I don’t remember being cold during the ice storm in January, 1982. According to Alabama Weather Blog, a powerful cold front moved through central Alabama on January 9th when I was six years old. I had to look it up to recall when exactly my memories were from since it was not a particularly noteworthy event for most people, despite the fact that for a week the state was pounded with severe winter weather that caused the deaths of twenty people and inflicted $78,000,000 of damages. Why do I remember an event from when I was so young that was overshadowed by things like the “Blizzard of ’93” or “Snowmaggedon” of 2014? Simple: family fun.
No, I don’t recall being cold. I do remember the snow and ice blanketing the trees, grass, front deck, cars, chicken coop, and our mile-and-a-half long dirt road “driveway” in Pondville. It was steeply uphill for the last 1/8 mile, which was why we were stuck there. Nothing but Daddy’s tractor would make it up that hill with all that ice on it, and nobody was driving that old tractor to town. There is a picture somewhere of my dad, myself, and my sister standing in front of the tractor in the front yard, with a white casing of snow and ice bending the trees over behind us. We were stuck at home for a week, with no option to re-supply with a run to Wal-Mart for toilet paper or milk sandwiches. But, we were fine.
The log house my dad had built a few years before – with the help of friends and family swinging hammers and toting things too heavy for me at the time – kept us warm with its living room fireplace, wood burning furnace in the basement, and propane water heater and kitchen stove. We were comfortable because we had plenty of food stored, plenty of water stored (I’m pretty sure the line from the road froze.), and plenty of things to do to keep even a restless six-year-old occupied and happy.
We played board games and card games, baked cookies, and most nights had family story night around the stone fireplace in the living room. The toasty, crackling fire added some light to the kerosene lanterns burning steadily in their glass globes. The power was out the entire time and then some, due to the many trees down on the lines. So, we had no television – not that we had more than three channels on our tiny TV anyway. I still clearly remember my dad laughing as he read stories aloud to us by the lantern light. I remember feeling warm and cozy … safe and content … happy.
Perhaps my sister was bored some, being a 16-year-old stuck with her parents and little brother for a week, but I couldn’t tell it. She taught me to play rummy, and there is no documented count of the number of times we played Monopoly. Perhaps my mother got bored baking cookies and teaching me to make pancakes, french toast, and scrambled eggs. Perhaps my dad got bored or frustrated keeping the wood pile up and the furnace stoked as he ventured into the biting cold daily and returned with his red and black plaid flannel shirt crusty with ice around the collar and cuffs. Perhaps.
But, I couldn’t tell it.
I don’t remember the tough parts. I don’t remember the frustrations or boredom, even if I experienced it in the moment. I only remember the fun parts – the good memories.
As we are in a similar situation now of being stuck at home – at least most of us should be due to the Governor’s shelter-in-place order – remember that one day this will be a set of memories that you and your children will keep. Will you remember the frustrations? Will you remember the empty shelves of toilet paper, Lysol, and Tylenol? Will you remember the “hardship” of not being able to go out to eat? Will your kids remember staring at YouTube on their phones until they lost track of what day it was? Or, will you and your children remember spending time together as a family, getting to know each other better, playing fun games or doing household projects together?
Will you turn off the television and internet of their constant barrages of bad news? More people died today of COVID-19. More people will die tomorrow. More people will have no more time with their families. This quarantine could last several more weeks, or even months. Make the best of it.
Stay home. Don’t invite people over. Don’t spend all your time on social media talking to other people. Talk to the people in the room with you. Play a game. Read a book aloud with everyone piled on cushions in the living room or sitting around a back-yard campfire. Bake cookies. Work in the yard. Build that bookcase you’ve been meaning to get to. Teach your kids to sew or cook or how to change the oil in the truck. Spend time how a family is supposed to: with each other.
Turn the bad situation into good memories, and enjoy the time you have together. One day there won’t be any more.