As those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know, I was stranded at the home of some friends of mine for eight days during this month’s two major snow storms. We lost power several times, including one three-day stint. Despite it all, we managed to stay warm, well-fed and sane and I’m extraordinarily grateful for their hospitality in a less-than-ideal situation for all involved.
After posting a photo of the aftermath of the first snowstorm earlier this week, a fellow genea-blogger, Bill Smith, commented:
“This is an important story for your own family history that you are making everyday. Five, ten, twenty years from now, you and your family will talk about it, and want to remember details. Be sure to write them down!”
How right he was! And so today I took the time to write everything about my experiences over the past eight days. Here’s Part 1:
[Backstory: I've known the family with whom I stayed during the blizzards for more than 20 years. I lived with them and was their son's nanny after I graduated high school. They dubbed me their "foster daughter" back when I was a teenager. I visit them often, especially on nights when I need to stay late for events near D.C. so that I can avoid the long drive back to the Eastern Shore when I'm tired. Such was the case on Thursday, Feb. 4]
I arrived at my friends’ house at about 10 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4, after working late that day. I did not sleep well the night before and had negotiated to spend the night so I wouldn’t have to drive home while sleepy. I was due back in College Park for work at 7:30 a.m. and had planned to stay at my friends’ place on Friday night anyhow so I could attend a workshop in DC. I don’t know how I found the energy, but I stayed up with them until about midnight.
I awoke early on Friday morning to hear that the College Park campus was not going to open, in anticipation of that day’s storm. I went back to sleep and awoke again at 9 a.m. to see the first flakes falling and learned that my Saturday workshop also had been cancelled.
I made the decision at that point to stay at my friends’ house for the duration of the storm. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of months — we had Xmas presents to exchange along with catching up to do in general. The idea of being snowed in with them for a couple of days sounded fun. I had no idea what was really in store weather-wise.
That day, we watched the snow fall, played on our computers and got ready to settle in for a couple of days until we could dig out. My friends’ daughter, Kara, had one of her friends over for part of the day. Kara begged to be able to spend the storm at her friend’s house, but her mom, Sherri, wisely insisted on having both of her kids stay home. She wanted to know they were safe and desired “family time.” This would become a running joke.
Sherri and I took their dog Louie for a long walk around the neighborhood in the snow late in the afternoon. We saw two deer and luckily Louie didn’t try to bolt after them.
We ate frozen pizzas baked in the oven for dinner and then watched TV together and opened Christmas presents. It was nice and cozy.
All seemed to be going well when we awoke the next morning. Several inches of snow had fallen overnight. At 11 a.m., as Sherri started a load of laundry and I was settled in to check email, the power went out. This is a common occurrence in their neighborhood (incidentally, the same neighborhood where I grew up). There are many, many trees with dangling limbs and overhead power lines that are very susceptible.
We all moved into their living room, which provided plenty of light thanks to a huge picture window onto their front yard. I dubbed the occasion “Extreme Family Time” in response to Kara’s complaints about being stuck in a house without power while her friends still had lights and heat. I updated my Facebook status with news about the power outage and received many comments from friends hoping the power was restored soon. This was not to be.
As the house began to cool without the heat running, the gas fireplace in the living room was turned on. I powered down my laptop to save its battery and grabbed a book, settling in on a loveseat in the living room.
Sherri tried to call PEPCO, to alert them to the outage, but their phone system was so overrun, she only heard an automated message stating their mailbox was full and they couldn’t accommodate any more messages. Not good.
I periodically checked my Blackberry for emails as I read chapters in my book. Many other friends in the area reported being without power. What did we do before we could access the Internet on our phones? I shudder to think about it.
The snow was very deep already in our neighborhood and venturing somewhere with power wasn’t really an option. The kids begged to go outside and play in the snow but Sherri wasn’t having it while the storm continued. The snow was very heavy at times and was already weighing down many tree branches around the house. Their half-feral indoor-outdoor cat was going stir crazy and was not allowed outside either, leaving our legs and the furniture in peril from his claws.
As it became clear that power would not be restored very soon, we started to get ready for the dark. When we needed to move around the house, we used tap lights or an LED flashlight to see. Most of us tried to flick the light switch as we entered the kitchen or the bathroom, out of force of habit.
The food in the refrigerator was quickly starting to warm up so we moved what we could to their unheated garage. We buried the frozen food in the snow on the back deck. The grill out back was uncovered and my friend’s husband Paul cooked burgers and hot dogs on the grill for dinner. We finished off a bottle of wine (Merlot) that had been opened the night before and ate ice cream for dessert.
We gathered together the family’s sleeping bags. By 8 p.m., we were in bed — there was simply nothing to do once the light outside waned. I was on the loveseat, Kara was on the floor in front of the fireplace and Sherri was on the couch. Their son Kyle insisted on sleeping in his bed at the other end of the house. Paul slept in the basement, which was still kind of warm, being mostly underground. In the middle of the night, Kyle came out to the living room where it was warmer.
(to be continued)