It was a storm of biblical proportions, two feet in some places. Snow plows tried to keep up for a while, then disappeared. Friends called, voices quavering, reporting seeing explosions at utility stations in the distance. Then it happened, the power went off in the night.
We couldn't even make our way to the propane grill in the back yard, which sustained us during power cuts in warm weather. My husband and teenage son prowled the house like big cats newly captured and stuck in zoo cages. I huddled under the thick comforter my sister had given me and read cook books.
I was ill-tempered until my husband dug out the car and found, finally, a store open that sold coffee. Then I was happy. I need that one cup a day. I settled down, reading. That I know how to do, be still and quiet, content with my own company.
Later, J. found a new restaurant open a few blocks away. So, we bundled up and walked, inched really, slowly, carefully, into the cold, dark, icy night.
The cold took away my breath. But the white world was beautiful. Deserted.
We made it to Pizziola, a new neighborhood carryout/takeout/sit down cafe. Following a new trend in the neighborhood of providing excellent food for great prices, a standard set by my beloved May Island's opening last year on Quaker Lane not far from I-395. The food at Pizziola was comforting, especially after being deprived. I am usually a salad type, but ordered a cup of the luscious minestrone, big fat pieces of vegetables and pasta. No scrimping on ingredients
And because I had been cold for too long, I shared a pizza with my husband, mozzarella and ribbons of basil strewn on a delicious dough made in the kitchen by chefs we could watch from the front. Our boy had a burger and fries. A huge plate of fries bursting from the plate. He pronounced the burger "absolutely delicious."
While we waited, we played Scrabble. I had never played this game before. I had to repeat this several times. But we did not play games in my family. My parents played Rook very briefly. I remember them setting up card tables and inviting people over. This was very unusual in my household, entertaining people who were not relatives. But even the Rook did not last, I don't know why. In college, I was the only girl on my dorm floor who could not join in the marathon card games. I just didn't know how to play.
So my son and husband taught me how to play Scrabble. From the beginning I lectured myself in my mind: This is a game, take it easy, it does not matter who wins or gets ahead or whether someone gets "aggressive."
Because a few years ago we were playing Monopoly quite often at home. This was something I did play with other children growing up. My husband grew up in a games-playing family. They were/are fanatics in fact. Maybe the long, cold winters in Iowa contributed to this. But my husband, the youngest of a large family, is very competitive and that personality emerges sometimes still even when the game is "just for fun."
It took over during one of our Monopoly games. I don't even remember what happened. I do remember it was the last day of the Christmas break and we'd been together, close quarters, for 10 or 11 days with no break. Then, my husband talked my son into some deal that benefited him at the expense of my son and me, but told my son it was "the best deal for him" or something along those lines. My son was just a little boy. It infuriated me that his zeal to win would send him over a line during a monopoly game. Or it seemed that way to me. But my husband didn't see it. I threw down my cards. I was just so angry.
I ruined the game for my son. He never wanted to play Monopoly with us again. I was the one who had crossed the line. I am the calm presence in the family. What I did is out of character. So I've not been able to forgive myself.
But then, during the weekend of the big snow, we were imprisoned by the cold, freezing night, unable to go our separate ways. We were together again as a family, with a board game sitting beside the cafe table, provided by the restaurant to keep customers happy while they waited for their food. And my son, 16, with a teenager's short memory, said, "Want to play?"
And we did. And I didn't care who won, or even what the score was, or who took a long time or had the iffy word. I just enjoyed being with my family, being warm, eating good food. And playing a board game in peace and happiness with a teenage son who said, "Hey, this is fun, we should play this at home."
And he didn't even remember. But I did. And I will never, ever forget myself again.