11: Hostage Situation

11: Hostage Situation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Hostage Situation

She raised us with humor, and she raised us to understand that not everything was going to be great — but how to laugh through it.

~Liza Minnelli (on mom Judy Garland)

I love my mother. Really, I do. But if Mom had died under mysterious circumstances during a wicked winter snowstorm a few years ago, not a jury in the land would have convicted me. Especially not a jury of my peers.

I had headed north on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. “The five-day forecast calls for highs in the upper 40s and lower 50s with a slight chance of precipitation toward the end of the week,” proclaimed the radio weatherperson.

Great, I thought. I can come home late Thursday or early Friday and not have to worry about ice on the roads.

But by Thursday afternoon, ice on the roads was the least of my worries.

I’d lived in western Washington my entire life. I’d seen snow before. And freezing rain. And floods. But what I saw in the week between Christmas and New Year’s was a sight heretofore unimagined.

Fast and furious, fat furry flakes quickly made driving impossible. By Friday morning, a full sixteen inches of snow turned my car into a giant sloping igloo. I looked at Mom. She looked at me. “I guess I’m going to be here a while,” I said, and poured a little Bailey’s Irish Cream into my coffee.

On Saturday morning another seven or eight inches of the white stuff obliterated the trail to the mailbox. Freezing rain was predicted. I sat transfixed before the television, which now aired only news and weather.

The rain started late Saturday evening. “Melt,” I prayed. But it didn’t melt. The combined weight of snow and frozen water became the hot news topic. Store rooftops succumbed to the pressure. Marinas caved in on hundreds of yachts. A quarter million people in the Puget Sound region lost their electricity as falling trees wiped out power lines.

“We could be worse off,” I told Mother that Sunday morning. “We have heat and lights and plenty of food left from Thursday’s gathering.”

And then the carport collapsed.

It sounded like a bomb. Twisted metal and a mountain of snow slammed into the side of Mom’s mobile home. Luckily, no windows were broken, but the wreckage trapped us inside, blocking the front door. Although I had cleared snow away from the back door the day before, the snow that had drifted during the night was blocking that exit, too.

I looked at Mom. She looked at me. I poured a little more Bailey’s into my coffee.

“I don’t mean to be critical,” she said a short time later, “but isn’t that the same outfit you wore yesterday?”

I pulled my bathrobe snugly around me and replied, “Do you see any real point in my getting dressed?”

I set the coffee cup on top of the television and flipped through the channels. Mom picked up my mug and wiped the nonexistent water rings under it.

I opened several containers of holiday goodies and set a hearty meal of fudge and cookies and nut clusters on a plate in front of the television. Before I could return to the kitchen, Mom had put the lids back on the canisters and the milk back in the fridge.

“How big is this mobile home?” I asked her.

“Fourteen by seventy, but that includes the hitch.”

“So we’re talking approximately 980 square feet of living space, right?”

“More like 900,” said Mom. “Not counting the walls, the cupboards, the counters, the appliances, the furniture…”

I looked at Mom. She looked at me. “Where’s this water coming from?” she asked, running a sponge across the counter where I had assembled my breakfast.

Traced to its source, the water was coming from damage done to the roof edge when the carport gave way.

“Got any duct tape?” I asked. I stood, perched precariously, on the kitchen counter top. “Got any plastic food wrap?”

Mom handed both items up to me and I constructed a makeshift drainpipe, funneling the water from the leak directly into the sink.

“How’d you figure that out?” asked Mom.

“I watch MacGyver.”

My window of opportunity came the next day. My brother helped me wade through the knee-deep slush between the back entrance and the street where my car was parked. “How’d it feel to be sequestered with Mom for a week?” he asked. “I’m surprised you two didn’t kill each other.”

I smiled as I hugged him goodbye. “Not guilty,” I replied. “She’s all yours now.”

Slowly pulling away from the curb, I looked back at my mother, standing in the window, waving both hands. It could have been worse, I thought, waving back. I could have been stranded with someone I didn’t love…

~Jan Bono

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