We didn’t host Thanksgiving this year.  Instead, we went to our granddaughter’s house because it’s big enough to hold the most relatives and is centrally located.  The reason I mention this is because what happened illustrates a fact of life in the north.  Don’t count on getting where you are going… or on returning… until your trip is finished.

The weather was warm and lovely when we drove to Jo’s house.  Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.  While we ate, we watched the weather outside change.  Snow fell.  Wind blew.  By the time the sun set, some time after four in the evening, stepping outside was walking into a white-out with all sense of proportion lost in the darkness beyond.

We started home.  We got about two miles, then turned around and spent the night at our daughter’s house.  We had a lovely visit, a nice breakfast, and drove home without incident. 

You could say we were lucky.  I remember one Thanksgiving when our youngest son didn’t make it to our house.  He turned around a mile from home and went shopping for turkey in the one store that was open near there.  In the store,  he met a neighbor who invited him and his family to share Thanksgiving.  So he had turkey after all.

Another time, our daughter and her family were traveling to our house for Christmas.  They got half-way and ended up in a motel and were glad to be there.  They celebrated Christmas in a motel with others who were also stranded.

When I finish this post, I’m going to put our winter survival gear in the SUV.  The four-wheel-drive SUV that’s the only vehicle we drive in the winter.  An old sleeping bag.  A large coffee can packed with candy, candles, and garbage bags that can be pulled over coats for added warmth and protection from the wind. Not much, but it can make the difference between comfort and losing toes and fingers to frostbite

When our kids were teenagers we insisted they throw snowmobile suits in the back of whatever car they were going to be in, whether it was ours or someone elses.  And we also insisted they tell us the route they would use coming and going.  So if they were late and we couldn’t locate them by phone, we’d know where to begin the search.  They hated it.  We insisted.  Usually we won though more than once I found a discarded snowmobile suit in the bushes where they’d tossed it because it was humiliating to actually admit to a friend the kind of rules we had.  But we lived miles from anywhere.  If there was trouble, there’d be no place for them to walk to for help … if the cold and the wind would allow walking anywhere at all. 

I’ve never had to use our winter survival kit and don’t know anyone who has and I doubt anyone I know will ever actually use theirs.  But here in the north country, it’s not a joke.  It’s a necessity.  And is part of the reason I became a writer.  Because my commute to work involves nothing more than walking from one room to another, and I don’t have to go outside at all if the weather is really, really bad.  Which is sometimes is.

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