Blizzard

Blizzard Warning. That’s what the television was saying. My husband, Mike, and I both agreed that we don’t remember, in our average lifetime of 40 years, ever hearing of a blizzard warning. Even so, just the prospect of a blizzard seems to bring on visions of hot chocolate and homemade cookies, pots of chili or goulash and gathering in the kitchen.
When a blizzard hits, people are forced to stay home, be together, let go of all obligations and duties and just be. A wise man once told me that natural disasters happen as God’s way of bringing people together. I like that idea. And I have thought of it each time in the spring when the winds would bend the trees in reverent bows to the forces, and I would drag my adventurous teens to the safety of the basement. As we sat there together, the threat of the top of our shelter being lifted off like in the Wizard of Oz, we talked, played cards and listened to the radio. One time, my parents, so brave and faithful, gave in to the threat and joined us. As we sat in the basement, waiting for the storm to pass, the torrents of rain decided to join us as the water backed up from the drain in the floor. As the water rose higher, we were forced even closer together and closer to the threat above. Yet we weren’t really scared. Joining together gave us the strength to have faith that all was going to be all right and to even see the humor in it.
In 1978, I was a sophomore in high school, and my best friend was Robin Johnson. Her father was in the hospital an hour’s drive away. He was dying of Hodgekins Disease. A lady from Robin’s southern baptist church was coming to take us to visit him. I was raised Catholic, so when this woman arrived, I assumed she was a good friend of the family. I didn’t realize at the time that some churches just visit other people from their church, even if they aren’t close or good friends. As it goes with most teenage girls, I didn’t really care who she was or even what the circumstances were. I just liked being with my friend. But little did any of us know that a blizzard was on its way, and then reaked its havoc as we sat in the shelter of the hospital. Robin and I, it seemed at the time, were oblivious to the sadness inside or the worsening weather outside.
The church lady that drove us there finally came into the waiting room where Robin and I were talking and told us we needed to get going. We piled into her car; none of us had snowboots or hats, just winter coats.
The drive home was the longest drive I have ever experienced in my life. What normally took 30 minutes to drive, took 2 hours. That was just the halfway point, where we stopped at a restaurant to buy the church lady some coffee and to go to the bathroom. The manager there let us use the phone, so I was able to let my mother know that at the moment I was alive, but only halfway home. It was also where we got stuck in the snow. Robin and I, in our Levi “barn butt” jeans and Nike Cortes tennis shoes, got out and pushed the car out while a county brownie looked on. I resented his lack of chivalry then, as well as now. Didn’t he know that blizzards were made to bring people together?
Robin went to sleep for the rest of the drive, but as the snow fell in a mesmerizing blur in front of our creeping vehicle, I knew I could not go to sleep and leave this woman to forge on alone. We did not speak, but I kept a silent vigil from the backseat.
We arrived at the woman’s house four hours after our departure from the hospital. I called my mother, who, only now, admits she was beside herself with worry. Those were the days of no cell phones and no weather or road reports of any worth. It was all after the fact.
As much as I wanted to go home, the church lady was exhausted and was not about to venture outside the city limits to my house on a country road. She threw two bologna sandwiches, dry – no mayo, on white bread at Robin and me, pointed to her daughter’s youth bed, and told us to just sleep there. The sandwich was as good as a steak dinner, as Robin and I had not eaten since lunch at school that day, but the resentment with which it was served tainted it. It seemed the woman was angry with us.
Robin and I made our way to the tiny bed. We’d slept together many times in my full size bed or hers, so the physical closeness was a comfortable familiarity to us. But the bed was larger than a crib and smaller than a twin, and our two 125 pound bodies tossed about under the tiny cover, as we spent the night shivering.
Four wheel drive vehicles were not very prominent in the seventies; I don’t think SUVs were even thought of yet. So in the morning, my mother hired the neighbor, who was one of the rare people who owned a four wheel drive truck, to come into town and retrieve us. I didn’t really know our neighbor, but he was a large burly man with a full face of whiskers. Climbing into his big truck felt like something that in every day circumstances I would have been warned against. But he delivered us unharmed, along with a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.
Mom had made macaroni and cheese for lunch. My family was gathered around our large kitchen table, and I felt like the prodigal daughter, for we were greeted as I had never been greeted before. We ate macaroni and cheese in large gulps till our bellies bulged.
I didn’t realize till I was a parent myself the anguish my mother went through that night.
Blizzards also remind me of being snowed in at my sister’s house down a long lane out in the country. It was something we wished for. To have a reason to stay home, stay in, build a fire and make cookies and sew or watch movies. Seeing the blizzard warning on TV, I had to wonder how many people would greet this excuse to drop everything and embrace their blessings and loved ones, or if they would grumble and find themselves pacing the floors having been taken out of their robotic routines.
Well, you know what I’m doing. Sitting here doing what I love, writing. My husband has already been to town and back to get the materials he needs to continue working in his workshop. My youngest son and I have already sat and chatted over egg sandwiches, while the washer hummed in the background. I do wonder how he will fare, being such an outdoor guy. I told him he was blessed not to have school, but the catch was that he was stuck in the house. He laughed in agreement. For now, he is waiting “patiently” for the computer.
I like blizzards. There’s a wonder about them, and I like being home with nowhere to go. My son’s friend called him this morning from vacation in Florida. I don’t envy him. And I think that secretly he is regretting the timing of their vacation, because they are missing this adventure.

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