I grew up in a really, really small town in rural Indiana. Really small. So small, that when my family moved away in 1998, the population dropped a full percentage point. Our ‘community days’ festival consisted of between 4-6 venders down Main Street, which, when blocked, made absolutely zero difference in the traffic. During said festival, the highlight was the casket race. This is, essentially, where pallbearers would carry a (living) person in an open casket. The person would carry a plate of water. Whosever plate still held the most water at the end of the race, won. (Why didn’t the person crossing the finish line win? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.) This might sound morbid, but it makes perfect sense when you learn that there were exactly 2 possibilities for employment in Lynn, that is if you didn’t own a gas station or work at the school. They were casket factory worker and farmer.
Truth be told, it was a wonderful place to grow up. Because there was nothing to entertain us, and nowhere to go, we spent most of our time cultivating relationships on the front porches of one another’s homes. Although my extended family was 500 miles away, we were surrounded by loving surrogate aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Which leads me to the Ice Storm of 1995.
In rural Indiana, we could handle quite a bit of snow and still function. But ice is a whole other monster. Ice = no power = no school/no nothing. In 1995, I was the horrible awkward age of 15. Too cool for school, too old for babysitter, but too young to drive.
When the ice storm came, my mother was working as the director of nursing at a nursing home 30 minutes away. If you don’t know my mother, just imagine Sally Field with the enthusiasm/personality/optimism of Richard Simmons. Imagine she’s your boss. Imagine telling her “I can’t make it to work because of weather.” Imagine her driving to your house in her ’92 Pontiac Grand Am and picking you up, because…yeah ya can. So my mother stayed at the nursing home, caring for the elderly (because Jesus), making sure people got to work and picking up the slack of those who refused.
My brothers both (somehow) landed in hotels in the quasi-neighboring city of Richmond with friends. I, and my best friend, Erin (whose mom was also a nurse and was keeping vigil at the hospital), were stuck in Lynn. Because of those close relationships, Erin’s family was my family and we spent a few days with her grandmother because she had a generator. We pretty much felt abandoned, jealous of our brothers, and IN.CRED.IBLY. bored. But, eventually, when flushing (and misery) became an issue, we somehow convinced our moms to let us stay home. So Erin and I, in some sort of mid 90s survivor-style adventure, stayed at our house which had a gas fireplace and ‘city’ water, thank God. At the time we were both boyfriendless, but obsessing about our crushes. Which is the worst possible scenario for two teenage girls. We sang “Always Be My Baby” 1,434,345 times. Conversations went like this:
Do you think he’ll drive by here on his moped/bike/with his mom/permit?
Probably not. The ice storm.
Do you think he’s thinking about me right now?
Do you think mine’s thinking about me?
Let’s get our makeup on in case there’s a fire on the other side of town, and this is the only house that is left standing, and all the boys have to come here!
It went on like this for days. We were like wondering souls in the desert imagining scenarios of otherness. No one came. We ended up playing cards. We built a giant snowman in my front yard.
(see my hair with no electricity! And what was I looking at?? There was literally…NO ONE else to look at!)
We kept warm under hundreds of blankets. We resented our mothers.
Can you believe them?
I’d never do this to my children.
Me either. I can’t believe they didn’t get us our own hotel room. With room service.
We burned candles and talked and talked and talked. She told me she wanted to be a professional beach rater. I decided on physical therapist. After the storm passed, my mom said, ‘One day, you’ll look back on this and laugh. You may even thank me.’
‘Ha!’ Was my reply for the rest of high school.
But today, when I saw that it is going to be -14 with tons of snow in Indiana next week, I texted Erin (in Arizona) from my home in North Carolina (we probably moved to milder climates as a direct result of the trauma we endured). We chatted about our endless ordeal together. Secretly, of course, we loved every second of it. Secretly, I would love to spend 4 days my best friend with nothing more than time to kill and snowmen to build and dreams to dream.
So, my dear Indiana friends, if your forecast is correct and you get snowed in next week, enjoy it, even if you’re 15. Let the lights be out, put the fireplace on, wrap up tight, and dream dreams and play games and enjoy one another.
One day you’ll (really) be so glad you did.
I just hope your toilets work. 😉