It’s Saturday morning and it’s snowing. Three deer are in my yard trying to eat a couple of bushes that are still visible-they got in the backyard because we left the gate open to let the dog out the basement exit because he can’t go down the icy steps. The fence belonging to the gate is teetering under a six foot mound created by the plow guy, and the playroom downstairs took on water from the brief thaw causing the carpet to lurch up like a hunchback because of warped floor boards. So much for feeling safely ensconced in your own private Idaho.
But who can complain when 900 cars are abandoned on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive this week after a powerful storm swept through the Midwest from northern Wisconsin all the way down to Houston?
Forget about the 6,000 flights being canceled and hanging at the airport. Try sitting in your vehicle for 12 to 13 hours with 70 mile an hour winds blowing your little metal toy car around. One of the daring souls that tried to make it on foot was swept away into the lake and drowned; others huddled in abandoned city buses waiting for emergency vehicles that never came.
I had just left Chicago and missed this disaster which closed schools for two days, something that hadn’t happened there in12 years. That hasn’t happened here in 12 minutes.
Home schooling can be a virtuous goal, but we don’t pay the kind of taxes we do so I can pursue it. Gone are the cozy, pajama wearing smug good-mommy moments of watching yet another movie with the kids and cheering ‘snow day’. Snowball fights have turned aggressive along with intermittently begging and insisting my babysitter drive on 1-95 to get here at any cost.
Blizzards do create memories, although when they involve small children in tight spaces their value is debatable. Random romance tends to be more interesting.
In 1979 the mayor of Chicago lost his job due to his poor response to snow removal, sort of like the flack Bloomberg is taking for hanging out in Bermuda except mayor Balladic wasn’t rich or particularly powerful. But in ’79 I wasn’t interested in politics; I was interested in Fred Albrecht who was the friend of a friend’s older brother. It was the first mustache I ever kissed in a snow bank. I never saw Fred again. Blinding snow allows for a kind of life is fleeting thing, even if you are 18.
About ten years later there was another blizzard and my usual 20 minute commute down Michigan Avenue took me 5 hours. After waiting for a bus for a couple of hours I got on one that was going maybe halfway to my apartment. When I got off at a main intersection in heels, the sweeping wind drove me into slow moving cars and I was holding on to them as a guide. At one point I took my shoes off because I couldn’t keep them on. A car door opened when I was maybe a mile from my street and someone pulled me to the back seat, cradling my head in their chest and rubbing my back. Normally this would have been frightening. The driver’s mother I learned was cradling me-yet another bewildering fact of bearing children where suddenly you can’t stand to see one of them on the verge of extinction.
When I walked in the lobby a guy I had just started dating was waiting for me, for 5 hours. I learned much later that his patience also applied to things like his own employment and bachelorhood.
I was reminded of this storm by e-mail from my boss at the time that now lives in London and fell last month on a patch of ice, shattering her shoulder. She said the worst thing about it was having to cut off her hair, her husband having grown tired of putting it in a ponytail since my friend was only functioning with one arm.
This winter has been a series of recorded calls at 5:45 from the Rye Neck School system, officially announcing a delayed opening or a noon pick up or no school at all. The calls come just early enough that you wouldn’t be getting up, but just late enough to not go back to sleep. Even my 4th grader Max is tired of the messed up routine, knowing that not every snow day is also a sledding, snow sculpture extravaganza, although we did manage to take a walk in the Marshland Nature Conservancy last week, forging our own paths. I regaled him with stories of Laura Ingalls who fought bravely with her Pa and Ma to survive life on the prairie. None of the ‘wolves at the door’ anecdotes scared him as much as knowing that for Christmas one year, the only things Laura and her siblings got were an orange and a shiny penny.
Yesterday his school, Bellows, held a Heritage Feast luncheon that was the climax of a month long hair pulling project of tracing your lineage. This involved numerous meetings with his grandmother who had no shortage of information about her exodus from Latvia, enlightening her own son more than mine.
We signed up to bring Matzoh Ball soup, a specialty of my mother-in law who at the last minute forgot she was supposed to make it, so this ex-catholic did so and prepared a big old steaming hot pot of broth filled with fluffy matzohs sprinkled with dill, the ancient family recipe. Just as I stepped out of the car in front of the school and onto the icy road, I lifted the cardboard box that only yesterday contained a new potty training seat and now the soup pot and cups and spoons. Maybe I shouldn’t have answered the phone but it was a vendor looking for one of my clients. The balancing act caused the box to fly into the air as I went backward onto the ice, the whole shebang landed with a thud; matzoh rolled down the street. The boiling chicken broth was all over my boots as I scooped up the few matzoh that weren’t covered in street grime. Entering the classroom the kids and guests were already singing some French song. Max came running toward me with tears in his eyes because I was late.
The other mom who brought the same soup knew my dilemma of the missing broth but scoffed at my recipe, turning down my request to add my matzohs to hers-hers didn’t contain dill. Did she find me and my soup inauthentic Heritage frauds? Or had she like so many been cooped up for too long, forgetting the grease that makes the social wheels go round?
It was good to be out again.
Kim Berns is a writer and interior designer living in Rye.