BY SARA PALMER
Inspired by the suggestion of “goosebumps.”
It was my sophomore year in college and, due to winter weather, South Dakota and Nebraska had been declared a national disaster. It had somehow rained or sleeted overnight with a sudden drop in temperature that caused the moisture on the trees to freeze, become very heavy and fall into the power lines, leaving no electricity for miles. School had been cancelled for the first time in history as far as I could tell and as I looked out my window, I saw fallen power lines and National Guard vehicles lining the streets.
At this time, it was well below freezing outside. I was living in a historic district of Lincoln, Nebraska. My apartment, while aesthetically unique, was very old. The windows were framed in wrought iron with iron handles used to crank them open. That meant, no screens and no insulation. The pipes, appliances, tiles, fixtures, outlets, stairs and landlords were all very old, and likewise, often times hard to navigate. That said, it was an amazing apartment most of the time.
My roommate and I saw this as a fun kind of adventure, the kind inspired when you’re barely 20 years old and living on your own. I mean school was cancelled after all, right? All we could do was hunker down and make the most of it until things got fixed. So, after joking about how cold the apartment was, we geared up and found ourselves sitting on the couch covered head to toe in winter clothes, like a couple of kids waiting to go sledding. Soon, that too became extremely cold and we found ourselves sitting together in an over-sized chair, covered head to toe in winter garb, underneath three blankets, like a couple of ice fisherman whose heat had gone out.
Ultimately, the amusement wore off and we decided that we needed to go to the “guys’ house.” This was a house that four guys we had become friends with the year before, had decided to move into with each other, but, more importantly, they had a fireplace. The only problem was that driving was not advised. At that time, I drove a 1989 Isuzu Trooper with 4-wheel drive. This was our exit plan.
Already dressed and ready to go, we hopped into the car and drove precariously past the National Guard, over the tree limbs covering the once clear, paved road, slipping and sliding all the way to the “guys’ house.” It was an eerie feeling that afternoon, being the only ones outside of the National Guard, on the street. The snow in the yards covered with a thin layer of ice, was shining like glass, cracked by the tree limbs that had come crashing down the night before. Roofs of neighborhood houses were caved in from trees that could no longer take the weight of the gathering ice. The sky was so grey and motionless that the clouds seemed to be frozen in place as if we were driving through a painting, still and profound. The 15-minute drive took us 45 minutes after being re-routed several times due to debris and almost getting stuck once. We almost turned around before realizing we were over half way there and decided to push forward.
Once we arrived at the house, it became obvious that some others had the same idea. Upon entering, this now, retreat from the cold, seemed to appear more like a house party, but the fireplace was roaring and that was all the invite we needed. There were several of us that stayed at the house for the next couple of days. We stayed up talking, drinking and playing games. I met a future roommate and a few people that I ended up taking my following spring break with. It was the biggest slumber party I had ever been to and was bittersweet to see it end once the power in the city was restored. I made some new friends in that couple of days and became closer with old friends; it was a time I will not soon forget.
Since then, we’ve all moved on, some to California, some to Texas, Oregon, Iowa and, myself, here in Arizona. Maybe that’s why I miss winter so much sometimes.
Sara Palmer is a an improviser-writer-storyteller based in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Share your ideas for her next blog in the comments below.