Okay, it’s already started. Some of my Facebook friends are already posting about how they hope we will get lots of snow this winter, and I’m tempted to comment, “While you are at it, pray that my electricity doesn’t go out when we get all that snow you want. Otherwise, I may be dropping off my mother-in-law at your house.”
I know I sound like I hate winter, but in truth, I like snow. I like cold weather. I like the things associated with snow and cold-weather. Warm, fuzzy sweaters. Footy pajamas. Hot chocolate. Snow angels. Sledding. The crackling sound and smoky smell of a fireplace. What’s not to love, right? I even think shoveling the sidewalk is good for the soul–to a point.
However, there is a downside beyond having to allot extra time every morning to scrape ice off the windshield of your car. Where I live, the electricity tends to go out with every ice and snow storm. It sucks. When we lose electric, we lose heat and water and phones—and because we live in a cell phone hole, those don’t work so well either. To go without these modern conveniences with kids is sort of fun. It’s like camping—and after a couple of days of it, I’m reminded of why I enjoy NOT camping, but it’s still do-able. It’s still an adventure. It’s still the stuff that makes for happy memories years later.
Now, throw my mother-in-law into the mix. Without me getting too graphic, let me just ask you, have you ever “camped” with a disabled, 90-year-old woman? Trust me, should you do so—and I can’t imagine why you would–you will discover the need to wash your hands often and without running water and in icy-cold temperatures. It’s just one of many unpleasant experiences that will befall you. And then, of course, there is the challenge of keeping her warm enough. Old people move to Florida for a reason.
Last year after Super-Storm Sandy, we were without electricity for almost five days and temperatures dropped sharply. I know that is nothing compared to how those who live on the Jersey Shore suffered. I know I can’t liken it to New Orleans after Katrina. Look, I’m a South Carolinian. I rode out Hurricane Hugo, and so I KNOW what complete and total devastation looks like, but living with my mother-in-law and no running water, no electricity, no heat, and no phones isn’t a picnic either.
Perhaps the truly odd part of our Sandy experience is that most of Maryland was somewhat unaffected. Power outages were spotty and short-lived for the most part, and damage was minimal. Of course, if a tree landed on your house or car, you probably disagree with my assessment. Several utility poles near my house came down—and because we live in a rural residential area with no essential services or businesses depending on electricity—restoring power to us is never a top priority. It’s one of the drawbacks to living in the country.
We stayed at home throughout the outage because I was very optimistic about power being restored quickly—despite past experience. After all, I could drive a mile in any direction and see that life had resumed as usual. So, on day-four of the outage, I walked the mile and a half to the site of the downed utility-poles and asked the foreman when he thought they would be finished. I thanked him for his work and I explained that my elderly mother-in-law lived with me and that when we lose electricity, we lose everything. So, I really needed to know how much longer it would be. Should I check us into a hotel? Should I call friends and relatives and ask that they take us in?
He thanked me. He said that I was the first pleasant person he had talked with all day. He said most of the people who were inquiring about the outage were angry and not taking into consideration that they were short-staffed. Some of “our guys” had gone further north to the areas hardest hit. He also told me that power would be restored within the next six hours. I happy-danced the whole way home.
I also thought about all the real Sandy victims. No doubt that somewhere in the mid-Atlantic states someone was in my very position—sandwiched between small children and an older parent or in-law—and doing their best to cope with the storm and its aftermath. I said a silent prayer for them as I happy-danced.
So, on this first truly cold morning of the season, I’m bracing myself for what may be a hard winter, but I’m looking back on the past year and feeling really empowered. Whatever happens, we will handle it with a spirit of grace and thanksgiving–and a certain amount of swearing before the grace and thanksgiving kick in.
Of course, we should come up with a plan in case we get all that snow my Facebook friends want. When we first bought this old house, we considered getting a built-in generator, but then, a lot of life happened and it became less of a priority. Maybe it’s time to reconsider than plan. Until then, I will thank my neighbor with a case of beer for allowing me to plug into his generator. I’ll plug a very long extension cord into an electric heater and wheel my mother-in-law’s chair a little closer to it, and we will weather the storm together. We will make it fodder for a happy memory.