The View from Mary's Farm for December 2004
January 1, 1970Storm Home
In the North Dakota, the term “storm home” refers to homes where children who live outside of town can go when a storm takes place while they are in school. I always found the concept rather romantic – a storm so severe that a family other than your own would take you in and care for you. It never occurred to me that, as an adult, I would have to find a storm home. But, late one night last December, that is what happened after a friend and I had sung in a popular local performance of the Messiah. After the last resounding A-men, we emerged into the storm, which was like walking out onto the top of Mt. Washington. Snow was not falling, it was lashing.
In the car, the wind whipped the snow this way and that, as if some madman were at the controls. We inched along, unable to see anything but white. After two miles and what seemed like hours of driving, we stopped. “What are our options?” my friend Sy asked. Sy, who has stalked wild tigers and hacked her way through the Amazon jungle, is by far the most intrepid of my friends. We knew without even discussing it that reaching either of our homes in weather like this was out of the question.
“I have a friend who lives about a mile from here,” I offered.
“Let’s go,” Sy said. We dialed my friend on the cell phone but there wasn’t any answer so we left the message that we were on our way.
By now, I had my head out the rolled-down window. I couldn’t see a thing but we somehow found her house, our imagined haven. The driveway had not been plowed. We plunged in, snow cresting away from us as, tires spinning, I urged the car as far into the driveway as I could.
The house was beautifully lit with white candle lights in each of its many windows, making it look as if the house was alive with activity but this turned out to be an illusion. Our knocks on the door went unanswered. After a numbingly cold ten minutes or so, I tried the latch and the door opened. Willy, the terrier, barked loudly, which I hoped would rouse my friends. But once he knew it was me, he stopped. The kitchen was warm, which felt intensely pleasurable. Willy settled into his bed as if all was well. Sy and I looked at each other. No one seemed to be home. Or else they were sound asleep in their beds. My car was deeply buried in the snow and the storm raged. We were here to stay. “I’ve got blankets in my trunk,” I whispered. “We can sleep right here on the floor.” Sy, who had slept on more floors than I had fingers and toes, readily agreed to this plan.
Before we nestled into our makeshift beds, my friend descended the stairs. Her face was white as a sheet. If she’d had a gun, I think she would have been weilding it. Relief spreading when she recognized who we were. She had already called the police, reporting a home invasion. We talked fast to explain and as we talked, the police arrived, a clueless young man who scolded me for making him come out in this weather. “The driving is terrible. I couldn’t see where I was going! Next time, be sure to call first!” All of which left us speechless. We had called. And, obviously, the terrible driving was precisely why we were here. But my friend, now our hostess, ushered us to bedrooms where the beds were all made up as if we had been expected after all and we fell asleep to the muffled sounds of the storm and woke to more snow. After breakfast, as the sun broke through the swirling clouds, we left our storm home and, by noon, I was back home on the hill, where there was much shoveling to be done.