In mid November my extended family had gotten together at my mother’s house in a city around 2.5 hours from me. My sister, who i got to see rarely, was there and my little cousins as well. I had assumed at least one of my 2 days off during their stay would be dedicated to either coming out to my place, meeting in a town half-way between us, or staying home so i could drive up and visit them, but it seemed the schedule was full and not in sync with my days off. It appeared my family may return to their own states before i got a chance to say hello. So when a space was cleared for me and my extended family offered to drive to a town between theirs and mine, i felt that i was going to seize that opportunity. The day our get-together was supposed to take place was the day the arctic blast the weathermen had been squawking about excitedly was said to be coming. It sounded like it meant business. Highways were to be closed. Ice was expected. High winds, temperatures in the twenties, and sideways sleet. It was supposed to rain throughout the approach of the winter storm. This meant everything would be covered in ice. I had not gathered supplies for the week and the roads would be shut down or at the very least slick after the storm had arrived. I needed to somehow make a supply run to walmart in one of the bigger cities, visit my family, and race back to the hill country to beat the arrival of the storm. I decided i could do it. I gave myself a cut-off time that i had to leave my family by: 2:00 pm. If i could get to a walmart in 15 minutes and spend 30 minutes shopping i could be back on the road by 2:45 pm. It would take roughly 2 hours to make the drive home so that would leave me pulling up to the property around 4:45 pm. One phone app stated that the temperature would drop below freezing at 5 pm while the other put it at 6 pm. I knew the one that stated 6 pm to be more accurate but just to err on the side of caution i was shooting to be home by 5. I could then grab the outlet attachment, plug the extension cords into it, plug that into the outdoor outlet, and turn on the heat lamps for the trees. It was a gamble on my part as i’d been nursing these trees like newborn infants through the winter and i wasn’t utilizing any safety blanket as a back up plan because it was raining. It would do no good to cover the boxes in blankets if the blankets got wet and froze to ice. I was sure i could do it. I just had to budget time carefully and pay attention to the weather report throughout the day.
I knew i wouldn’t be seeing my family for Christmas so i had loaded their christmas presents into the car to give to them in mid november. I was never one for wrapping. I didn’t understand the point. One was just going to rip the wrapping paper off in 5 seconds. I was never much fond of surprises either so i didn’t often wrap my gifts…but i meant well and thought genuinely of the recipients when i picked them out. I was stunned by how sturdy and solid the toy horses were in the tractor supply store when compared to the thin plastic ones my sister and i adored as children. I enjoyed a well manufactured thing when i saw one and so i picked out a couple horses for my cousins to play with.
Everyone exchanged gifts in the parking lot of the museum we were meeting at and we handed items from car to car. I’ll let people use their imaginations for the most part but i did want to mention the gift my sister gave me. When i had seen her last she was wearing a beautiful cream colored dress with flowers on it paired with a thin brown belt. It was 100 percent cotton and had a built in bra that was kind of half way between a cup and a sports bra. I had marveled that something so pretty and comfortable had been created out of 100 percent cotton and at a length that came down to the ankle on short people! My sister had raved about the brand and suggested that i go online and order one from their website. I had tried but they had already switched from the summer styles to fall and they were no longer selling the dress. My sister had gone to the actual physical store in her state and bought the last two dresses they had, which happened to be in mine and my mother’s size. She brought them to texas to give to us and now we all had a matching dress made of 100 percent cotton. I dubbed this my “in town day” dress and decided to wear it when i had to go shopping for supplies for the week in the summer. Pants were more practical for walking through tick and scorpion infested grass on the property but i had really admired that dress on her and i really wanted one, and somehow my sister knew.
I was enjoying watching my cousins run around the childrens museum. Every time i saw them they had less baby fat and more personality. Once i had dreamed that i would visit them up north every september and watch them grow throughout their lives. I still loved them dearly. I had just had very little in my life to look after when i made that plan. Now the logistics of leaving the property made my stomach hurt just thinking about who i would trust to do all the things that i did daily after work. While i was having this thought my phone dinged. One of my coworkers was texting me. As i unlocked my phone to read it i saw a photograph. It read, “the arctic blast approaching Abilene”. About half an hour later my phone dinged again. Another friend in the hill country had texted me a picture of the weather. The photo description read, “this is outside of Waco”. I looked at my watch. I began to prepare my mother for my departure, letting her know that i would have to leave right at 2:00 pm. They rounded up the children and we drove one town over to go to lunch. The restaurant was an old wooden contraption that appeared to be built mostly from railroad ties and driftwood. It was like a multi-story maze on stilts, winding this way and that through all the rooms at the edge of a river. There were floor to ceiling glass doors that folded like an accordion when opened. There was no pin to secure them in the middle when closed. The wind preceding the storm hit the town we were in right as we parked and the walk to the restaurant was chilly. Inside the staff were scrambling to switch all the fans off and light the fireplaces. The wind slammed the glass accordion doors back and forth in their hinges and it made a sickening noise. I was unsure how the glass didn’t break and sat at the table wondering who designed those doors without pins to anchor them in the middle. Glancing at the clock on my phone i realized i couldn’t order anything to eat. I had to be in the car on the way to walmart in 10 minutes. Those photos and the wind let me know that the storm was ahead of schedule. It was moving faster than i had anticipated. There was no room for leeway. I would have to leave at 2. I was starving though after running around with the children. My mother waited until the waiter had gone and produced a gluten free, dairy free, sugar free cranberry muffin from her purse. There were two of them for me. She was excellent at that. She could usually be counted on to have squirreled away some sort of amazing food-stuffs in her purse when restaurants didn’t have vegan options or time-constraints were present. I scarfed the muffins down, grateful for the nutrition and to have something in my belly. Then i hugged everyone goodbye and left for walmart. The gps took me to the walmart distribution center instead of the walmart. At this point i had to override and reroute using my phone to google the accurate address. By the time i got there i was a good 15 minutes behind schedule. The wind was really whipping now as i was driving in the direction the storm was coming from. I would be driving to meet it all the way home. I made it into the store, my hair looking like it had been styled by a hurricane. I then went into turbo mode and put my nose to the grindstone to get all the supplies i needed for the week in less than 30 minutes. I made it out in 25 and had everything loaded in the car, basket put away, by 29. I plugged the gps in and headed for home. I had told myself i couldn’t speed any more for any reason because i’d been given a couple warnings and i was pretty sure the next one would be a ticket. I’d never had a ticket so i promised myself i wouldn’t speed. However, i hit so much construction i couldn’t have sped if i tried. I sat in the traffic thinking if i had gone the long way around it probably would have been quicker than waiting in the traffic. But it was too late. I was long past the time to exit to take the long way around. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and chanted, “this too shall pass…this too shall pass.” I checked the weather report often on the drive; pretty much every time i was stuck in traffic. I watched the temperature drop with unease…45…43…40…38…35…34… It was literally two degrees away from freezing and i was nowhere near home. My heart went through my feet as i realized i wasn’t going to make it. The storm had come in faster than expected and even if i made it home at the time i had been shooting for, i wasn’t going to make it before the temperature reached freezing. The tree leaves would be covered in water which would then begin to frost. The rain would begin to stick to the windshield…i decided i would have to drive creatively on those winding back roads on the last stretch to home. The speed limit was 55 but i always took them at 30 because of the twists and turns and the deer. At that moment i would have to take them at 55. So i did. I drove with my fingers clamped onto the steering wheel, knuckles turning white, windshield wipers on full blast to keep the precipitation from sitting long enough to stick. 33… i said a prayer asking God not to let any deer jump in front of or into the car. Then it happened. “32”.
I pulled up to my property, jumped out, undid the chain on the gate, drove the car through, chained the gate, and drove the car up to the house. I jumped out and unlocked the door to the house. I grabbed the attachment for the extension cords. I plugged it in to the side of the house, plugged the extension cords in, and ran to the fruit tree boxes. The wind was whipping my hair and my jacket around. It was driving the rain sideways. I pushed the stick in on each heat lamp, turning them on one by one until each box glowed a bright yellow in the gray of the storm. The rain was falling steadily. Soon it would be sleet. To my horror i realized i hadn’t put any salt or sand on the porch of the house or shed. Then an idea popped into my head. I didn’t have sand but i did have granulated kitty litter. I poured the kitty litter all over both porches. Then i let the dogs out to potty while i unloaded all the supplies i had bought at walmart from the car.
The dogs were really happy to see me. When the wind was howling that’s exactly what it sounded like from within the tiny house; howling. It often sounded like the house would come down in a storm but it never did. During big storms i usually let the dogs in the bed, covered them with the blanket, and held them while we listened to the howling wind and pounding rain. I didn’t want them to be alone in the house when the arctic blast hit but it came early and they were. I was home now and they were super glad. They pottied quickly and hurried back inside to see if i would turn on the heater. I did. I turned on the heater, started dinner, and held the dogs as the storm raged on into the night. The trees seemed warm enough under the heat lamps and the potted plants were tucked in the well house with the heat lamp on in there. All the drinking water was in jugs in the tiny house in front of the pantry. It seemed i had made it just in time.