Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ice Storm of 2014.... a scary story Part 1

On the morning of January 28, things were going pretty smoothly, albeit very busy at the McKeown home.  Packing lunches, getting everyone ready for school and Maebry ready for her 6 month check up.  Lucy had a much anticipated field trip.  My housekeeper was coming, so I was tidying up in preparation for that, trying to remember to leave the door unlocked.   Jason was on call.... which seems to always be the case when anything bad happens.
I rushed around, finally leaving to take Julianne to school at 9:00.  Maebry was still in her pajamas, with an outfit packed to change her into... an outfit that consisted of a fleece dress and onesie, and socks.  No blanket.  Because we were just going to pop into the office and back.  No time spent outside.
  My thoughts were that I would grab Starbucks (breakfast and coffee) on the way to Vestavia Pediatrics.  Well, when we were running late for school, I knew I wouldn't have time to stop before our appointment, so we continued on our way.  
I arrived at the doctor's office around 9:20 for our 9:30 appointment.  As predicted, I saw a *few* snow flurries.  But nothing unusual.  We were called back to our room soon after arrival.  A room with no windows and very little cell phone reception.  With the little signal I did have, I tried to schedule a lunch date with friends since our ladies Bible class was cancelled.  Little did I know that there was a really good reason to cancel class.  We proceeded to get our check up and immunizations.  And we walked out of the examination room to see that the parking lot, streets and vehicles were COMPLETELY white.  Not just a dusting, as expected, but COMPLETELY covered with snow.  I slid to our car, with Maebry and pulled out of the lot to head home.  I called Juli's school to ask if they were dismissing early.  "Yes, now!" said the lady at the desk.  I apologized and told her I was on my way, but I had no idea.  I called a friend and asked her to pick up Adelaide for me because she's a walker and I had no way to get to her.  Thankfully, she was right by the school and picked her up.  That's one child that I didn't worry about during all of this, and I'm so grateful for dear friends and God's providential hand.
When I approached the main road, I realized it was going to be a loooong time before I reached Juli's school....but I had no idea what was to come.  We inched along, literally.  I started to panic when I remembered Lucy's class was on a field trip.  Let's pause for a moment and discuss this. I ALWAYS go on field trips with my children.  ALWAYS.  This is, in fact, the first one I've ever missed. Lucy's teacher already had a parent that wanted to go, and I had already scheduled Maebry's checkup.   I still have mixed feelings about this.  If I had been on the field trip, I would have been with Lucy.  However, there would have been NO WAY I could have gotten to my other three children.  Just like always, God's hand in action.  
Maebry and I traveled down Highway 31 for four and a half hours.  FOUR AND A HALF HOURS.  That's LONGER THAN the time it takes us to get to Memphis from home.  I had prepared ONE bottle to take with us.  Because I planned to be gone one hour.  Not all day.  We had a few diapers.... and she had just gotten 4 shots.  As we crept along, I would put the car in park, climb on my knees and feed her a bottle over the seat, a couple of sips at a time.  She cried.  A lot.  I cried.  A lot.  I prayed and begged for the safety of my children.  That I would get to them safely and that we would all be together that day.  I had meltdowns on the phone with friends that talked me down and comforted me.  I realized I was shaking and hungry (it's now about 2:30 and I haven't eaten all day).  I found a "blessing bag" we made in Girl Scouts for the homeless.... it had a protein bar and trail mix.  A blessing, indeed.
After four and a half hours, I reached Hunter Street Baptist Church.  Maebry was hungry and wet.  And sore from shots, and ready to be out of her car seat.  A sweet lady at the door hugged me and cried with me.  A teacher brought me a crib sheet to wrap around Maebry's bare legs.... ladies I've never met comforted me, cried with me and just understood the hurt in a mama's heart when she's away from her babies.  
I calmed down and retrieved Julianne and a friend's daughter.  This friend couldn't get to her daughter because her car was in a ditch after sliding down a hill.  We loaded up, again with the help of a total stranger at HSBC, and headed home.  Slowly but surely.  The traffic was less congested by now and we did okay.... dodging abandoned cars and inching across slick spots.  I prayed aloud almost the whole way home, at least between the girls saying, "mommy, why's Maebry crying?"  "Miss Tiffany, your car is messy."  "Mommy, can we watch a movie?"  Miss Tiffany, do you have snacks?"  
We made it within a mile of the house before we approached the final hill.  A hill I had never realized existed until I needed to climb it to get home.  There were many vehicles in front of us that had tried and failed to climb the hill.  The shoulders of the road were covered with cars.  There was no way to get two tires on grass as instructed.  I did try to get up the hill. But I failed.  So, I parked at the bottom of the hill.  I gave the girls a pep talk in the car.  It went something like this, "Girls, this is NOT going to be fun.  It's going to be cold.  It's going to hurt.  It's going to stink.  But we have to do it?  Okay?  We are going to get out and walk up this hill.  In the snow.  We are going to make it home and we are going to get a snack."  
We got out, buttoned up coats and put on hats that were left in the car *ha! that's one good thing that came out of my messy car* and began our trek up the hill.  I was wearing flats, a long sleeved shirt and a sweater with jeans.  Again, Maebry's legs were bare, so I wrapped her in the crib sheet that was loaned to me and I took off my sweater to wrap around her.  I pulled her close to my chest and started walking up the hill.  We stayed on the shoulder and walked up the hill.  The girls quickly started complaining and crying.  "Mommy, it's cold."  "Miss Tiffany, I need help, can you carry me?" I cheered them along, "you've got this, keep walking"
We met a couple coming toward us and they graciously turned around and walked to our house with us.  The lady removed her coat to wrap around Maebry and they held Julianne and Caroline's hands.  
We got home and found Jenni and Riley here waiting for us, with soup on the stove.  
All the while, Lucy's class is still stuck on a bus on the interstate.  
They finally found shelter at an elementary school close to the interstate and waited for parents to try to get them.  A friend with a four wheel drive selflessly offered to go back and get Lucy and Shelby for us.  Jenni and I paced at the window looking for them.  Crying and wringing our hands in worry.  
When that truck pulled up in front of our house, I just about burst with thanksgiving.  Lucy seemed unaware of the fear I was feeling.  She came in smiling from ear to ear.  We bunked up and prepared for the night.  

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