24-7 Family Togetherness Time
For lack of a coherent entry, I thought I'd ramble a bit…
I never quite found a way to believe that my little blue planet took the opportunity of wintertime to point away from the Sun, not until I looked up one icy, sunny winter day and saw the rainbows. Every year after that, they came back, like the ice, my silent friends of wintertime afternoons. Only in midwinter was the sunlight angled correctly to stream in through the picture window, where it would be refracted through the cut-glass panes of my mother's coffee table.
If you looked up, straight ahead, toward the kitchen, you would see the horizontal rainbows splayed against the ceiling. They would show up first as white globs of light, then sharpen into rainbows, and then quietly fade over the course of the afternoon.
On the days of ice storms, they gave me something else to watch besides the glass-sculpture world outside the window.
We spent our waking time in the living room, close to the wood-burning fireplace, on ice storm days. Without power and heat, the rest of the house was simply too dark and too cold to do much of anything in, so whether we liked it or not, it was 24-7 Family Togetherness Time.
For people who have never experienced this particular type of weather event firsthand, it is difficult to explain the total isolation of the event. Somewhere between you and the nearest town, some suicidally-inclined tree branch would finally get the courage to break from the tree and take some power lines down with it. Soon after, others would succumb to the weight of ice and peer pressure and hop down to the ground to keep the first branch company—and so on down the line.
The end result: power could literally be out for days.
But, being the intrepid modern-day pioneers that we were, our houses automatically came equipped with two features generally unseen in most suburban houses: a woodpile, and a wood-burning fireplace.
Most folk who had qualms about 'killing trees' tended to lose them after their fourth day without power. In the absence of electricity, idealism can only keep you warm for approximately three hours. Seventy-two hours into the situation, all but the most ardent environmentalists will burn nearly anything combustible to raise the ambient air temperature high enough so that breaths are no longer visible.
The first day was always an adventure. I would lie by the fire, dressed warmly, and read by firelight until my mother would scold me about ruining my eyes. (Given that I've worn bifocals since my 22nd birthday, maybe she had a point?) More often than not, we'd end up all sleeping in the living room to take advantage of the ambient heat of the fireplace.
The second day was more humdrum.
The third day was when everyone started climbing the walls. Mom would haul out her heaviest pot and put a roast and vegetables in it, and let it cook over the fireplace all day. Even now, I associate pot roast with ice storms, despite the fact that we actually ate more sandwiches and cold food during the power outages than we did pot roasts.
By the fourth day, insanity started to set in. You were cold, you hadn't had a hot shower in several days, you hadn't left the house, and more often than not you didn't have phone service.
On the fourth day, someone usually got brave enough to try to go to the store. Not necessarily because we would be in need of bread, milk, and toilet paper (although we usually were) but just for the sheer accomplishment of having gotten out.
Out here in eastern Alabama, we just don't get the same severity of ice storms that I remember from my childhood. Geof and I both think we may be in for a good one tonight, but even that probably won't keep us in the house for more than a day. We've got the three southern staples (milk, bread, and toilet paper) in any case.
Maybe Jeff will get to sleep in tomorrow.