Winter and I have always gotten along at an arm's distance. I tolerated it when I had to. I always tried to make the best of it, you know, enjoy the pretty fresh snowfalls, ride snow machines, wear cute boots that kept my feet marginally warm (but they looked good!).
But what happened in Houston this past week was nothing short of a disaster. I tried to prepare. I had water, food, candles, a generator I don't know how use.... But I was without power for more than 32 hours in sub-freezing temperatures for days. It got down to 47 degrees INSIDE the house! I put up with that for one night, then demobilized to a kind friend's house for the second night. My son has a small parrot, Stella, that likes it around 72 degrees. Needless to say, Stella wasn't too happy, and honestly, I was concerned the bird would croak. So we shoved everyone into a kennel (not my son - who could lift that??) and trucked it over to my friend's place.
She has a sizable home, so everyone was comfy, but it was five kids, three dogs, a cat, a bird and three stressed moms under one roof. We made the best of it. We had wine, dumplings and king cake. We all went to bed fed and warm.
Early the next morning we went back to the house. I was so stressed that I'd see a flood of water pouring down my driveway from a burst pipe. But not to worry! Everything was still frozen solid. That busted pipe didn't show itself until the heat kicked back on and started to thaw out the house. I was minding my own business in the living room, happily watching some crime documentary, when I heard what sounded like the shower running. I went into the master bedroom and at first thought it was water running off the roof outside. But no! It was water running from the ceiling INSIDE. I must have looked like one of those cartoon characters that hops up and down not knowing what to do first! I ran to the kitchen for a big pot to catch the water, then I ran into the garage to turn off the main water valve. I knew where that was. Aren't you impressed?
Now what? I don't have a plumber on speed-dial, and pipes were bursting all over the neighborhood simultaneously. The neighborhood Facebook page was lit up with people asking for help and folks offering recommendations. I snagged one from a neighbor and that plumber was able to get to the house the following day. There were two leaks in the goddamn pipe but thankfully no others. The plumber was kind enough to give me all kinds of helpful advice as I stood there wringing my hands and chewing my nails.
Taking no chances because that night dipped below freezing again, I turned off the water to the house and drained all the pipes for the next two nights. A huge pain in the ass, but worth it to avoid a repeat of that nonsense. It was like Soviet Russia rationing when I'd go into my son's room: "The water is off for the night. Sleep well."
A word about Texans: yes, they are self-centered and at times annoying arrogant. But they also pull together in the clutch. I've seen this before during hurricanes. My neighbors were lending each other shelter, food and hot showers. Others were patrolling the neighborhood shutting off water lines. And still others were reporting back from the field where we could find milk, eggs and gasoline. I didn't panic because I knew if I needed something, someone would come through. For instance, I pulled the emergency cord on my garage door to get out my car. When the power came back, I couldn't figure out how to get it back into electric mode. I posted on the neighborhood Facebook page and had an answer in two minutes.
So what have I learned? I need more D batteries and another flashlight. I need to learn how to crank and operate that generator. I will turn off the water and drain the pipes whenever we have a hard freeze again. I need to stock up on firewood. I'm ready for the zombie apocalypse. My kid will continue to wear basketball shorts and a t-shirt even when it's 30 degrees.
And I have some of the best friends and neighbors on the planet.