Sunday, December 26, 2010

Drama in Real Life: The Blizzard of Aught-Ten

It was a blustery, blizzardy day--as the weather prognosticators had warned us it would be.

The night before, when the country club unilaterally cancelled its brunch seating, we were all, "Oh, yeah, right! A blizzard! Bet we don't get more than an inch or two of accumulation. Babies!" We had the flat-screen tuned to the weather channel all evening, and the reports were ominous--but we still refused to believe that we'd be home-bound.

"Where do they think we are, Mississippi?" we cracked. "This is Illinois! We can handle a little old blizzard."

We stayed up late on Saturday night, playing ping-pong, drinking cheap wine, and de-bloating from our earlier 12-course feast.  We decided to replace our country club brunch with a homemade brunch of French toast, scrambled eggs with ham, and home fries. Alternatively, if it did look like a major storm would hinder our travel, we'd skip breakfast, and get out of town early.  Either way, we weren't worried.  We drive a Toyota mini-van, and that seven-seater-chick-magnet has four-wheel drive!

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright.  Not.

No, it really was blowing out there. Snow whipped sideways across the second green, and a red squirrel who dared to leave his nest pulled his tail around himself and hurried to his next appointment. 

When we told the kids that safety trumped breakfast, and we'd be leaving right after saying goodbye to our sweet blond cousins, tears welled up in M. Peevie's eyes and dripped into her Lucky Charms. "Please, Mommy," she said, "Can't we just have French toast with RK and T-Bone, and then leave?"

I wrapped my arms around my sad baby girl and told her no. "I know you're sad, honey, but we need to leave now before the weather gets even worse." The tears continued to fall, and she tried one more time to change our minds.

"Oh, there's nothing to cry about," MIL said briskly. "I'm sure you'll get over it." As lovely and generous as she is, true empathy is not one of her strong points. I resisted the urge to deliver a sharp correction, and instead I upped my own empathy. M. Peevie pushed my hand away, though, preferring a moment of wallowing in her grief.

We packed up the Christmas gifts and the dirty laundry and the gameboys, hugged the cousins, and headed out into the capital-E-Elements. Very little new snow was falling, but the fierce wind swept up the layer of snow from the ground and slammed it across the fields like a manic modernist hurling white paint against a giant canvas. I drove slowly, so as not to outrun my 15 feet of visibility.
"Are you scared?" I asked Mr. Peevie, who has been known to back-seat drive when I'm behind the wheel and not keeping strictly to the two-second rule.

"Nope," he said. I was surprised, but I believed him. Apparently I could pull out the defensive driving when the situation particularly called for it.  Who knew.

Suddenly 15 feet of visibility completely disappeared, and I was driving into a white wall. I slowed to a stop on the two-lane road, wondering if we'd get rear-ended before I was able to drive again. When a few feet of road re-appeared, I started to drive again, slowly, hoping everyone else on the road was navigating as carefully as I was.

"Mom," came a voice from somewhere behind me. "Mom? I can't see anything. How do you know where you're driving?"

"Stop talking, guys," Mr. Peevie said over his shoulder. "Mommy's trying to concentrate." The white wall went up again, and I slid to a stop. We held our breath for 30 seconds, maybe a minute, and when the opague wall lifted, I saw that I had somehow started to cross the yellow line.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," I said to Mr. Peevie. "I think we should go back to your parents' house and wait it out."  We drove, stopped, and drove while the white sheets alternately blasted across our windshield and lifted to give us five or ten feet of visibility. We turned around in a farmyard driveway--briefly considering inviting ourselves in--and headed back to Grandmom and Granddad's house.

Drive. Stop. Drive. Stop. Drive. Breathe. Finally we pulled into the driveway and piled out of the car and into the house. The grandparents were so happy to have their house filled with the joyful noise of grandchildren for one extra day! Or that's what we told ourselves, anyway.

I looked out the floor-to-ceiling great room windows across the golf course, rendered white with sideways snow; and settled down for a long winter's nap. Literally.

That's what I call a silver lining!

The next morning dawned clear and bright--for realz. The blizzard adventure of aught-ten closed its doors behind us as we headed north, back to home, school, work and--oh, joy!--four inches of snow waiting to be shoveled from the walk and steps.