Wednesday, November 2, 2011


written on November 2nd, 2011

We would have laughed at the forecast for snow on Saturday night, except that already last Thursday the rainy afternoon turned to big, slushy flakes on the windshield on our way up to the library. By Friday morning there was a thin layer of snow on our ripe cherry tomatoes and covering the roses in the garden, and the children were joyously swiping what little snow there was off of the leaves and licking it delightedly as we prepared to leave for school.
So we heard it might snow, and groaned-- we'd had snow until April last spring, and it seems almost a cruel joke that after such a long, seemingly never ending winter last year, that the dreaded season should arrive on our doorstep only a few days after the flip-flops went downstairs to the basement to wait for spring. Indeed, it was only a little over two weeks ago that I had my ceremonial last swim of the season, running as fast as I could across the sand at my parents' beach and thundering into the icy water up to my knees and diving forward, feeling the water bite me as I swam underwater for 30 feet or so before realizing that the lake was, sadly, no longer swimmable. And now this?
But by 2 PM, suddenly, huge, giant, sloppy flakes began pouring out of the sky. Within minutes the ground was blanketed; within an hour, we had inches to shovel off the walk. It was steady for the afternoon, and the forecast of power outages when snowstorm meets trees that haven't yet shed their leaves began to ring true as the lights flickered and went out at 2, and then resumed but went out again at 4. But by 5 they were back on, and I jacked the heat up to 74 just in case. We rolled fresh pasta and made a fresh tomato, red pepper, and fennel sausage sauce, and filled a few soup pots with water along with our five gallon jug we'd bought to be prepared for Hurricane Irene . We ate two full meals per person with our friend Sara, who was with us for the night, and tucked into bed, flushed from the heat and the wine and the incredibly huge amount of food we'd consumed.
At about 11, I heard the white noise cut out, and the night lights went out. Fiona began to cry and Greg rigged her little sailboat night-light cover over a flashlight, and we all went back to sleep. It wasn't until morning that I remembered how cold the house would get, as I wiggled into wool socks and gaped at the snowbanks that had formed under our gutters. The world was absolutely painted in thick, white snow-- huge, thick layers of it on every leaf, branch, twig, and bush. Everything seemed to have melted, as branches hung heavy to the ground. Our little apple tree that had finally given us 26 beautiful golden russet apples this year looked like a tiny lump on our lawn. The cherry tree was sweeping the driveway. The rose bushes had disappeared. In all, almost a foot of snow had fallen. And it wasn't even Halloween.
So we lit a fire, and we launched into the day of snow removal and tree revival. Liam joyously leapt around the yard whacking limbs and bushes with his hockey stick, freeing them from the weight of the damp, heavy snow. Greg went up and down our long driveway with his snowblower, clearing the way, and neighbors came up and down periodically to check in and discuss damage and the power outage. It seemed the power was out pretty widely, but we weren't sure. By afternoon I was feeling hungry and cold and tired of it all so we all piled into the van and took a trip into town, just to see if there would be anyplace we could get a hot meal. We swung by the bigger town, and it was dark and vacant, the traffic lights all out, cars everywhere snaking through town doing just what we were doing: looking for warm food and somewhere to be. We turned east and headed into the next, smaller town, and happened to spot someone coming out of a darkened pizza parlor. They had their gas ovens fired up and some candles lighting their work area and we had a hot lunch, huddled around the greasy table in the dim light while Fiona ran around the table in delight. (with her 6 PM bedtime she hasn't logged very many hours in a restaurant!) Then we headed over to the grocery store where, to our surprise, they were open and running on limited power from a generator. The refrigerator sections were mostly cleared out to bigger fridges in the back to save energy and many cases were covered over with insulated cloths, but we were able to get bagels, fruit, and a box of super-softee donuts (the kind that're powdered, cinnamon, and plain) as a kind of snow-day bonus.
Back to the homestead we trundled, with our bags and the sun shining in the windows and the trees dripping melted snow on the tree-limb and power-line strewn streets. We came in quickly, to try to keep the heat in the house, and lit a fire in the fireplace to cuddle around, and got out the games. We moved the dining room table over, and we waited.
We waited, and waited, and although it was only late October the temperature outside was cold and inside the temperature dropped down, and down. That night when we went to bed it was still around 50 upstairs, so we dragged mattresses into our room and all slept together for body heat. We slept well under huge duvets (well if you try not to include the 4 or 9 times Fiona woke up crying, desperate to be nursed in the freezing cold) and when morning came (it was Monday) the world was still closed, our valley still almost completely without power, and our house was really cold.
It was one more day and night of mostly the same, three days in total of our house getting colder, and colder, and colder. Luckily, we'd anticipated the outage and filled our 5 gallon water jug with fresh water and we do have the river to fill buckets with for flushing toilets and such. Our camp stove was set up on the porch beside the coolers of food from our fridge, it was a bit like camping.
Except that it wasn't camping, and it was really cold, and the babies weren't sleeping well. And it was getting dirty in our house from all the boots, and we couldn't wash ourselves, and what would we do when the deep freeze started to thaw?
Thankfully, on the morning of the third day, power was restored to my in-laws house, only 3 miles from us. They were out of town so we moved right in, taking clothing for one day at a time, shuttling between the houses for four more days as we waited patiently for the crews to make it to our road, where our power line lay limply like a dead snake along the side of our road.
So then, on Friday, November 4th, our power returned, and the kids got on their costumes and participated in rescheduled Halloween....

and we were thankful, thankful, thankful to come home to a nice, warm house.


Hope's Mama said...

I just cannot wrap my brain around how cold that is. I'm so lucky to live where I do!
And Maeve looks so big. Had to look at that last photo twice to see who was who!

Rika said...

YIKES. That sounds so epic. Glad you had a house to crash in. That must of been so tiring. No wonder you are wiped out (read newest entry on blog first).

Hope you are warm today.