2010 saw the warmest January in 125 years on the west coast of Canada, but you don't have to tell that to the Olympic course makers at Cypress Mountain, which has been functioning as a ski hill for almost that long. I am pretty aware of it myself today. I was out doing errands earlier this afternoon and if it were not for the wind carrying a slightly chilling message of it still being winter, I would have tied my windbreaker around my waist. The south-facing flowering shrubs' buds are beginning to burst into green, and in the case of my neighbours' forsythia hedge, into yellow. My garlic plants are four inches tall and the purple crocus are opening their petals wide to soak up the warm sun. The north side of the house is slower to show signs of spring but I can see, even from my perch here by the living room window, little white tips on the star magnolia's buds. Almost every day of this winter has been warmer than normal, and we have not entered hibernation in this part of the world to the same degree as the last few winters.
Last winter was a snowy one, and even though, for a person who grew up close to the Alberta border and experienced fairly long, snowy winters, I have become a bit wimpy about snow, it only took a few days of scraping the windshield, shoveling the driveway and pumping the brakes on icy roads to get used to real winter once more. One day before Christmas my husband had a day off work and with the kids all in school for the day we decided to venture out and do some Christmas shopping in the city. The conditions were not exactly ideal for driving, but we went anyway, trusting our 'all wheel drive' and good tires.
After about forty-five minutes our van decided to break down. Oh joy. We pulled over and tried to figure out what was wrong. It was beyond us, so my husband called BCAA on his cell phone and within a short time a tow truck arrived. We found we could drive the van slowly and so the driver followed us up and over the next turnoff. Deciding we would make it back to a mechanic he left us for a more serious call. Sure enough, within a few minutes we were broken down, and again managed to pull over and call BCAA.
We had first broken down at 10:30 a.m. and it was now almost noon. Finally another tow truck came only to tell us that cars were in the ditch up and down the highway and someone, eventually would come for us. Fortunately, we were able to turn on the van to warm up for a bit, we just could not go anywhere. Tow trucks, and even a police car, came and went, checking to make sure we were okay, only to leave to help people in more serious situations. They always promised to come back. Meanwhile, the heavy wet snow was falling and making the road conditions increasingly treacherous. We watched several drivers pull over on the hill ahead, clean off their headlights and windshields, in order to keep driving. After about an hour it was pretty clear we would not be rescued anytime soon. We had brought a few snacks and water with us but no lunch. We were broken down beside a golf course and I wondered if the clubhouse might be open. My husband stayed with the van and I climbed over the guard rail and tramped through the snow to the clubhouse, which was, believe it or not, open on such a day. They didn't have a menu to choose from, but they did have coffee and some frozen chili they kindly offered to heat up for us.
Finally at 4 p.m. a truck arrived. To help us! We had called the schools and the kids were all safely home so that was one worry gone. A friend had offered to come and pick us up but we didn't want him to risk it. By this time the opposing lane had been closed and as we rode high in the overheated cab our driver told us about his harrowing day. We saw the evidence for ourselves as we observed car after car, truck after truck in the ditch, and a semi jackknifed across the highway. Finally we arrived back in our town. I asked to be let out close to our house while my husband went on to the mechanic's with the truck driver who earned a good-sized tip for getting us home safely.
It took me about twenty minutes to make my way home on foot on the slippery, snowy road. I was shaking with relief by the time I opened the door to my house. When I stepped into the entryway my eldest son (16) appeared at the top of the stairs and said, "So what happened?" I told him our tale of waiting hours for a tow and of witnessing so many car accidents. I was very nearly in tears and I think I was expressing myself rather dramatically. I must have been for my son quickly said, "Uh, Mom? Ryan's here, eh," as his new friend appeared beside him. My son didn't have to say anything else. The slightly strained, cautioning look on his face said it all: Mom, you're kind of embarrassing me, so could you please pull yourself together?
Then he asked me what we were having for supper.