“I’m sorry,” Mr. Holtz said. “If I stop at the bottom of the hill, I don’t think I can get her moving again.”
“She” was a school bus, and at the bottom of the hill was a “T” intersection. Usually, Mr. Holtz stopped there to let me off for home, but this particular afternoon he swung left and continued to the top of the next rise before stopping. The right turn was not an option; it would have led to our house but also to a dead end in the brand-new subdivision.
The result was a walk of about three blocks, mostly uphill, wind whistling, snow already up to my waist in spots and still coming down fast. Ditches and the absence of sidewalks necessitated a slog up the middle of the street. It was probably fortunate that a plow did not come rumbling along.
Similarly, the lack of visibility rendered Mom unable to track my progress from a bedroom window as she normally could. She had two little ones in the house and was hugely pregnant; Dad was at work and there were no neighbors yet. I was on my own.
It was my custom to deal with boring or unpleasant realities by transforming into other creatures and assigning them missions. Likely a wild mustang urged weaker members of the herd through the drifts toward a copse of sheltering trees, or a wolf pack stalked caribou on the tundra. Perhaps Catwoman played a part as she was wont to do in those days. At any rate, whoever it was who reached home that afternoon quickly saw it was not over. Nearly the entire face of our ranch home was drifted to the gutters.
Trying to tunnel my way to the front door yielded little progress despite much effort. I next tried working my way to the back. At the southwest corner of the house I didn’t adequately clear a snowdrift buttress and tripped into it headfirst, snow filling mouth and nose. It was probably the sudden realization of possible real danger – along with Mom’s face when she pulled me off the back porch into the house – that has kept the memory vivid for so many years.
Mom threw me into a warm bath and prepared hot tea with milk and sugar just as she did when I had a bad cold or flu. Whenever telling the story afterward, she always said she’d never seen a more exhausted child.
We spent the next couple of days speculating on whether Mom would require a helicopter rescue to deliver the baby, but no such luck. The new sister waited until the snows were cleared to make her appearance.
On my seventh birthday a few weeks later, Sis celebrated her christening surrounded by cooing grownups who absent-mindedly patted an undercover Catwoman on the head.