I was born in December of 1976 in Cincinnati, a bare month before the Ohio River froze over. My parents took me home to rural Ohio, and my Dad went back out on the road. That left Mom home alone with a newborn. In a blizzard.
The front part of our home was built in the mid 1860s. It’s just a very old brick farmhouse.That front area is just one big room with another room above it. (And the upstairs totally unheated.) The middle of the house was added in the 1920s and the back in the 1940s. All sturdy, yes, but poorly insulated.
It got very cold that year. First, Mom closed the upstairs door. Then, she shut off the front room by hanging blankets in the doorway, because the fire she could keep burning couldn’t compete with the drafts that blew down the chimney. Then, the oil line froze, and she hung more blankets between the middle room and the kitchen. The water froze, even though she ran the pipes religiously. Finally, she was living with me on a little bit of gas heat run through an antique oven.
Besides the new baby, she had pets to take care of, and Mom’s dogs were her other children. She was low on everything, but she couldn’t get out for supplies. The car was frozen shut, and everything in the gas tank was probably iced solid anyway. She couldn’t call out, because the storm had taken out her phone lines. So she got by day to day melting snow on the stove and trying to figure out if she was going to have to walk to town in a blizzard with a new baby.
Then one day, while she was sitting at the kitchen table, a man came banging on the back door shouting “Anybody home?”
It was the mailman.
He hadn’t just stopped in randomly or due to the letter carrier’s creed taken to the nth degree. My grandparents in Loiusville had sent in the rescue brigade. Frantic when they lost phone contact with Mom, they called down to Dave’s Grocery five miles away in Marathon. They asked if anybody had seen Mom. When nobody had, the grocers got the mailman involved.
I’m not sure what he was driving, and I know Mom didn’t have much to take with her, but he fit my mother, newborn me, and both dogs into his vehicle. We stayed with him and his wife until my grandparents arrived in the camper to take us all home to Louisville for the remainder of the winter.They had already gathered in their relatively small home my great grandmother and her sister and another distant aunt of some variety before we arrived.
Whenever my grandmother told the story, she showed me the scratch marks on the door, where Mom’s golden retriever, Sissy, jumped up and demanded to be let out every morning. She shrilled her fears of what could have happened. She conveyed a sense of portentous fear.
When Mom told the story, it became an adventure. Not exactly thrilling or starring Errol Flynn, but not at all gloomy or frightening. Just one of those things we had to deal with to live in the country, with a cozy family gathering at the end. I liked Mom’s version better. I’m certain she made sure it felt safer. Because seriously, I grew up in that farmhouse. She didn’t want me worried about meeting my own ghost some January night. She didn’t want me frightened of the next blizzard.
I’m hooking this up with Story Dam’s weekly Dam Burst prompt which asked us to present a story about somebody stuck in the worst part of winter. I wouldn’t have had room for any fictionalized version, though I’m sure I have some details wrong.