Monday, December 16, 2013

The three-day surprise

It was supposed to be a surprise.

For me, and for a few other people with birthdays in December.

If it had been a real surprise, if I hadn't known it was being held partially in my honor, I wouldn't have gone to the party at all.

You see, the kids were all sick on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday last week, so none of them even went to school until Wednesday. And then Thursday was a snow day, a nasty, wet and icy day, so there was no school, and there was a delayed opening/early dismissal at work.

By the time Friday rolled around, I wasn't much in the mood for a party. And more snow was expected in the evening. I hate driving in the snow. Despite all my years in places like Russia, Beijing and Central Asia, I'm a Los Angeles girl at heart, I guess. But STJ and CL had gone to great effort to invite all of my favorite people (some of whom are going to need nicknames themselves in order for me to finish this post). Besides, they're from Pittsburgh. I figured, they know from snow, and they could always drive me home if I didn't think my 2-wheel-drive van could make it. So I loaded up the kids and the cake for the 5-minute drive to their house early Friday evening.

It was great fun. The GlobeHoppers were there, and Paleo, and GF and her husband, and the whole Cantaloupe family, and even, uhh, Ron. (I still haven't thought of a good nickname for Ron. Chime in if you know him!) Trixie and her husband were expected, too, but they didn't make it there ahead of the storm.

Because: yes.

Before dinner was even served, the snow started to fall. And not in a "hey, according to the news we'll get an inch of snow tonight!" kind of way, but more in a "your van is not going to make it up the hill, ever" sort of way. Paleo didn't even wait for dinner - she loaded her kids in the car and took off when it started storming. Me, I'd already had one of Mrs. Cantaloupe's now-infamous gingerbread martinis, so I wasn't going anywhere.

Just as well, because 20 minutes later, Paleo called. She was stuck at the bottom of the hill, halfway home, and she couldn't move, neither forwards nor backwards. CL and Ron laced on their snow boots and took off to rescue her. Eventually, they got her car moved to the side of the road - they couldn't get it up the hill, either - and they got her back home before rejoining the party.

The rest of us continued to eat and drink and gaze out the window at the snow, wondering how we'd get home. CL's favorite Jordanian pal Ice showed up - it was his birthday, too, so he was another guest of honor. We all set about teasing him, because he'd had to ask his very-important dad for a ride to the party. And we waited for one last guest - I guess we'll call her Pilot - whose plane had landed at the airport, a 40-minute drive away, sometime around 6pm.

Pilot never got there. She called about every thirty minutes with an update: stuck on the airport road; abandoned my car on the side of the road; getting a ride with a random stranger; still stuck; still stuck; still stuck.

Eventually the GlobeHoppers and the Cantaloupes decided to convoy home. But they were going downhill, together, in trucks. I was going to have to get uphill in a minivan, up the same hill that defeated Paleo's van just a couple of hours earlier. Ron left, too. But CL and STJ didn't think I could make it back home in my van. We finally decided CL would drive me back to get the dog and some toothbrushes. We figured it would be safer than taking the kids out on the icy roads, and more fun anyway. We could stay til Saturday morning when the storm stopped. Ice was stuck for the night, too, and Pilot hadn't even arrived yet.

Off I went with CL. We only got stuck a couple of times. Of course, the first time, we were less than a block away from his house. I nervously suggested to CL that if we ever got unstuck, we should forget the dog and go back inside the house, which we could still see from our patch of ice. But he gritted his stubborn little teeth and said he was not going home without that damned dog. Eventually some random passersby helped us to dig out with a shovel, and we made it to my house, about 30 minutes later.

We grabbed the dog, some toothbrushes and some pjs and, after much skidding and sliding, we rejoined the party. Still no sign of Pilot, and by now it was probably closing in on midnight.

We stayed up until about 2, but eventually decided Pilot wasn't going to make it, and we went to bed, laughing at our adventures and wondering where she'd ended up.

Pilot rang the doorbell at 3 am. It took her 8 hours to make the 40-minute drive. That's how bad the roads were.

The next morning we awoke to find almost 2 feet of snow on the ground. CL went out, looked around, and said nobody was going anywhere. At all. All day long. So we made pancakes and heated extra chili and ate leftover cake and sat around in our jammies all day watching movies. Pilot and Ice worked the phones, trying to explain to the rental car company that the car they'd rented to her was in a snowdrift somewhere on the airport highway, with her luggage still inside. My dog and STJ's dog had vigorous doggy sex, about every 12 minutes, hour after hour. After hour.

Evening rolled around and we were all still friends (Except the dogs. They were definitely more-than-friends by evening.) We made some soup, played some board games and watched some more movies until bedtime.

We started wondering which dog we would eat first if the snow didn't melt soon, or get cleared. Me being the fabulous dog owner that I am, I of course volunteered Yogi to go first. And I told Donner party jokes that no one else understood, because apparently only Californians study the Donner party in elementary school history classes.

(Go ahead and google it. I'll wait.)

Day three: the snow has stopped. The weather is warming. It is time to say goodbye, to go home and put on clean clothes. Oh, and let the cat out. I dig the van out while SUVs go sliding past me, down the hill, which has been plowed enough to allow for one slippery lane of traffic. I load the kids in the car. I wave cheerfully at STJ and Ice and Pilot as I pull out across the ice. There is a loud crunching sound under my wheels, which I assume is the sound of ice. Crunchy ice.

"Don't go!" shouts Ice, presumably because he misses us already. I wave cheerfully.

"Don't go," he shouts again, more urgently this time. "You left part of your car on the ice!"

Turns out, the crunching sound I'd heard was actually the sound of the bottom of my car detaching from the vehicle and staying behind, frozen to the ice as it was.

We're home now. It's Monday night. School was closed yesterday. And today. And then, this evening, we got the texts informing us that the school will be closed tomorrow as well. And the embassy will open late again. All across west Amman, parents sobbed fat tears upon reading those texts.

There's no salt in this country. Very few plows. They haven't been hit with this much snow in a decade. So the roads are still snow covered, slick and icy. Driving down the hill this morning to the Embassy was not fun. It's just as well the school is still closed. I don't want my kids on a bus on these roads. But one of these days I'm going to have to show up for a full day of work, somehow.

Meanwhile, I suspect the kids' favorite memory from this Christmas season will be of the crazy surprise party CL and STJ threw for their mom, the surprise party that lasted for three laughter and snow-filled days.


Nomads By Nature said... [Reply]

My kids have been wishing for a snow day, everyday, for the past two weeks. Typically at this time Ankara usually gets quite a bit - guess it over shot us and landed on you. What you just described would be go down in history with my kids as the best weekend E.V.E.R! Hope the car heals soon and that the roads get safe quickly. There is no salt or sand here either, and they get LOTS of snow and ice -- which is why there are so many videos of sliding and crashing cars posted from these parts. Glad all were safe!

Please. Write your own stuff.