My children will tell you I bundled them up to the point of embarrassment when winter’s winds blew in.
I should have taken the hint when the pediatrician called in his nurse to see a heat rash on my two-week-old daughter, born in January. I was embarrassed, but not deterred.
Granted, I teetered on the edge of obsession from time to time. When a news story reported the near suffocation of a child who crawled into an abandoned refrigerator, I grabbed a flashlight and walked the alley in my neighborhood, looking for cast-off appliances.
My husband rolled his eyes. “This is a city,” he explained. “No one is allowed to park a refrigerator in an alley.”
After missing what I should have recognized as a case of strep throat, I was forever asking my children to exhale near my ever-vigilant nose. I had heard of the cloying, sweet odor bound to strep and I meant to have it treated early. The doctor had an impatient response to my diagnostic skills.
“Keep this up,” he warned me, raising an eyebrow, “and YOU will have strep throat!”
Age and parenting experience should temper the excessive worry of mothers, but “better safe than sorry” is a mantra we buy into in the delivery room.
I never recovered! I sent one child off to a college on top of a mountain with an emergency ice storm kit — blanket, water and snacks, plus a candle and matches for car warmth if needed.
Her brother chose a warmer climate for four years of study, but he had to cross a river, spanned by a high bridge, to get there. I packed his car with every away-from-home catastrophe-protection-item I could think of, including a hammer for his glove compartment, important for breaking a windshield if a car skids on an icy bridge, plunging into deep water.
Years later, I fret over grown grandsons. I ply them with bottles of water and thermoses of coffee, breakfast bars and sandwiches before they hit the road. I ask about jumper cables and spare tires.
My husband thrusts money in their jacket pockets for gas and has become the master of Rain-x, armoring windshields for storms. The “be prepared” motto has found him.
But neither of us was prepared for the ice and snow storm, bringing life as we knew it to a screeching halt, 13 days ago.
We picked up grandchildren from school, usually a 10-minute drive, and for the next two hours inched along to our daughter’s house. She left work at an Atlanta church at noon.
Rerouted by a state highway patrolman to Highway 41, she began a 13-hour snail’s pace drive to Marietta, checking in by cellphone as the sun set and night came to drivers who could not move their cars toward home.
Her father and I stayed glued to television footage of snarled traffic, cars spinning on ice and trucks blocking lanes, knowing there was nothing to do but wait, while we calmed worried grandchildren and thought of solutions. There were none.
No protein bars in a bag. No extra water. Not a blanket or flashlight in our daughter, Beth’s, car. My hand-wringing days as a mother had come to this!
When she walked in the house at two in the morning, her first words to us were: “I didn’t fall apart because I knew you had the boys and they were safe.” Then, we cried.
Later, when I stopped shaking and could think, I vowed to begin collecting a cache of snow-storm saving graces — socks, gloves, a warm jacket, bottled water.
That emergency bag could collect dust in Beth’s station wagon or the sky may fall again. I don’t know who coined the term, “Mother” Nature, but, lately, we’re not feeling the love!
As mere mortals, we’re no match for a snowstorm diva, pitching an icy hissy fit!
Judy Elliott is a longtime resident of Marietta.