We got sleet and snow and freezing rain and more sleet and more snow and more freezing rain and more snow. I took the car to Mom’s and put it in her carport, and packed to stay overnight. We watched a couple of episodes of Monk (wheeeee!) and I sacked out on the couch. During the night, we started hearing it: trees breaking. One to two inches of solid ice is heavy, and snow is heavy, too. All night, we heard loud CRACKs as limbs and trunks, straining under the weight, gave way. CRACK-RUSTLE-THUMP, as trees broke and fell, taking other limbs and other trees with them.

Some of them took power lines, and some telephone/electric poles, pulled by the weight of lines coated with ice, broke, leaned or uprooted. We had three poles out of commission on our land and the next folks’ land, which is why everybody on our road had power except the three houses back here on our drive and the one family beyond us. We were out for 10 days because, with practical intelligence, the power companies concentrated their efforts on restoring the largest number of people they could as quickly as they could. With so much work involved in restoring so few people, we were among the last 50 houses to get power back. We’re not complaining–they did right.


So how did we manage?

Mom has propane, so she had hot water and a stovetop and a propane fireplace that did a little good, but not much. It, like her propane house heater, relies on an electric blower to circulate the heat. Her oven relies on an electric spark to light it, and we couldn’t get to it to light it, so no oven. We could light the burners with matches, though, so we could cook. Her house hovered between 40 and 50 in the hall in the center of the house, so it was much colder in the dining area (in a bay window–eouch) and the kitchen. We left the food out on the counter, and only put it in the refrigerator if we didn’t want it to get TOO cold…. We put all our frozen stuff in containers on the porches, and they stayed frozen, since the temperatures stayed below freezing (some days and nights WELL below freezing) until after the power went back on.

We never lost telephone service, and that was good. Another thing that was good was that we all got along. Various ones got a little cranky as the time wore on, but never more than one at a time, and we all gave each other room to just BE cranky and didn’t pitch in and take it to the next level. And MOM–I’m telling you, that woman is incredible! She kept her temper, she kept her sense of humor, she never got snappy or blue–or never displayed it, if she did. She showed us how it’s done, I’m telling you.

Mom usually keeps her house at 74, so she really felt the cold, but she would NOT leave her house. Charlie heats our house with a big-ass wood-burning FURNACE in the basement that radiates enough heat to keep the basement uncomfortably hot and the ground floor cozy, but she wouldn’t leave her cats. #1 daughter, her husband and their 8-year-old left THEIR cats with food, water and blankets arranged so they could snuggle up. They came back in the day to check on them but slept at our house. I stayed with Mom. Charlie and the daughter’s family came to Mom’s to eat and we pooled our food.

We all had kerosene lamps and flashlights and battery lanterns, so we managed to get around the houses at night and even to read a little after dark, but we tended to go to bed early and get up at first light.

Here are Charlie and #1 daughter and her husband coming through the snow. On the principle of not posting children’s pictures on the internet, I left the grandson out.


Mom and I bundled up and I kept us supplied with coffee, which I made in a coffee press. I had some fluffy flannel robes, so I let Mom use my best one, a full-length one of surpassing warmth. I also let her use my “space heater”, a fleece lap robe with stars and planets on it, made by my bestest pal, Pat Stackhouse. (Jane is my bes’ frien’, and Pat is my bestest pal. Women of the world, YOU understand.) Later, Mom added a hat that she had knitted, and we stayed bearably warm.


I had on pj bottoms, blue jeans, socks, fuzzy slippers, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a fleece robe, a hat Mom had knitted and sometimes gloves.


Finally, Mom consented to go to my house to sleep. This was the only time Mom got a little miffy–she wanted to take her cats, and Katya would have made their lives sheer hell, so I wouldn’t let it happen. These two nights she came to our house were the coldest nights of all–in the single digits–and Charlie and #1 daughter and her husband took turns going by twos to their house and her house–three times a night–to check the water pipes, and they checked on her cats while they were at it. They also moved the kerosene heater from daughter’s house to Mom’s basement. The cats did fine the first night, and she spent the days with them, so it turned out okay.

I took to going home for a few hours every day to warm up and work on my Culinary Chronicles, and daughters took me to the library each of the two weeks so I could email them in.

Finally, first light on Thursday, February 5th, the power boys showed up with their big machines. We thought they were going to lose one when it started sliding down the ice into the gully, but the driver was an ace and he recovered. They worked all day in the freezing cold, resetting poles and restringing wires. At almost 5, we all made plans for the night. We were out of kerosene for the lamps and the heater, and Mom’s propane fireplace had to be turned off because it was starting to malfunction. Charlie said he would slip-slide out the iced drive and get some kerosene and some carry-out, although he hates carry-out. I hung up the phone and said, “Oh, I wish it would just pop right on.” Mom said, “Yeah. I wish it pop right on right NOW.” And it did.

We’re so grateful we had a warm house for refuge, a house with cooking and bathing facilities (although taking a hot shower in a cold house is something I don’t recommend and something we didn’t do as often as perhaps we should have….), plenty of food, and that we were snowbound with people we like. We’re grateful we had so many friends and loving relatives who checked in on us and offered us help and the warmth of their friendship. It was not, on the whole, a bad experience.

I just don’t want to ever do it again.


Writing prompt: Put a family or other group of your characters in a situation like ours. How would they get along? Use it as a story or just as a character study.