My Winter Staycation

Some days you wake up and everything is the same. Some days you come to the gradual realization that something is different. Or a constellation of things is different, and you gradually come to the conclusion that there’s a problem. A specific problem.

We knew we would wake up to a winter wonderland, and we did. Three or four inches of wet, heavy, glistening snow. The evergreens were bowed and branches were down everywhere. One took out one of the posts on the staircase from the deck to the back yard. For the third time in a week, the driveway was indistinguishable from the rest of the yard.

And something else was going on. It was chilly upstairs, chillier than usual. And no lights were on. I’m usually the one who gets up and gets the coffee, but knowing that school was out and work was likely to be canceled, I hadn’t set the alarm on my battery-powered clock. So the alarm hadn’t gone off, and Bebe’s plug-in clock-radio (we have so much technology but our bedsides are old-fashioned) wasn’t on. It wasn’t until she went downstairs, came back up, and announced, “It’s hard to make coffee without electricity” that it dawned on my sleep-addled brain: The power was out.

(There was one other thing wrong, too. Jasper, the youngest and largest of our three dogs, was retching. He eventually threw up on our quilt, but fortunately that storm passed quickly.)

When Hurricane Fran put a tree through our roof in 1996, what saved us was the side burner on our gas grill. Our current grill has no burner, but I had just gotten a new tank of propane, and I figured I could toss the kettle on and get it hot enough for a satisfactory caffeine experience.

The dogs accompanied me, knocking over the spare propane tank, freaking out over the blocked staircase, and then remembering the other staircase on the side of the deck. Jasper, miserable a few minutes ago, did frantic figure 8s in the snow, and Murphy dug out an old blue plastic ball and demanded to play. Sox, the boxer-hound mix, is not a natural in the snow like the other two, but she shook off the shivers and raced around with Jasper for a while.

The kettle never quite boiled, but it was hot enough after a while. Bebe found the apparatus that sits on top of the carafe to hold the filter, and soon we had coffee. Something, likely the uncertainty about whether we would have coffee at all, made the first cup taste even better than usual. I tossed a bagel on the grill, too, and with some butter, it tasted pretty fine as well.

After breakfast, I did a pretty thorough yoga warm-up and moved into a kettlebell/body weight workout, thinking I would hop on the bike afterward, even though the last couple of weeks of cold and precipitation have left me quite sick of pedaling indoors on the trainer. But the slow-firing brain kicked into gear again, and I decided I had better make shoveling my aerobic exercise.

Two hours later, I had reached the snow turrets left at the end of the driveway when the snow plow went past. (We’ve had three more or less significant snows this winter, but today was the first time a county truck made it to Bakers Mill Road.) The snow bombs dropping from the trees made it difficult to declare the job done definitively, but after a second pass on the brick front steps, I was satisfied.

The last time we had lost power for an extended period, during one of central North Carolina’s infamous ice storms, we threw on the last fake log and slept by the fireplace with the kids, waking up every time Sam kicked his covers off and cried. Remembering the high point of that adventure, going out and finding one of the few restaurants in the area that had electricity and was open, Bebe got on her iPhone and called places until she found that Monterey, the closest Mexican restaurant, was open.

Once we got through the beachhead of ice at the end of the street it was smooth sailing. Lunch was standard Mexican fare, but it was good to feel the heat and hear the music. One of the TVs had ESPN on, and they were showing the Mets at spring training. The sound was off, but I got the storyline – lots of promising young pitchers and one aging star third baseman.  The green grass of the baseball field, with no snow in sight, was lovely.

The shoveling caught up with me as soon as we got home (and I gave the steps a third once-over). I crashed and slept for a couple of hours. Something unusual woke me up. Bebe’s bedside lamp had come on. Life, though frequently challenging, is good.