Hey remember that time we got stranded in a sudden snow and had to abandon the car and WALK to try to get home, with ALL THREE KIDS?
The sun is shining now and spring feels dangerously close, which means I finally, a month later, can tell this story without panic rising back up into my throat and tears hovering behind my eyes.
I have no idea where to start. Okay. I will start at noon. (All these times are approximate, obviously, based on texts and my phone log.)
11:45 - All three kids are home since we have a snow day off school, so we decide to pick up Another Nathan at church for lunch before the snow starts (predicted about noonish) (the last snow day, we waited til 7pm for what was predicted at noon. #context).
12:13 - I sit in the van and let the big kids run up to the sanctuary to pull Another Nathan away from practicing (gently! with walking feet! and whisper voices!) (I remind them every time, but HA) and it has juuuust started snowing. I take a picture in my snow! day! excitement! to text to Liz in Utah and show her our second NC snow of the year. This is that picture:
Adorable, right? YOU CANNOT EVEN SEE THE SNOW.
12:20 - We arrive at Zaxby's, we eat chicken and grilled cheese and, with some mounting concern, we watch the parking lot turn pretty white pretty fast. We order a milkshake to share on the way home, and decide to leave. In a fit of smarts, seeing how slowly traffic is moving outside, I take the big kids to go potty before we get back in the car. Anneliese says she only has to poop but not pee. Who does that??? No one goes poop and not pee! No one! (Stay tuned, this will be relevant later.) (You can already see it coming, right?)
1pm - There is enough snow we have to legit scrape off the van before we can drive away. Uh-oh. That was... fast.
1:05 - The roads are very freaking slippery. I wish to not be driving on them. Why is there no salt? Is this snow or ice? It is very slick. It takes me only several hundred yards to haaaaaate it, and start worrying. We go several blocks and get to the top of a hill, on a main busy road, that no one is going down, because they can't get back up. Suddenly there is snow everywhere and no one can get where they want and we get very wide eyes. This doesn't happen in Raleigh! We turn around, FOR THE FIRST TIME.
1:10 - Another Nathan gets out and pushes the van over an incline, FOR THE FIRST TIME.
1:15 - Back on less-gridlocked residential streets, a car in front of us makes it over a slight slope only to careen directly into a ditch on the decline.
1:16 - We panic, FOR THE FIRST TIME.
1:17 - Mark texts from work (where he is in panic mode himself, ice on power lines is no joke) to say that traffic throughout the city is gridlocking, and checking to make sure we are safe at home. Ummm.
1:20 - We are in the hilliest neighborhood in Raleigh. (I HAVE NEVER NOTICED ALL THESE HILLS BEFORE) and no matter which way we try to go, we are caught either behind someone who is stuck, or at the bottom of a hill we can't get up ourselves. We turn on a movie in the back of the van and Another Nathan and I try to breathe deeply and talk to each other in low soothing voices about how we can not freak out, because then the kids will freak out (we have ALL! THREE! KIDS! omg).
The hour of misery: We are in a blur of icy street after icy street, snow piling up faster than it ever does around here, and no one knows how to drive in it, and basically everyone in the city is just stuck. This happened nine years ago and it took like eight hours to get home, and I hit a school bus in the process, and had to walk a few miles. This cannot be happening again. With kids. No no no no.
We are arguing about which way to try next, weighing which roads would take us back closer to church or to our house, which ones are too hilly to try, which ones are flat but would make us backtrack. We try many turns, most of which fail us and we need to turn around, which almost always involves more pushing. Another Nathan and I are crying at different intervals (never at the same time, thank goodness), giving up on one road after another after another, meanwhile more and more cars are stuck and hard to get around, and the snow is falling faster, and the roads are slicker and slicker, and we are basically driving in circles around several small blocks. The kids have gotten very quiet in the back of the van.
1:55 - I call my Montreat friend Amy who lives somewhat nearby, halfway knowing we might need to walk to her house, and halfway hoping she will have some smart ideas for a route to try. She knows the neighborhood well, and tells us the least hilly streets that will get us closest to church. Another Nathan hates it because it involves some backtracking, but I am panicky-insistent that we have to try something, and now, so we decide to take her advice. Several times, Another Nathan (sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of strangers) has to get out and push, but mostly the route works. (Until later when it doesn't.)
2:10 - The movie we put on in the back of the van is just playing an endless loop of previews, and the kids are officially now more aware of us than the stuck dvd player. They are scared. Nathan is weepy. Anneliese is whiny. Charlotte is wide-eyed. We are still trying, slowly, block by block, to make progress towards home.
2:15 - We are in an intersection of two tiny streets in a residential neighborhood, and every direction goes up. But the van will not go up. With all the other cars waiting to cross when we got to this cross street, we couldn't get enough momentum to get down the hill and back up, so now we are stuck. I shed a few tears. Other cars are making it! Why can't we make it? I am furious at the other people who deigned to be on the road in the same intersection at the same time as me and my own snow problems, who made it impossible for me to careen on through, and now I am stuck and I HATE ALL OF HUMANITY AND EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.
2:15 - A nice man helps push for a while and then convinces Another Nathan (who convinces me) that we are definitely not getting up the hill, so we should pull to the side of the road and stop trying. We sit for a moment and stare at each other, and he talks to Mark on the phone about what to do, and my head is spinning and I am only vaguely aware of what they were talking about, only vaguely aware of where we even are. I do not want to walk but I do not want to stay in the car with all the kids.
2:20 - I stop panicking and crying for the moment, and Another Nathan starts. He does not want to stay but he does not want to walk with all the kids.
2:21 - But if we are going to try to make it somewhere on foot (WHERE???) we need go. Now.
2:22 - I check google maps and tell a careful white lie about exactly how far we are from church. (I tell him it is just under a mile. It is... about twice that. Fine for just us, miserable with three poorly-attired young children.) But I convince Another Nathan if we can just make it to church, we'd have food and heat and diapers and bathrooms, and we could camp there for the night if we had to. He has keys. We would be warm. We would be safe. We just have to make it to church. We make the decision to walk.
2:23 - But before we can set out on foot, Anneliese says she has to pee. (BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T GO WHEN SHE POOPED REMEMBER?) So I do what I have no choice but to do, pick a random house, and ring the doorbell.
And Y'ALL. This could be a blog post all its own. The owners of the house have clearly been enjoying some sexaaay playtime, in the living room (one answered the door in a waist towel, the other was on the couch under a blanket, both seemingly otherwise naked), everything smelled like weed, and they were all chatty about how beeeeeautiful the snow day was.
Okay so I try not to see anything around me (so! dirty! messy! I can't even!) and we beeline for the bathroom where Anneliese pees and I looked all around and I am surrounded by... wait for it, this is the weirdest part of the day... FINGERS. Wax fingers. (Another Nathan has since corrected me, saying they weren't likely wax but maybe... latex? rubber? Something. Anyway, they looked like wax.) Here are the ones in the soap dish:
2:27 - We traipse back to the parked van but of course I left my phone in The House, so I have to go back and knock on their door again, (and then again! when I can't find it the first time I go back), until I finally find it on the towel bar in the bathroom (it was the only place to set it down, since everywhere else in there was full of fingers!) (Another Nathan: "dammit why did you even take it out of your pocket??" WELL, TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE FINGERS, NATHAN.)
2:30 - Back outside at the van, Nathan and Charlotte have been fortified with milkshake sips (yep, Zaxby's milkshake, still in the car) and assured that no, buddy, it isn't that all the people are mean and no one wants to help us, it is the snow, not mean people (haaaaaaa poor boy) and I insist on trying one more time to drive us up out of that crossroads.
2:34 - Attempt is tear-filled and futile. We are officially abandoning the van and walking. It has come to this.
2:35 - We lock up the non-essentials (including my purse, and Hattie) (!!) and take only what we need: the kids, a few diapers stuffed in jackets, our phones (Nathan's is basically dead by now), keys and a credit card, and we start walking. With three kids. In blinding white wind-in-our-face snow OH MY GEEEESH.
2:35 to 3:45 - The second hour of misery: walking in a winter wonderland MY ASS. The kids are in tennis shoes, no gloves, no hats. The wind is blowing snow into our faces. We take turns carrying Charlotte, whom we cannot convince to turn her face against the wind, and as a result her coat hood will not stay on, and it only takes a few minutes for her wispy hair to freeze into icicles around her face (in hindsight I cannot believe I have no picture of this, but it was the hardest part of our day, so).
Another Nathan has the big kids put their hands in their sleeves and look at the ground and walk as fast and carefully as they can. We make jokes about the Von Trapps. ("If they can climb over that mountain to Switzerland, we can make it to Oberlin Road!" "Wait wasn't that in summer though?" "Snowflakes that stay on my noses and eyelashes THAT IS NO ONE'S FAVORITE THING.") (Snowflakes were totally frozen to both Anneliese and Another Nathan's eyelashes.) (No pictures, GAH.) We sing songs. We talk about things people should invent to make snow better. We are freaking the eff out inside, but we are chatty and smiling underneath making Worried Eyes at each other, and it mostly keeps the kids in good spirits. Mostly. It is cold and it is wet and it feels like forever. It takes us about an hour to go the first mile.
3:45 - We make it to a shopping center with a restaurant that for some reason seems to be open. We go inside to pee and thaw out for a minute, and then we continue our trek. There is already enough snow on the ground that we can't tell road, from sidewalks, from green areas. Very weird for us.
3:55 - Since this road is busier and every car is basically heading right for our church, I get hopeful we can flag someone down to drive us the rest of the way. And we do: a nice man who works for the post office and suddenly whoa wait OMG we are hitchiking! with no car seats! Another Nathan in the backseat with both girls in his lap, me in the front with Nathan and the driver. Wuuuuut is our day turning into.
4:00 - The nice man brought us the last (long) few blocks to church, which has saved us. I have never been so glad to see our church parking lot, ever.
4:05 - Another Nathan goes all business on us, all Iowa, all midwestern snow survivor. Okay! Everybody inside, take off your coats! Wet coats inside feel colder than no coats! Here kids, stay right here, don't move, read these board books about communion! Erin please go upstairs and find my phone charger! I am going to get a shovel to dig my car out etc etc etc! and OH MAN I am glad he is taking charge because at this point I am DONE.
4:25 - I have procured kid-sized backup socks, sweatshirts and hats from the lost and found. I cannot find the phone charger. I also cannot find Another Nathan's boss, whose car is still buried in the parking lot but doesn't seem to have gone home with anyone else. I make lots of phone calls to track him down, leave a marker note for him on the whiteboard in the choir room because we are making a break for our house, we don't want to leave him stranded. Being stuck in a snowstorm makes everyone feel VERY CARING AND TEAM TOGETHERY, YO. True story. (It turns out he had brought good winter gear, and walked like four miles home on his own, tired and cold but perfectly safe.) So I am just finishing all of that when Another Nathan bursts in and says his car is cleared, and up on the road, and he is brisk-clapping us to get bundled and get going again.
4:30 - The kids are buckled in a row across the backseat of Another Nathan's little civic (we have car seats for the girls this time; *praise hands* for never remembering to take them out of his car) and they all three look wide-eyed and shellshocked. Finally I am not driving, finally home seems attainable, I am starting to feel okay, yet still I do not think to take a picture.
4:35 - We make it through the only trecherous intersection between church and my house, and we breathe a sigh of relief. We can walk from here if we need to. Home is within reach! We know we will make it! Nathan and I both have giddy-relief tears right behind our eyes.
4:37 - Some dumb van is stopped in the middle of the road (for no reason, waiting for another car to go?) and is blocking any good path for other cars to get through. I have to get out and navigate Another Nathan through it. I exchange Words with the driver of the van. He is not nice. (Very Caring Team Togethery FAIL, dude.) I do not need to push the car while I am out there, which strikes little Nathan as patently unfair, and when he recounts the story later, he consistently tells the part where I didn't push Another Nathan's car but Another Nathan pushed our van and mommy didn't even help him. So.
4:45 - We can see our house! We make one attempt to get into the driveway, fail miserably, and gladly just park across the street. We fairly jump up and down cheering as we muck through the snowy yard, our exhausted wet cold victory lap. HOME.
(Those are snowflakes, not asterisks. Just go with it.)
And then we spent the next five hours trying to unwind, which was not easy. We felt anxious basically all night. We hung our socks by the fireplace to dry, I made dinner, no one played outside in the snow like last time, and Another Nathan spent the night in the guest house before making it home safely the next day -- after almost getting run over by a snowplow while scraping his car on our street (he had to jump inside for cover) (it broke his side mirror) (I had never seen one before; I had no idea how fast they go!) (in related news I am officially now terrified of snowplows).
And then the day after THAT things were finally melted enough to go back for the van, which was right where we left it. A tree had fallen right behind it (!!!!) but not on it, thank goodness. And even on the third day, it was hard to wrestle the van up that incline and dislodge it from the ice.
(Scraping ice off the car you recently abandoned, while wearing shorts? On Valentine's day? You might live in North Carolina.)
Oh, and then, AND THEN, I couldn't find my keys. HAHAHA OF COURSE. (A certain oddly observant friend had a flash memory of them on the desk at church two days before, and indeed there they were.)
Oh y'all. I know many people had it much, much worse in this icy traffic fiasco, but for us with the kids, THIS WAS TERRIBLE. Like, legit stressful, probably will never forget it, terrible. And I don't know what much more to say about it besides thank goodness it is over, thank goodness that despite how scared we felt in the moment, it was not as bad as it could have been, and thank goodness spring is looming.
And that's the story of why we never did finish our Zaxby's milkshake.