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White Out: Dispatches from Snowmageddon Part Two

It was a day of big conversations.

This morning, we needed to explain to the twins that even trees die, pushing out their tight boundaries surrounding death a little further (up until this morning, the only ways one could die were old age, not eating, or getting hit by a car because you ran into the street instead of holding your mother’s hand).

Two of the fir trees outside our house were lying in the snow, splintered apart at the base.  While these two trees were not trees to which I had ever had a strong attachment (and to be clear, I do have a tree that would literally gut me if we lost it), one was a hang out spot for Simon Liverspot, our pet squirrel.  The tree was right next to the kitchen window and only two days ago, we ate breakfast critiquing Simon’s nut-gathering techniques while we watched him gnaw through the almonds I left him in a cup outside.  And now his home was gone.

The ChickieNob reacted with one part drama and one part true grief, calling people she knew and telling them the tale of the two trees and their early demise, ending each conversation with a solemn, “I actually don’t want to talk about it anymore.”  And then she would sigh as we dialed the next number and ask if she could speak to the person first.  She repeated the story and her desire  (and inability) to stop reliving it, turning the two felled trees into her own personal ‘Nam.

One person we called brushed off the story with a verbal wave of the hand and a promise that we could just go to a nursery and get a new tree.  But I didn’t want a new one, just as I hadn’t wanted a new goldfish as a child or a new guinea pig as a teenager or a new pregnancy as an adult.  I wanted the one that I already had, that I had memories and feelings built around.


The twins came downstairs with me so I could do a workout with the Wii while Josh shoveled outside.  They sat on the floor playing with two matryoshka dolls–one a set of nesting women and the other a set of Soviet Premiers.  I ran around WuHu Island, in my own world, barely listening to their game until Stalin started moaning.

“Cut me open!  Take this baby out of me!” the Wolvog shrieked.  The ChickieNob obliged, snapping his matryoshka doll in half to reveal a smaller Lenin.  “I gave birth!  I gave birth!”

“I don’t really love this game,” I gasped at them as I ran out a tunnel back into the eternal sunshine of WuHu Island.

“It’s okay,” the ChickieNob reassured me, as if to say that I didn’t really understand it because if I did, I would see that it was just a benign creative exercise in exploring the horrors of c-sections in a safe and nurturing environment.

“No, I mean I really don’t like this game.”

The Russian peasant women and Soviet dictators were silent for a bit.  I pretty much forgot about their game, concentrating on the scenic view of the ocean before me until I heard the ChickieNob moan, “this mommy is empty.  She’s empty and she’s so sad.  She has lost her babies.  Where are her babies?  Where are my babies!   I gave birth and my baby is gone.  Give me back my babies!”

And while I know that matryoshka doll empty is not the same as a barren womb, there was something in her play cry, this mimicked scream of what she imagined a mother would sound like if her child was gone, that broke my heart into a thousand pieces, shattering it like falling tree branches into the snow.


As the ChickieNob danced by in the kitchen, I scooped her up and cradled her playfully.  We have a firm you-ask-then-I’ll-tell policy in our house when it comes to sensitive subjects.  In other words, until the question comes from their lips, I believe that they’re not ready to hear the answer and therefore, I don’t say anything.  But if they do ask, they get a whole bucketful of life delivered to their doorstep in terms a five-year-old could understand.

The topic of pregnancy loss and neonatal death hasn’t been broached–at least not concretely in the past few years–though since the ChickieNob has a handful of older friends, I wondered if the topic had come up without my knowledge.  “Hey, that game downstairs.  Why were you playing that?”

“Because I felt like it and the Wolvog felt like it.  We felt like it.”

“Is that something that worries you?  Is a baby being lost something that’s on your mind?”

“I’m never worried,” she boasted.  “I’m never worried, never worried, never worried, never worried, never worried.”

I put her down and she ran around the kitchen in a crescendo of repetition until she finally plopped down on the kitchen footstool and crossed her legs in an exaggerated manner and puckered her little lips.  “Did you think that was funny?” she asked.  “I’m never worried.”

No need, my sweet, to rub it in.


My big fear this storm has been that we’d lose power.  Josh was given three Yahrzeit candles to burn just in case we lost power.  Which felt like ten kinds of wrong even though I couldn’t find specific guidelines about using a Yahrzeit candle as a light source.  I mean, I’ll admit that we’ve lit white Shabbat candles during a power outage, but somehow, that feels kosher and using a memorial candle feels like it’s tempting fate.  Yet everyone we know does this because they can burn safely for 24 hours and not become a fire hazard.

But we didn’t lose power, despite losing trees, and we woke up in a warm house with computers humming.

“Holy shoot!” the ChickieNob exclaimed when we opened the front door this morning and discovered that we were literally snowed in until Josh jammed his way out–the snow covered the bottom half of our screen door.  We called my parents and discovered after trying several phones that they were one of the unlucky 200,000 people in the area without power.

Near dinner time, the snow finally let up and Josh went outside to shovel.  We called my mother again and she said they were still without power–bored but fine.  The ChickieNob told me that she didn’t understand.  She thought Daddy was going to drive over to get Grandma and Grandpa and she couldn’t understand how we were intentionally leaving them in a cold house.

I explained that this wasn’t a choice–that the roads were too dangerous to drive on even if we could somehow get our tiny vehicles over the 30 inches of unplowed snow between our two houses about 12 miles apart.

Her lip quivered as she sniffled out, “I just don’t think it’s fair.  That we have a warm house and hot pizza and Grandma and Grandpa have a cold house and cold food and no lights.”

And as her heart was breaking over noticing the tip of the iceberg of the imbalance that exists in the world, she stared at the remaining part of the tree and said, “I really don’t want to talk about that tree anymore.  It makes my heart sad to think about that tree.  And I don’t understand how a strong tree can fall over just like that.”

We kept the order of our universe: dessert following dinner, warm bath, fifteen minutes of the Muppet Show, cuddles in the rocking chair.  She went to bed thinking her deep thoughts.  Outside it was dark, even the streetlamps muted, only a handful of men trying to move the mountains of snow from the sidewalks before it froze over tonight.  When I looked out the window, it was only the sound of shovels hitting concrete, the scrap of the tool, and the shadows out there.


So in one day, we covered the concept that there are other ways to die, that young trees can even die, that babies can disappear and that the world is an unfair place.  Another dispatch tomorrow provided we remain on the lucky side of the power statistics.  And we’ll hopefully get outside to play in the six foot snow piles.


1 monica lemoine { 02.06.10 at 9:48 pm }

Wow, that’s a lot to cover in one day. I’m glad you were able to keep “the order of your universe” – all those inches of snow dumped on you is decidedly not orderly. Nice job keeping the world intact, and making the most of it. 🙂 And congrats on still having electrical power.

2 Guera! { 02.06.10 at 9:54 pm }

I am still holding out for someone to create a button that we can press when we’ve read a blog to let the writer know we’ve read it . That way, you’ll know the post was read but a comment wasn’t left, in my case, this time, because I know I am going to be mulling over this one for a few days and comments escape me at the moment.

3 Kristin { 02.06.10 at 10:51 pm }

Wow, not only did you cover a lot of topics in one day but those are some deep, heavy things to think about.

I think I would be a little hesitant to burn Yahrzeit candles too.

4 Wishing4One { 02.06.10 at 11:31 pm }

Man that was a deep snow storm, LOL. You know, I wish I could spend a week, no a month with you, you always learn/teach/experience so many wonderful life lessons that I could benefit from. Not only are you the Queen of the ALI community and all the things you have started for so many of us, you rock as person, seriously man.

5 S.I.F. { 02.06.10 at 11:47 pm }

The things that children come up with are incredible… I probably would have crumbled if I had heard a 5 year old (certainly if it was my 5 year old) shrieking about losing babies and being empty! You are a strong woman, because that one would have broken me and then I would have needed to explain why mommy was crying.

6 Rebecca { 02.06.10 at 11:58 pm }

Wow, you definitely covered some intense issues! Your daughter is lucky to have such a wise mother to learn from on how to cope with the unfair things life sometimes hands our way. Glad to hear you guys are warm & still have your creature comforts, hope that continues for you!

7 Journeywoman { 02.07.10 at 12:41 am }

I too would freak out if I had to use a yartzeit candle for power loss. Glad you didn’t need to.

8 Lavender Luz { 02.07.10 at 12:43 am }

Guera! and Wishing4One left comments I wish I’d said.

Your children must be Indigo Children, delivering wisdom and questions from our souls need to hear and ponder.

You, my friend, are such a wonderful thinker, feeler, writer.

9 Bea { 02.07.10 at 1:45 am }

Heavy. Heav. Ie. She knows how to ask them, that girl.


10 nh { 02.07.10 at 6:21 am }

Gosh – that’s a lot in a day. I hope that tomorrow brings less intense thinking, and that you still have power!

11 N { 02.07.10 at 7:45 am }

I’m glad you guys didn’t lose power, and not just because of the candles. Wow, that’s a lot for one day, though. These days of forced containment seem to bring about things like that.

12 TeamWinks { 02.07.10 at 7:51 am }

Excellent post!

13 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 02.07.10 at 9:34 am }

The world is full of things more unfair than grandparents not having pizza, and ChickieNob and Wolvog are learning more about that all the time.

I hope that you’re able to have some fun in the snow to counteract such heaviness indoors.

14 LA Cochran { 02.07.10 at 9:46 am }

You write beautifully. There are so many topics I could comment on (the loss of a tree, the name Simon Liverspot, using yartzheit candles for light, etc.) but really I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the whole post as a whole and complete passage. Wonderful!

15 Amel { 02.07.10 at 9:55 am }

I don’t know what to say except that I enjoyed reading this post and I’m glad everything turned out fine despite the snowstorm. I find it amazing what comes out of children’s mouths…sometimes this is one of the things I crave the most when dealing with IF – that I don’t know when I can listen to their “wisdom” and share it with the whole world.

16 Tireegal { 02.07.10 at 12:06 pm }

Your post felt like a chapter of a book – hint hint! Amazing expansive detailed and soulful. Thankyou!!!!!! xoxo

17 Rebecca { 02.07.10 at 2:31 pm }

Wow. Just…wow.

Nothing I can write would honor the depth and intensity of this post.


18 Battynurse { 02.07.10 at 7:06 pm }

Wow. Out of the mouths of children.
And a whole lot of snow. Hope your power holds out.

19 Calliope { 02.07.10 at 7:29 pm }

just the image of the barren doll had me in tears. I physically hurt at the idea of a child knowing that kind of sadness.
beautiful and amazing and haunting post.
now please have a post about muppets next.

20 a { 02.07.10 at 7:42 pm }

I think it’s hard to convey that some things are impossible/impractical to children of a certain age. (Like driving 12 miles in 2.5′ of snow – neither practical or possible until roads are cleared)

My daughter doesn’t get to play with the nesting dolls – my husband got them on his last trip to Afghanistan in 2003, and we doubt that they were concerned about whether there is lead in the paint. Guess we can avoid that conversation for a while yet!

Although the issues might be heavy, it’s probably better to have that than cabin fever. Glad you still have power – hope the grandparents get theirs restored soon.

21 coffeegrl { 02.07.10 at 9:04 pm }

Deep stuff. I am constantly amazed at how complex the thought processes of children can be. Enjoy your time together. Snuggle, bundle and drink more hot cocoa!

22 mybumpyjourney { 02.08.10 at 12:01 am }

wow. That is a lot of deep thinking going on in Chickie Nob’s head! I am glad you are all doing okay and warm. Have fun with your wii!!!

23 Terry { 02.08.10 at 5:33 am }

That was quite a day ! It’s sad about the trees. You really had great conversations ! I’m happy you still have electricity.

24 Flying Monkeys { 02.08.10 at 8:49 pm }

Wow. You covered a lot of ground in one day. I hope the grandparents got heat and light back quickly and yours stays intact.

One of my friends in DC is calling it Snowpocalypse, I think she was assuming she was moving away from it when she headed that way.

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