Two true tales from the coldest winters we’ve seen in decades. One an example of how to treat others. The other, an example of how not to treat others. I hope that someday, both givers of kindness and meanness will receive their Karmic justice in this life or the ones to come.
First tale, as retold by my mother-in-law on an incident that happened to the grown children and grandchildren of their longtime friends:
In December, two families from suburban Long Island, each with two or three children with the oldest of age 12, followed each other caravan-style north to a ski vacation rental in Vermont. There was a winter storm warning and, thinking they could push through, the families drove into the night. Main highways became impassible so the families decided to take alternative routes on local roads.
As the roads began to ice over, one family’s car swerved to avoid another car, slid and became stuck in an embankment.
Witnessing what happened to the first car, the second car in the traveling party pulled over to see if they could be of assistance. In trying to help, the second car also then became dangerously stuck in a snow embankment. On a strange rural street. In the dark. In the cold. In the storm.
All the while, the two stranded families were unaware that a family living on the property was watching them. They approached the families who were stranded on their property – a group of about 12 complete strangers – four adults and their children – invited them in for the night, and gave them dinner and a place to sleep, and shelter until their vehicles could be dug out the next day.
To that angelic New England family who opened their doors to strangers on a stormy winter night, they will most certainly receive good Karma in this life or the next.
Next story. My story.
Funny how appearances change of buildings and streets in the snow. Especially in suburban Detroit neighborhoods you think you’ve gotten to know pretty well in the six months I’ve lived here.
I was on my way over to a good friend’s house to pick up my son from an extended play date. I was not sure of the exact address, and I didn’t feel like punching it into my GPS system. After all, I had been there several times in the summer and fall, to press cider and just enjoy the company of our new friends. I thought I knew my way and knew the house.
But like I said, something very disorienting happens in the low light and snowy landscape of winter. So disorienting that I pulled up the curvy, snow-covered driveway of the wrong house. Just one identical looking wrong house away were my friends, their daughter and son, and my son, happily playing.
Just one house away, I was catching some bad Karma.
I realized my mistake, and started to attempt to back down the driveway. Only, because of the curve and the snow, I missed it, and backed up into a soft, snowy part of the front lawn.
Funny how one can still use the word “lawn” in a polar vortex winter. Because no one has seen their lawn here since November.
So, there I was, on a lawn. If I just eased the car back and forth – Reverse, Drive, Reverse, Drive – I’d be on my way.
Instead, my wheels spun and whirred deeper into the lawn.
A man living next door saw my plight. He bundled up (it was 9 degrees) came out with two shovels, and we both set to work trying to dig me out. He even offered to get some chains and hooks from his car to drag my car out. I thanked him, but turned down his offer, afraid of the damage either of our vehicles might incur.
Finally, after 20 minutes of this, she came out.
A thin, blond woman.
She was not helpful.
She was mad.
“What the hell do you think you are doing to my lawn???”
“I’m sorry, ma’am… I was going to pick up my son at your neighbor’s house and I mixed up the houses and – ”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON MY LAWN? WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THIS??” She went on and on about her poor lawn and the damage I was doing to it. She did not ask if I was okay, if I had called for help, if I was cold, needed a cup of hot coffee.
In suburban Detroit, some people care about their lawns – even in the winter – more than they care about people.
Angry and embarrassed, I left my car and ran to my friends’ house. I’m not surprised that the two neighbors don’t even know one another. Usually, nice people don’t tend to socialize with mean people.
My car was eventually towed out by AAA, and my friend, her husband, and my husband came to my aid.
But not the mean blond lady, who actually took a photograph of my license plate as I was on my hands and knees trying to dig away the snow to free my car.
Mean blond lady, your lawn will be just fine. I’ll even come over with a bag of dirt and seed in the spring to fix your precious lawn. Because I said I was sorry 10 times. Because I’m that fucking nice.
Mean blond lady, you will also get your Karmic justice. It’s coming.
Has old man winter been a bitch to you? If so, rant away and please SHARE!
These days it’s hard for me to figure out which end is up – even from all those moving boxes that actually say on them “this end up.”
I want to focus inward and unpack and make this new house truly my home.
I want to focus outward and see how I can make this suburban, manicured and perfectly landscaped property a little less perfect. A little more me. Outward more still and make some new friends and maybe even land a new job.
Then there is the business of keeping my son entertained and occupied in the weeks he leaves before camp.
It’s a good thing I can count on some great guest bloggers who have transplant stories of their own.
The first in the lineup is Maya Rodgers who blogs at Pets and Pests. Originally from New England and with roots in the Boston area (a place we considered moving before we chose Detroit), Maya is excited to experience more of Raleigh, N.C., and would like to return more often to visit old friends in both Atlanta and Boston. She spends her days helping people exterminate bed bugs, palmetto bugs, and other crawly creatures for Terminix . I for one hope to never need her services, but if I do, I hope she has some connections in Michigan!
Here is Maya’s tale:
Part of the reason exploring new places is so wonderful is because it acts as a distorted mirror. It reflects you in a different light than you’re used to, and it teaches you important and silly things about yourself.
After college, I lived in Boston for a few years. New England had always been home, and Boston still hasn’t quite stopped being home for me. Like anywhere, it has its positive and negative aspects. I loved being able to walk almost anywhere, and if I couldn’t walk, I could take the T, or a combination T-and-bus route. I whined and complained about the public transportation when “switching problems at Park” led to long delays, but I loved it just the same.
Boston T sign courtesy of Paul Downey
I also loved splurging on expensive ice cream once in a blue moon at Toscanini’s in Central Square, and riding shotgun in a friend’s car for a late-night trip to Richie’s Slush (the best Italian ice ever – I highly recommend the lemon).
I haven’t lived in too many other places, but there seems to be something very special about the seasons in New England. Flowering trees in the gorgeous springtime, absolutely frigid temperatures in winter, and too hot in the summer, but fall was always my favorite season. The weather cools off, the mosquitoes start to go away, the air feels fresh and clean, and, of course, the leaves start to change color. One of my favorite places, the Boston Common, is wonderful in any season.
Boston Common courtesy of Timothy Vollmer
The best part of any place, though, is the people. The friends who help you chip winter’s ice off the sidewalk, and the ones who wander around the North End with you, looking for some interesting-looking new restaurant.
I think that’s what’s hardest about moving. Not just gathering up your stuff, but leaving your loved ones behind while you go someplace you know almost nothing about and try to put down new roots.
After Boston, I moved to Atlanta for work. The biggest change I noticed initially was the pace of life. There were certain big-city aspects that went at light speed. For example, despite crazy Boston drivers, I’d never been tailgated quite as aggressively as when driving in Atlanta. The Perimeter (the road that circles most of Atlanta) has a posted speed limit of 55mph, but it’s five or six lanes wide each way, and even if you’re going 70, you’re the slowest person on the road. Out of their cars though, people move more slowly and demonstrate more politeness. People were sociable in stores, starting up friendly conversations at seemingly odd times.
I’ve always been much more of a walker than a driver, and although there are sidewalks on many of the roads, there are rarely pedestrians on them. The most people I ever saw outside was when the power went out in my neighborhood. Suddenly there were couples, families, and individuals like me, wandering around, enjoying what had become (after a quick pass-through storm) a beautiful evening. Perhaps something about the Atlanta heat means that people spend much more time in their cars no matter what the weather, but enjoying a walk after work, or strolling to the bookstore or coffee shop on the weekends, became an almost eerie experience, with everyone else racing by in their cars.
The bugs were another large shock. Palmetto bugs are much bigger than any roach I’d ever seen up north, and while they weren’t in my Atlanta home (that I knew of), they’d come out in Atlanta’s long summer, wandering around now and again on the pavement near my home. Needless to say, I kept my place meticulously clean in an effort to ward them off.
Moving from Boston to Atlanta changed me in a lot of ways. I became a more aggressive driver, for one, which partly meant that I stopped caring when someone tailgated me. I walked less, but took up jogging – even ran the Peachtree Road Race! I found a favorite bookstore (Peerless Book Store in Johns Creek), and browsed its shifting stock whenever I could. I also discovered air conditioning (which I’d never really had when living up north), and learned that I loved painting when I signed up for weekend painting classes. My speech patterns even changed a little bit. At first, I’d say “y’all” somewhat ironically. I’m not sure it sounds natural now, but it is more convenient than most other alternatives.
Perhaps most importantly, I stayed in touch with my friends in the Northeast – even became closer with some of them – and made quite a few Southern friends, both in and out of work. Having a dog makes for an instant socialization opportunity, especially if you visit the dog park at regular times.
I’ve recently transplanted once again to Raleigh (this time with a family in tow). So far, we’re all just figuring out where our favorite restaurants are (to date, the Irregardless Café is far and away my favorite), and discovering new things about ourselves.