had been fired, plinking on metal. When the occasional car drove in front of the Camp Ground cottage, the acorns crunched beneath the tires. Acorns rained on us. Then again, I’ve never been the Vineyard so late in the fall.

In the cottage, on the street where I’d first ridden my tricycle, I wondered how did my grandparents next door get replaced by their son, who’s 94? When did my parents move downstairs to take their places, occupying what we always called grandpa’s room (and my grandmother’s) on the first floor?

On the night of the storm I was upstairs, just below the 150-year-old roof that was not going to protect me from being crushed by 200-year-old trees.

The cottages were built to replace canvas tents, not to shelter humans for over a century. How have they survived? After that night of raging wind we crawled out of our sleepless beds on Oct. 27 to see what had survived the northeaster. Downstairs in her bed, beneath a leaky skylight put in by her father, my mother on her 87th birthday was beaming like a child on Christmas morning. She flipped back the covers. Child that I still am, I climbed in beside her.

My mother’s happiness is contagious that way. She cannot sleep when the forecast is for snow. She claims she cannot bear to miss the first snowflake.

My family is fortunate in that there is only garden and open space on one side of the cottage, along with massive oak trees. Closer to the Tabernacle, when someone cooks bacon, at least six cottages expect it on their plate. When Bob sneezes next door, we say bless you. Walking the Camp Ground at night, televisions and computer screens flicker through the church pane-shaped windows. Overhead the oaks rustle, and sometimes there’s the crack of limbs.

My mother disobeys the warnings about not driving during storms, but without power she can rightly claim she didn’t know to stay off the roads. She wants to see the water splash over the sea wall, the boats bobbing at the same level as the parking lot, whether the newspaper boat is going to try to get into Oak Bluffs harbor. She’s fearless.

The wind roared all night like a jet plane that couldn’t gain altitude. Tree leaves cast frantic shadows on the tin walls, until the flash that signaled the wires were finally down. Upstairs, closer to the trees already deemed dangerous, I thought of how I would never want to be on a boat at sea during a storm. It was the only time in 60 years I’ve ever been afraid in the cottage. But it didn’t occur to me go downstairs, to a couch farther from beneath the compromised giant oaks. I suppose, like my mother, I didn’t want to miss anything.

My mother was 87 that morning, but don’t picture her in black and white. My mother lives in color, eyes very blue above a mask that’s always political, lipstick (always pink) likely applied even before she had to go to see the downed trees, check on the older neighbors and poke beneath the branches to see if the Heavenly Blue vines were intact on the outdoor shower. The next-door neighbor’s car was invisible beneath the tree that was lying on it. It was hours before my mother came in long enough to make herself instant oatmeal, then she was off again to take photographs.

I don’t think there was anything my mother didn’t love about the storm, especially when there were no injuries reported, only damages. She mourned the clothesline more than the downed tree. It was an opportunity to burn the cardboard and shingles she could never discard in order to stoke a fire in the wood stove. She had her car for warmth and to charge her cell phone. We could boil water on the range and had hot water for the outdoor shower. My father simply parked his walker in front of the fire instead of the television.

We were flooded with memories: her childhood years without electricity, the time after Hurricane Bob when neighbors huddled. I think she loved that I was there to share it with her. I managed a cake, using a neighbor’s working oven. We had her birthday dinner by the light of many candles.

On the second day there was the constant roar of chainsaws and wood chippers as crews worked first to clear the roads. Throughout Oak Bluffs, broken trees littered the parks, snapped and hollow like papier maché piñatas.

Just before the power came back, I heard the crew whoop at 5 a.m. from a pole on Dukes County avenue. The daylight seemed suddenly harsh. The kitchen had a morning-after look, the party long over. My mother plodded through the kitchen in striped pajama bottoms and a T-shirt, her morning knees still stiff, talking as she brushed her teeth. I felt impatient suddenly, daunted by the melted ice puddling from the cooler bags, the spattered stove, but mostly by the evidence of my mother aging. I hoped I wouldn’t remember these moments. It hit me as I started to fill the kettle: I’m already missing what I think I won’t miss.

With the return of power came the endless television, access to Internet, a plane ticket back to Seattle.

“I wish you weren’t leaving,” my mother said.

Packing, I realized I was the only one who had been upstairs during this stay. My father hasn’t been upstairs since his stroke 10 years ago. My mother avoids it because of her knees. There was no breeze to rustle the remaining leaves and not a single acorn left to drop after the storm. The quiet seemed ominous.

“I’ll miss you,” my mother said as I loaded my bags. She limped her way from the Stop & Shop parking lot all the way down the ferry dock. She said she probably wouldn’t stay until the boat left, but once I was up on the deck she never did walk away. In fact she waved and waved until the ferry made its turn into open water. As we docked, I got a text from my mother. The Steamship Authority worker near her had said, “Don’t worry. You always keep her in your heart.”

In my pocket I caressed one last acorn.

Peggy Sturdivant’s family has owned a Camp Ground cottage since 1962. She lives in Seattle.