When I Said Blizzard, I Meant Dairy Queen

Image from SXC

There is something kind of surreal about driving into a snow storm. It’s beautiful and engaging. The speedometer says you are moving but it feels like the car is standing still, like you’re sitting in an IMAX movie theater watching 3-D  wind and huge flakes of snow pelting your windshield. You can’t see past the faint illumination of ice-covered headlights, a warm glow glistening with white flurries. There are no lines on the road, only occasional and sparsely spaced tire tracks digging deep ruts. It’s as if you are the first car to ever travel along this highway. The heavily snow laden and frozen windshield wipers click, click, clack against the glass like a metronome, numbing your mind, and clearing small patches of visibility so you can watch the rear lights of the car in front of you. Their red glow in the night your only guide. Then the white knuckle, muscle aching grip on the steering wheel reminds you that you are really driving home in the middle of this storm with your 12 year daughter in the back seat. The silence broken only by the occasional deep breath as you pray that the car in front of you doesn’t slam on their brakes or decide to take the next exit and you lose your guide.

When I left home Sunday afternoon the sky was grey but clear. The drive to the airport to drop off my baby brother and his wife was swift and ice-free. It had been rumored that a snow storm was coming about mid-day, but there had been no signs indicating its arrival. I anticipated a light snow and possibly some sleet. It was unfortunate that I had to take them to the airport so early, but I had a concert to perform. Luckily, I got a text minutes before reaching the auditorium that they were able to catch an earlier flight and would be heading home soon. That was a relief since just as I approached Ann Arbor the snow had started. The roads were already getting slick and traffic had slowed down. Surely by the time our concert was over everything would be salted and cleared.

Three hours later, The Tortoise and I were scurrying to the snow-covered car. I didn’t think to bring my snow boots and was carefully trodding through the deep snow in dress shoes and stockings. My feet were wet and numb instantly. The Tortoise graciously offered to remove all the snow and ice from the windows as I warmed up the car. She worked swiftly from window to window, brushing and scraping, her cheeks turning bright pink. I realized about half-way around the car that she didn’t have any gloves and tried to hand her mine, but she didn’t hear me and in the process I only managed to dump a roof’s worth of snow into the driver’s seat and floorboard. Now my lap was wet. My phone rang.

“Have you left yet?” asked DW’s concerned voice.

He was on his way back from Kalamazoo (a two-hour drive from our house) with The Hare. She had a gymnastics meet that same day, so we were split up.

“No, heading out now. How are the roads?”

“The roads are manageable, but be careful of the drivers. There’s a lot of people in ditches because they are being careless.”

The Tortoise and I gingerly hit the road. The snow was falling lightly but the accumulation was great. Unfortunately it had rained first and ice lay hidden under the snow. As we approached the highway, there was a long line of red tail lights slithering inch by inch. Slow but steady. The first 15 minutes were tiresome, but simple, but about half-way out-of-town as we traveled more north the snow picked up and the wind blew across the car in sideways gusts, greatly reducing our visibility. I could barely see the cars around me or where the edge of the road met the embankments. But as long as the headlights and windshield wipers remained ice-free I felt confident that we could safely make our way home. What other choice did I really have anyway? DW wasn’t home either.

Forty-five minutes later I had to turn off the radio. My stomach was in knots as waves of nausea rippled through my body and my hands ached from gripping the steering wheel. The Tortoise had been silent for miles.

“You doing okay back there?” I tried my best to sound confident.

No answer.

“We’re almost home, I promise.”

“Mmm Hmm”

Actually, we weren’t anywhere close to home. Or maybe we were, but there was no way to tell because at this point all visibility was gone. The cars had become one single line to avoid slipping into the ditches. We inched along at about 15 miles an hour. Ice had started forming on my windshield wipers and only about the lower half of my windshield was clear. The shortened length of light in front of the car suggested that there was also ice on my headlights now. But there was no way to stop. I couldn’t see the edge of the road or any upcoming exits. We just had to keep trucking along. My thoughts continually thought  about The Hare and DW. How far from home were they? If we ended up in a ditch how would we get out? I’m not in regular communion with God. I respect that He is present in all things, but over the last few years I’ve sort of just taken a break from all things religious. My heart acknowledges that there is definitely something greater than myself out there, and I believe in God. I have faith that Jesus exists, but beyond that, it is all just a mystery that I’m okay with not having the answers.

In that moment, with the sound of my wipers clanking against the glass and my tires pushing through the slush, I had but one thing to say to Him,

“Just get us home, please.”

Suddenly my phone rang, breaking the silence. The hands free system picked up and the car was filled with DW’s deep voice.

“We made it to town and are having sushi. Do you want me to bring you home some food?”

Food? Not exactly what I was thinking about in the middle of this frozen journey, but hearing my husband over the speakers made me melt.

“I can’t talk to you right now,” I snapped.

There was a short pause.

“You’re almost home. I’m right behind you.”

And that was all I needed, some assurance that this would almost be over. The minute we pulled into the neighborhood all visibility was gone. We couldn’t see past the edge of our own light. There are no lights in the neighborhood either, so I had to go by memory of each curve of the streets. We bumped a couple of curbs and barely missed a few mailboxes. Suddenly the glow of our front porch light came into view. Our driveway was right in front of us.

The Tortoise quickly got out of the car as soon as we parked in the garage.

“I’ll go let the dog out,” she said, “and I’ll give you a hug when you’re inside.”

Tears streamed down my face as soon as I was alone. My fingers throbbed and flexed to release the tension. In the dark I said “thank you”.

DW brought me sushi.

*My brother and his wife didn’t make it out until this morning either. They had to stay the night at an airport hotel. Everything was shut down. Needless to say, this is definitely a pajama day.

Not Waiting For Spring

My backyard this morning

We knew before dinner that school was going to be closed today. The girls did a happy dance around the house, skipping and hopping in delight.

“MOVIE NIGHT!” they both shrieked at the top of their lungs.

My head started to pound as I poured another glass of wine. Pork chops were sizzling in a pan, pasta gurgled in a pot waiting to be mac and cheese. The steamer lid sputtered and popped letting wafts of asparagus scented steam escape. The girls continued to run rampant through the house.

“We’re gonna have a snow day…we’re gonna have a snow day!” they both sang over and over and over.

“When is DW getting home?” I whined to myself.

The butter in my little sauce pan was melted and ready for the next step to make hollandaise sauce. Nothing fancy, just a packet of McCormick. I grabbed the white envelope I saw out of the corner of my eye, ripped open the top and poured the contents into the bubbling pot. Immediately, I knew it was the wrong color. I had inadvertently grabbed the cheese packet for the mac and cheese and not the hollandaise sauce.

“SHIT!” I blurted out.

The girls stopped singing and dancing. It was silent for a second. Then The Hare started to giggle a little.

“Do you need a time out mom?” she asked.

“NO!” I snorted, then took a deep breath, “I NEED A HUGE HUG FROM YOU TWO CRAZIES!”

They both started laughing, rushing over, holding arms wide-open, and smothered me with hugs and kisses. The Tortoise quickly grabbed another box of mac and cheese, pulled out the cheese packet and handed it to me. The Hare grabbed a ziplock bag to store the unused pasta. ( Apparently I must have made this mistake before because they were well versed.) Then the Hare grabbed another stick of butter for the sauce.

“No problem, mom” she said, “We’ve gotcha covered.”

Our covered front porch with snow drifts

We ended up having a very nice dinner. DW came in just as everything was being set on the table. After dinner we all snuggled on the couch in our pajamas watching Hook and eating popcorn. It was late by the time the movie was over and everyone had settled in to their beds. By now the blizzard had been brewing for a few hours. Winds howled through our trees, shoving and pushing their limbs. They danced frantically above our yard. Windows rattled and walls creaked. Kisses goodnight were warm on everyone’s cold cheeks.

Only a few minutes after The Hare had been tucked in, the pitter-patter of her feet across the hall landed swiftly in my doorway. She was crying.

“What if the wind pushes all those trees into my room?” she panted, “What if the walls come crashing down?”

I pulled back the covers, “Then I’ve gotcha’ covered little one.”

The Hare gratefully lunged into the bed, buried herself between DW and myself, displacing Luna puppy.

“Is she sleeping in here all night?” DW asked surprised.

It has been a while since we’ve had a kid in our bed. Suddenly this  50 lb, almost 9-year-old body made the queen size bed feel very small and confining, especially when you add a pacing dog in the mix. Luna was obviously anxious and frustrated that The Hare had taken her spot next to me. She paced across all of our bodies, pouting and snorting her disgust. Finally she settled for a spot at the foot of the bed by my feet and gave one last huff.

“Yes – I think she will just sleep here all night.”

The four of us easily fit together at first, our breathing rising and falling at similar paces. But by 4am I was wide awake. The Hare’s sweaty head was pressed up against my face, stealing most of my pillow. Her feet appeared to be pressing in to DW’s back. Buried into my side, sandwiched between me and The Hare, was Luna puppy. She had obviously decided she couldn’t stand sleeping that far away from me and covertly made her way up towards the top of the bed.

I slipped out of bed. As I headed to the bathroom I realized how quiet the house sounded now. A quick peek out the window showed layers and layers of soft snow. The trees no longer were in a panic and held their white limbs proudly.

The stillness was beautiful.

Could you imagine that falling on you?

When I got back to bed, I couldn’t help but just stare at The Hare, DW and Luna puppy sleeping. Their stillness was beautiful too. Sometimes this season of my life feels like winter all the time. Hormones and girl drama fly at me in blizzard like fury. The schedule is packed tight and DW’s work requires a lot of single parenting at the peak of the day. Sometimes I wish for the spring to come, when the girls can take care of themselves more efficiently. When they need me less. But standing there, looking at The Hare, I shuddered at that thought. I really don’t ever want her or The Tortoise to need me less. Why in the world would I be anxiously waiting for them to blossom into women? That would just make them one step closer to leaving the nest.

No, I am not waiting for the spring. I am quite content to enjoy the snow days.