When it was clear the impending blizzard was indeed upon us, I begged to go to a hotel. Even though it meant being confined in small space with two rambunctious children and an infant, I wanted to be warm.
"What about the dog? We can't take Peach!" my husband said. My husband is a frustrated cowboy-pioneer deep down and loves the idea of braving the elements and testing his mettle. I just want to be warm. And well fed.
But I looked at the ottoman-shaped animal and finally agreed.
We slept fitfully that night, flinching as tree branches snapped with the weight of the ice. Cracking as loud as gun shots.
At first it was big fun. The snow encapsulated everything, covering garbage cans and asphalt and barren bushes in over a foot of snow. There was no sign of civilization on the ground, just bulges and ripples under the blanket of white.
The boys had a heyday sledding on the nearby golf course and making the most of the snow day. And Peaches sank into the snow up to her back, which was amusing. The baby slept and gurgled and cooed, smiling as his brothers tickled him with icy fingers. My 10-year-old's iguanas nibbled on fruit and basked under their heat lamp, oblivious to the winter wonderland on the other side of the wall.
And then we lost power.
I warned to boys not to go outside because they wouldn't be able to get warm. My husband merrily stoked the fire, stomping around in work boots and leather gloves. We hung blankets over the windows in the family room, and closed the room off from the rest of the house, making that our family room, literally. It got colder. We put on more clothes and huddled around the fire, rubbing our hands.
My husband cooked a pork tenderloin in the fireplace, roasted some potatoes in the coals and heated up a can of beans. I glared at him and told him the meat was underdone and that we could be ordering room service if he weren't so hard headed. My mettle had already failed the test.
We could see our breath in the house.
Our saving grace was the gas water heater. We took turns soaking in the steaming bath tub, but getting out soaking wet was torture. I still can feel that drizzly coating of ice forming on my skin before I could dry off and put on my filthy, smoky clothes.
We went through our drawers and put on sweat pants and blue jeans and sweaters and shirt after shirt, and crawled into bed. Then we got right back up and pulled the blankets off the family room windows, and covered our beds and shivered as we tried to sleep. We argued over who got to sleep with Peach, and my oldest son carefully placed the iguanas on his chest to keep them warm.
Undeterred by the weather, my 10-year-old headed back out for sledding the next day, and promptly broke his scapula. My husband loaded him up and headed down to Erlanger where they waited. And waited. And waited. A broken shoulder bone was nothing compared to other sledding accidents.
By the time they finally got home, I was frantic with worry. I imagined them stranded on the side of the road in the subzero temperature, or worse. Those were the days before cell phones, so I had no way of knowing my son and my husband were toasty warm in a brightly lit waiting room, chatting it up and sipping hot coffee. He probably shouldn't have admitted that little detail.
Meanwhile, visions of the Donner party flickered through my head as the five-year-old began to sob from the cold and I began to doubt we'd ever be rescued. I didn't think our situation could get any worse when there was an ear-piercing scream from my oldest son's room. We rushed upstairs expecting the worst.
"He's dead!" my son screamed, holding a stiff iguana in his hand.
Somewhere in the recesses of my brain I had a tidbit of information about reptiles and warm water. I filled up a Big Gulp cup with warm water, submerged the iguana, and began to massage his skinny, scaly body.
Somehow it started to move right before our eyes.
My son looked up at me, astonished. This boy, right on the verge of being a teenager, stared up at me like he was seeing me for the first time. He was incredulous. Amazed. Awed.
I would do it all over again, despite the bone-chilling cold. That ice storm was my finest hour.