Out of my element

A funny thing happened on our way to my nephew’s memorial party this past weekend. It was scary at the time, but it’s laughable now that we’re seeing it in our rear view mirror.

 

After landing at LaGuardia at nearly 9 o’clock at night, we still faced a two-hour-plus drive over rural roads to western Connecticut. It was about 7 degrees outside, but the wind chill factor plunged the temperatures well below freezing. Inside the car, however, we were warm and dry. We enjoyed the long ride through an increasingly snowy countryside: our headlights spotlighted snow-covered tombstones in churchyard cemeteries, wood-framed farmhouses situated on white-blanketed acreage, and boxcar diners shuttered against the storm. 
 

Just shy of midnight, we reached the base of my in-laws’ driveway. It’s not a short path to the front door, mind you; they live on approximately 58 acres, and their house sits at the top of a very steep, winding road. Accumulated snow was plowed into grayish berms at the bottom, but pristine snow covered the hillside. Whistling winds sliced through the trees, and everything was eerily illuminated by a fog-shrouded half moon. Through the windshield, we looked out at a winter wonderland.

 

But our perspective soon changed. About 1/3 of the way up the hill, our rear-wheel-drive rental car spun out on the accumulated ice, its tires refusing to inch forward a single iota more. Obviously, we had two choices: stay in the car overnight and call a tow truck in the morning, or trudge up the hill on foot. We decided to hoof it.

 

Did I mention what I was wearing? Layered sweaters, a leather jacket, Lucky jeans and smooth-soled canvas tennis shoes. A reasonable question might be, “Whatever were you thinking?” Honest answer? I wasn’t. I was quasi-fashionable but definitely foolish.

 

I finally figured out that walking through the snow gave me enough traction to move forward, rather than sliding sideways and backward on the ice. And so it was that I traipsed up the hill, my shoes and jeans getting ever soggier. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and as I wiped them away, I scolded myself for being such a weather-wimp wussy girl. Meanwhile, my husband, hero that he is, walked behind me, schlepping both our suitcases up the hill in silence. I swear, it was a scene straight out of Doctor Zhivago.

 

An eternity and about 1/8 of an uphill mile later, we finally turned the key in the lock on my in-laws’ front door. We stood in the entryway, hugging each other and celebrating the fact that we’d arrived intact. We shrugged off our wet clothes and started a pot of tea, then looked at each other and started to laugh. Call me crazy, but I like to think my nephew was laughing right along with us.


Left: The view from the top of the hill at sunrise. Llok closely and you’ll see our stalled car at the curve in the road. Right: The same road, as seen from the bottom of the hill, after the ice had partially melted. The house is at the top right side of the photo.

68 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Out of your element…YOU and California!!!!!

    I am sure it is tough for you to leave California and experience life in the REAL world!!!!!
    A great story…..a little egregious with all the words you used to tell it….you got stuck in the snow, tromped up the hill while freezing your a– off and was thrilled to arrive safe with no broken bones…..

  2. Oh man, I feel your pain (and with very little snickering, I promise). It sucks being stuck outside in the cold. Those treks seem soooo much longer when your feet are freezing.

    Wait a minute — did you walk along the nicely cleared road, or did you actually go through the SNOW?!

  3. The world is a whole different – and mean! – experience when it’s covered with snow and ice. I felt like I had to re-learn how to drive this winter with all the snow on the roads that took months to melt! And I learned a new word: high-centered
    It’s a very expensive word.

      • Well, I wasn’t gonna rat myself out, but– don’t feel bad.
        I chased my dog out of the pasture and carried her back over the fence barefoot last week. Yes, there was about a foot of snow. But she and her bad news boyfriend were taunting the horse, and I was afraid the other dog might go after the remaining sheep. I just tore out there as soon as I saw them, chased the other dog off, and brought her inside. I didn’t even think about my feet until I was back in…

        • Oh, my goodness! I can’t imagine! You are made of far sturdier stock than I am! That would have sent me to my fainting couch for a very long time.

          Are your feet OK? They must have been burningly cold!

          • Surprisingly, yes. They were fine. It wasn’t one of those bitterly cold days– it was high 20s or low 30s. And I was pretty focused on my purpose, and moving around a lot.
            Maybe it’s like walking on hot coals– they say if you do it fast enough, it doesn’t have time to burn. Given the choice between snow or coals, I’ll take the snow anyday, though…

      • Well, I wasn’t gonna rat myself out, but– don’t feel bad.
        I chased my dog out of the pasture and carried her back over the fence barefoot last week. Yes, there was about a foot of snow. But she and her bad news boyfriend were taunting the horse, and I was afraid the other dog might go after the remaining sheep. I just tore out there as soon as I saw them, chased the other dog off, and brought her inside. I didn’t even think about my feet until I was back in…

  4. Hey…don’t listen to “Anonymous” – I LOVED the word picture you painted!! Actually, it was a relief to learn I’m not the only California Girl who’s learned her lesson the hard way: dressing for a CenCAL winter does NOT qualify for a cross-country trip in January! (But I was traveling alone when I got stranded for 6 1/2 hours at the top of a mountain pass in Washington State in a snowstorm…)

    I’m sure your nephew had a good chuckle…and was appreciative of the warmth in your hearts that accompanied your trek-through-the-darkness-of-a-snow-filled-night.

      • Cold climate for me? NOOOOO. I lived in Mass. for 3 years… and that was plenty of snow and ice for me.
        I like where I am with its seasons. We had snow this weekend – just one inch of powdery snow – and all was good as I read and drank coffee.
        Besides the inclement weather, I hope you found some closure and peace this past weekend.
        Take care ~

        • That sounds really cozy. I’d join you in that, if I could. 🙂

          We got closure, and we got even closer as a family, which is exactly what we all wanted and needed. It was definitely worth our foray into the cold, wintry weather

  5. See, we live with these conditions in Utah…so, yeah, they can be lame but you learn to prepare for them. I think the lack of such extreems back east is what has caused some of the problems for the natives.

    • My sympathies! It’s so much easier to live here on the West Coast; I know that, and I’m unabashedly unapologetic. 🙂

      By the way, your generous book donation was warmly received; the books are on their way to Iraq. THANK YOU, on behalf of the person who’s running that project, as well as our troops!

  6. What a dopey SOuthern Californian I am. I read what you were wearing 3 times and I couldn’t figure out why something was wrong with it. Then you said it got soggy, so I guess you need some special type of clothing and maybe boots.

    I’m glad you made it safe and sound and I’m sorry for your ordeal. I think your nephew absolutely got a chuckle out of it. The photos are beautiful.

    • Yeah, I’m a dopey SoCal girl, too. Hence, the unexpected, um, adventure. I definitely needed warmer clothes and boots!

      Thanks for your comforting words. It’s good to know *someone* understands. 🙂

      • Of course I do. And I thought Anonymous was really rude unless s/he was just kidding.

        “I am sure it is tough for you to leave California and experience life in the REAL world!!!!!”

        Just because our area of So CA doesn’t have snow doesn’t make where we live any less real than places that do. If we want to, we can drive to the snow in 2 hours.

        Anon continues:
        “A great story…..a little egregious with all the words you used to tell it….you got stuck in the snow, tromped up the hill while freezing your a– off and was thrilled to arrive safe with no broken bones…..”

        Obviously s/he isn’t a story teller. What fun is that to read?

        • I think s/he must have been teasing. At least I hope so!

          Hey, I have to reschedule our lunch tomorrow. Booooooo! Hissssss! Unfortunately, my son’s car got totaled by a careless driver, so…loving, caring, sharing mother that I am, I’ve loaned him mine while he shops for another. Forgive me??? Please??? Check your schedule…are you available anytime after March 18?

          • He’s fine. It’s no fun to go through all this at any age, but it’s especially frustrating when you have a car you really love and it gets smashed to smithereens by an unlicensed, uninsured motorist with an unregistered automobile. Happily, he’s got insurance coverage to take care of things. Best of all, he wasn’t hurt at all.

            Again, I’m really sorry. I wish we were getting together tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to the time when that can happen. Let’s make it soon! 🙂

  7. That beautiful winter landscape can hide quite a bit of challenge, eh? I’m so glad to hear you made it through the snow and ice without injury, my sunny friend. And I’m glad you were able to spend time with family in memory of your nephew.

    • Texas was very mild, by comparison! I’m glad I went, too, but I’m also glad to be back home, where it’s warm.

      Hey, send an email update when you’ve got one, OK? I’m waiting on pins and needles, all digits crossed! 🙂

    • Texas was very mild, by comparison! I’m glad I went, too, but I’m also glad to be back home, where it’s warm.

      Hey, send an email update when you’ve got one, OK? I’m waiting on pins and needles, all digits crossed! 🙂

  8. Unless Anonymous is related to you, let it be known Anonymous is a word-party pooper. I didn’t need the pictures to show me what Melodye was able to convey through her art: her words. I’m not just saying this to schmooze Melodye. I mean it.

    I thought about you all weekend and wondered if you would find time to give a local holler. I worried about you. The weather was not our friend. Were you able to leave NY on time? How did you retrieve the frozen auto the next morning?

    But you are right in that your winter trek was just the thing you needed to take the edge off the tragic reason for your trip. How symbolic: to reach the edge of beauty, to stare at its wonder through the window panes of your car, to feel as if you had fallen into an impressionist’s painting, joy splitting open your veins and then… boom, all that ecstasy comes crashing down like a landslide and all you can do is close your eyes and pray you’ll wake up when the onslaught of pain is over. Your nephew put you on that journey up hill. It put all of life into perspective. We surprise ourselves with the things we can do to survive, to reach the top of that hill, to make it in spite of the tears and the hurt and the desperation.

    So to Anonymous: I pray all your days are carefree and painless and that your writing brings you easy pleasures. The rest of us will have to suffer through our own versions of the real world– and survive to write about it. Words save us. {}

    • P.S. All of my smiley and emoticons disappeared as I posted the above note. I hope Anonymous read these words and picked up the smiles I was leaving in the trail of my words. Come on, Anonymous. Why would you begrudge a California Girl her moment in the Tundra? {}
      Baby it was DAMN cold outside. I salute you, Melodye, for climbing your own Mount Everest and having the last laugh on yourself!

      • Anonymous

        Surprise

        I am cracking up!!!!! My response to the “snow tromping” was intended to give this blonde chick a hard way to go….she is the person who put the word “egregious” in my vocabulary. I got her to eat “boiled” peanuts when she came to the southern part of the states….AS friends, we certainly compliment each other…..

        I am a math instructor and the flowery words elude me most of the time. I like to aggravate english majors because they gave me many nightmares during my years as a student…..

        I hope you enjoy sunny California today……it is beautiful in southern Alabama today after all the terrible killer tornados yesterday.
        Peace………….

      • Anonymous

        Surprise

        I am cracking up!!!!! My response to the “snow tromping” was intended to give this blonde chick a hard way to go….she is the person who put the word “egregious” in my vocabulary. I got her to eat “boiled” peanuts when she came to the southern part of the states….AS friends, we certainly compliment each other…..

        I am a math instructor and the flowery words elude me most of the time. I like to aggravate english majors because they gave me many nightmares during my years as a student…..

        I hope you enjoy sunny California today……it is beautiful in southern Alabama today after all the terrible killer tornados yesterday.
        Peace………….

    • You are such a mother hen. I just know it’s innate! Thank you for thinking about me this weekend; I felt your warm thoughts and positive vibes! We managed to leave NYC on time because we came back down from CT to NY in advance of the storm that hit that night, harder in Sharon than in NYC. TONS of passengers were stranded by that storm and one that hit previously, so we felt very fortunate to get on our plane, to make our connection, and to land, at last, in Orange County Monday night.

      We took our in-laws’ 4-wheel drive Subaru down to where our car was stranded, backed the rental car down to the base of that hill, and used the Subaru for the rest of our stay — until we went back to NYC, that is. Whew, nothing’s easy when you’ve got WEATHER, is it?

      Again, about what you’ve written…what can I say, other than you are a poet? You get me, you get it. And you express it like I can’t. Thank you for seeing the symbolism and sharing it with me in your own words.

  9. Glad you made it back safely. Those darn icy roads can make one have a panic attack. I have had my share of falls even when there wasn’t ice & snow on the ground. The pictures were great.
    Welcome back.

  10. (((Melodye))) I’m so sorry, and I’m glad you’re okay.

    And I’m sure your nephew was there with you – helping you make your way through the snow and ice.

  11. (((Melodye))) I’m so sorry, and I’m glad you’re okay.

    And I’m sure your nephew was there with you – helping you make your way through the snow and ice.

  12. I’m kicking myself for not finding your blog earlier. I loved this entry, so I kept going back to read more. Love all the photographs. The flowers are wonderful. Can’t wait for winter (If you want to call what we get here in New Orleans winter) to be over and start gardening again.
    Char (Jen’s friend)

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