If you have ever heard thunder when it’s snowing, you know what I mean when I say “oh, crap!” Such was my reaction on Tuesday afternoon when, as I emptied our mailbox, a clap of thunder surprised me. I had walked in very light snow from our doorway to the corner where I was going to wait for J. I looked at my cell phone, determined I had time to spare, and went to the mailbox.
I ran out of there. I told the property manager to go home, and go home ASAP. She, who trusts me, did so just as the rumbling got louder, closer and the visibility got less and less… The sudden-onset blizzard had announced itself, and made a grand entrance.
I texted TGG, Dada and J’s teacher: stay where you are. This is going to be bad.
This was at shortly after two-thirty P.M. As I hugged the wall that flanks the townhouse complex driveway, I kept telling myself that J’s bus would arrive “any second now…”
The usual group of parents started gathering as the snow continued to fall in what seemed to be a relentless onslaught. The road started getting slicker, and shovels and ice melt appeared. Cars started inching down the road towards our driveway, and no sign of the bus yet. People kept arriving and clustering in groups, commenting on the suddenness of it all.
The doppler radar had announced this. The snow was supposed to be enough for the school district to switch Wednesday’s early-release to a 2-hour delay, and yet here we were…waiting for buses that were not coming.
And then, when the usual time of arrival had come and gone, we got word through one cell-phone armed parent: the buses were stranded down the road due to an accident. I texted TGG at work: DO NOT LEAVE! ROADS DANGEROUS. WAIT FOR MORE INFO.
A motorist got stuck in a ditch trying to drive away from us. A group of the shovelers ran to help. I got a call from Dada: where is he? I said “to wit? He’s stuck in the bus somewhere down the road.”
Someone said “the buses will be here in half an hour. We need more salt.” I handed my keys to a guy I’d never met and told him to help himself from our garage. He came back in ten minutes with a bucketful. Another call: it’ll be an hour. By then it was already four P.M….a full hour and a half since I’d heard that first clap of thunder had elapsed.
I ran home to change my socks and shoes, and to check for messages from the bus. Pam, our trusty aide, had called to say they were safe, but that they were firmly stuck in place due to two accidents on the road bookending their route. I called her back. J, she told me, was happy; he had moments when he felt a little antsy, but they had crackers, water and the kids were singing and trying to make each other laugh. I told her I’d be waiting on the corner when they got here. She said, wistfully, maybe another half hour.
They rolled up to the corner at 7 P.M. All in all, the kids had been sitting in the bus for four and a half hours, and they had been stuck less than a mile from our driveway, but impeded by vehicles that had been stranded, two accidents and a very steep and icy hill. As J stepped off the bus, I was standing there with my lantern, my shovel, and such a great feeling of relief that we would soon be warm and safe at home.
We traversed the icy, slippery road and made it home to doff our coats, scarves, gloves, hats, and bags, and to use the bathroom. J had, Pam told me, had a banana, crackers, water. The people who lived near where they were stranded had come out to offer food, blankets, and their restrooms. The kids had been worried, but they’d kept it together. As soon as we got home, J made a beeline to the bathroom, and I called Dada and TGG to tell them, once more, that the reports about road conditions were grim and to stay where they were.
They didn’t listen.
Dada took two hours to get less than 1000 feet from his office, and then he turned back to the warmth and safety of his workplace. TGG, who had taken refuge at a fast food place that was closing at around ten, made his way to Dada’s office and there they sat, drinking coffee and checking the weather and road conditions. They finally got word that an alternate route was more open, and -leaving TGG’s car behind- made their way home. They arrived at nearly midnight.
The schools were still on a 2-hour delay when we crawled into bed, and classes didn’t get cancelled until 6:20 the next morning. The superintendent (the Mr. Potter of Morgantown from what I heard from other parents) referred to the whole situation as “at least we didn’t say “see ya” and leave the kids behind.” Some students, mind you, didn’t make it home until midnight.
I have heard the argument that “parents should have gone to get their kids from school if they were worried.” To that I’ve answered that in loco parentis applies, and the school has to work with what they know about the weather, and the city is responsible for monitoring potential hazards on the roads BEFORE bad weather hits. It’s not like they didn’t know it was going to snow.
All in all, the situation has made me be thankful for all those Shackleton books I’ve read over the years. It’s also made me not want to watch The Revenant. I’ve also come to understand that we have, indeed, come a long way with J: on the one-month anniversary of his med being completely taken away, J sat gracefully, calmly and patiently for four and a half hours while stuck in traffic.
If that isn’t an awesome thing to discover, I don’t know what is. He was calm and happy, and glad to be home. And when I told him that he wasn’t going to school the next day, even though classes hadn’t been yet cancelled, he took it with a smile that indicated relief and the desire to just chill after his long wait at the bottom of the hill.
I have to say this is a surprisingly wonderful discovery: J can function without the Risperdal under rather extreme conditions. I am grateful, happy, encouraged…and looking for a place where we can live without the ONE road in and out that might get horribly stuck in bad weather. Not that there will be school buses next winter, but…lesson learned……..