Greetings from the Ridge.
I was reading a brochure on our church’s upcoming couples’ retreat when the lights went out. We all have our stories of the Deep Freeze of 2014, and the fact that I’m alive puts me ahead of most folks, I suppose. But in spite of living in the 21st Century with the advantages of cordless vacuum cleaners and four-ply bathroom tissue, Mother Nature can still send us back to the Ice Age in the blink of an eye or the snap of a power line.
And that’s just what happened on that sub-zero Sunday afternoon. Boom. Zap. Cold.
Herb said, “Oh, it’ll be back on it a minute.” Herb was the same guy who predicted Newt Romney’s landslide victory. I said, “What if it doesn’t?” And in his Captain of the Titianic voice he assured that we’d have the power back any minute.
Herb’s promised minutes continued to tick by as the house grew increasingly uncomfortable. Insulation had not been invented when our house was built and my husband insists that our forefathers existed without it and we could as well. He neglects to mention that many of them died at the age of thirty-seven.
“Herb, this is an emergency. We can’t get out of town to stay with somebody else and we may be stuck here tonight at ten below.”
“We’ll have to snuggle up, Freida.” I briefly considered the alternative of dying of hypothermia.
All in the world we had left in the house were two candles and a used sterno from Herb’s last fishing trip. An electric stove offers as much warmth as a non-electric husband. “Herb, go start the car. We can’t stay in here.” He told me it was too cold to go outside. “There’s only ten degrees difference between out there and in here. Start the stupid car!”
I bundled him up like an inflated lint ball and rolled him out the front door then rushed around the house turning on all the water taps. Herb returned in five minutes with a newsy announcement. “Dern. It’s cold out there.” The man never ceases to amaze me with the depth of his perception.
So as the sun slowly sank on Coonridge, the Crumps shuffled their way to their awaiting Nissan. We bought the car because it was economical with little regard for the fact that we might be spending a cold evening in its cramped quarters.
What do you do with a husband with whom you’ve been hooked for untold decades, sitting in tiny car and watching a snow storm bury your entire town? Cell phone usage is a joke in Coonridge. Our cell service is like our tavern allotment . . . we only get one bar. This means you own a phone that you can’t use and you might be able to send a text if the wind’s in the right direction. I’ve never texted in my life but this was an emergency so I pulled out my phone to check on my snowbound relatives. I own the world’s oldest cell phone. I think it’s kerosene-operated. And I still have no idea how to erase something I’ve punched in so my message was something like, “doo you89 have lectricty295? fre90da.” I was embarrassed to push send fear that my cousin would not only assume that I was freezing to death but drunk as well.
There I sat . . . stuck in a tiny car buried in the blizzard of the century with a husband with whom I’d already discussed everything I’d ever cared to talk about. I turned on the local radio station to see if we’d be buried alive by the forecast but our only local station broadcasts rock music and I opted for freezing to death over death by rock and roll. And that’s when it occurred to me. Although Herb and I have spent untold years in wedded conjunction, we never sit in silence. We eat breakfast to the accompaniment of the Today Show, lunch to the local news, supper to the national news, and at bedtime I put in earplugs to drown out the old coot’s nasal chainsaw. On that bone chilling evening we were stuck simply sitting beside each other and staring out onto a darkened, snowy street.
I pulled out the only reading material I’d brought with me, the brochure on our couples’ retreat, and read aloud to Herb “Three idyllic days alone with your spouse, getting to know your soulmate intimately in a setting secluded from all the hustle and bustle of the world.” I looked at Herb. Herb looked at me. I used the brochure to scrape the ice off the window.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.