Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Better than a month

Bad blogger. Bad, bad, bad little blogger.

What can I say--things here have been pretty even-keeled, which doesn't inspire me much for writing.

The snow finally came. I'm not a fan of cold weather, but I'm even less of a fan when it's cold and gray and brown outside. If it's going to be cold, I want it to be pretty, too. I think I anticipated our snowfall as much as the kids soon as that "S" word was in the forecast, being tossed around like so many flakes, I became excited, anticipating the frozen winter wonderland that was sure to come.

Eight to ten inches, they said. Blizzard conditions, they said. Beginning late evening, they said.

Well no wonder I was disappointed when, upon waking up multiple times in the night to visit the water closet, there was not only a lack of snow on the ground, but also a clear, starry sky above.

They only missed the timing by about.....twenty-four hours. What was supposed to fall on Friday night waited until Saturday.

Better late than never, I suppose, although it did also mean that we wondered until about 9:00 whether we would be able to make it into town for Mass. The comedy was that we left at 9:30, which is a half hour earlier than usual--to give ourselves extra time, of course, because the roads were terrible, of course. But they really weren't! Of the three lanes usually open on the interstate, two were drivable, and one was really just sloppy. So by the time we arrived at church, we had FIFTY minutes before Mass began.

Better early than never, I suppose, although it did also mean that we had the kids run around like wild people in the basement so that those other intrepid souls who braved the city streets (which were not anywhere near as passable as the interstate) were not disturbed in their prayer time before Mass.

The church, as one might imagine, was sparsely populated. But those who were there sang with gusto, responded boldly, and prayed earnestly. It was inspiring!

The drive home was not quite as impressive as the drive in. We took a different road--a state highway, which goes more-or-less directly home just as well as the interstate. As happens every year, the closer we got to home, the worse the road was. For some reason beyond all human understanding, the county in which we live has made the idiotic decision not to use snow fencing. For those of you in warmer climates, snow fencing can be either stick-and-wire fencing or plastic construction site type fencing. The function is to catch the snow on the back side as it blows through, creating a gigantic drift against the fence--and preventing drifting on the road (or your driveway, or whatever you're trying to protect).

Now, I'm just a tax-payer, so I probably have no idea what I'm talking about...but I'm just going to hazard a guess that this fencing is cheaper than sending out plows multiple times, especially when they are sent out when it's not even snowing. The drifting across this particular highway is notorious, and happens anytime it's windy, for Pete's sake, because the wind picks up whatever loose snow is on the surface of the surrounding fields. With no hills and no tree lines to protect the road, the snow just blows right across and covers, usually, an entire lane, and sometimes part of the other for good measure.

I'm thinking, since this is a state highway as well as an interstate alternate, wouldn't it be a priority to make sure it's clear? And wouldn't that priority include, perhaps, making sure that it doesn't become snow-covered when it's not even snowing, for Pete's sake??

Right, I know. Crazy talk. I'll stop. ;)


I had such a lovely talk with my Grandma yesterday afternoon. She just cheers me up every time we speak. I love hearing her stories, and I ask her various questions every time we talk, just so I can soak her up a little more. When your Grandma is 95 years old, you want to soak up every drop of her that you can.

Yesterday's story was about my mom. Grams and I share the experience of having a baby in February, which tends to be the coldest part of our winter here. The temps plummet well below zero degrees, and the wind chill is even more impressive. The day my Squash was born, for instance, the mercury struggled to read -17 degrees. Chris, the loveliest of midwives, made a note of it in my folder. It was so cold and clear that your eyes felt frozen if you poked your head out the door.

Grams loves to tell the story of when my mom was born. It was February of 1942, and the coldest day of the year. The hospital where Grams delivered was at the top of a hill, which was covered in ice. The tires in those days were no latch for the ice, so it took a long while to get up the drive.

They made it eventually, of course, and my mom was born. She weighed a bit over five pounds--she was right on time, just very small. She's always been very small. The nurses nick-named her "Dolly" because of her petiteness.

Grandpa's mother tried to get hold of him. She called the people and places she knew to call, and finally called the Red Cross. "In those days," says Grams, "Papa didn't think much of the Red Cross. They were do-gooders, but it was nothing then like it is now." Well, they were able to find Grandpa, which was more than anyone else could do!

Since the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor just two months before, Grandpa was off with the Army, and his Division was conducting exercises in advancement. Up the East Coast they were preparing to move, and the men took turns going in groups to scout ahead to find a suitable place for the entire Division to stop, make camp, prepare and eat their evening meal, bed down, and then make their way again in the morning. When the Red Cross found Grandpa, he was in one of the scout groups. He was a Captain, so he was the man in charge. The Division was crossing Northern Florida at the time.

Grandpa was able to get leave for seven days, and it took almost two days for him to get home. He made his way to the hospital to see his first child, expecting a somewhat larger baby...his mother had been so embarrassed by her smallness that she had told Grandpa that Mom weighed six pounds, five ounces, rather than five pounds five ounces.

The nurse said to Grandpa, "Would you like to see your baby?" He said, "Oh, I don't need to. I've seen babies, and they all look the same." Well, that nurse huffed and puffed and stormed out of the room, only to return a few moments later with two babies: my mom tucked into one arm, sweet and tiny and content, and in the other arm, a great big red-faced, squalling, nine pound baby boy with a shock of black hair stuck to his head like bristles on a brush.

"NOW!" said the nurse to Grandpa. "Do you still think all babies look the same?"

Well of course, Grandpa was terribly sheepish, and happily took his daughter into his arms.

They named her and brought her home and had her Baptized. Grandpa had five days left of his leave. He was supposed to get on the train to head East to meet up with his Division, but he received a call from some higher-up officer. This man had a car which he wanted brought to the East Coast so that he could take it on the transport ship with him over to Europe, and he asked Grandpa to drive it.

Grandpa's sister had just been married a few months earlier, and her husband was also on the East Coast waiting to ship out, so she rode along with Grandpa to keep him company, and so that she could say goodbye to her new husband. Grams said it was a good thing, because Grandpa squeaked out every minute he could of that leave, knowing he wouldn't be home for a very long time...and so he had planned to drive straight through. Having his sister along meant that he had company--and someone to keep him awake!

When he got out East and met back up with his Division, Grandpa learned that General MacArthur had ordered their Division to Australia. Australia was under attack from the Japanese at the time. So the men, who had advanced all the way up the East Coast in preparation to ship out to Europe, found themselves getting on a train instead of a boat, and crossing the country to the West in preparation to ship over to Australia. Of course, they didn't know where they were going; they just knew that it wasn't Europe.

Grams said how glad she was for that time of leave with Grandpa. He left when Mom was ten days old, and the next time he saw his daughter, she was a week shy of turning three years old.

Thankfully, Grandma's younger brother was just returning from some army training, and was able to finish out the winter helping Grandma with household things like cleaning the chimney and splitting wood.

I had heard the story many times about the coldest day of the year, the icy hill, Grandpa's mother misreporting Mom's birth weight, the remark about all babies looking the same--but I hadn't heard the part about Grandpa and the army.

Things are stressed for us right now. We are feeling the financial pinch of a much smaller paycheck than we should be getting, and the house is much cooler this year than last year in an effort to shrink the heat bill. But I stand in awe of my Grandma and her contemporaries who shipped their men off to a war that killed hundreds of thousands of a generation in an effort to protect the world. It is a staggering and sobering thing to ponder, and I am inexplicably grateful to God that I am living and raising my family right here, right now.

1 comment:

slkrtr said...

Laura what a beautiful story of your mom's birth. I miss my grandma so much and wish I could ask her all the things I didn't before she died. I'm so glad to hear you're taking advantage of the time you have. A merry CHRISTmas to you and yours. Sara Kreuter