Snowmageddon Taught One Important Lesson . . .

“It Could Always Be Worse” is a Yiddish folk tale I loved to read to my kids when they were young. It was about a man who visited his rabbi to complain about how unbearable his house was, what with six kids, his wife, the animals and his mother all living together under one roof. The rabbi suggested that the man go home, but on the way, pick up some more animals to bring inside his house. Week after week, the man’s complaints grew more bitter, and each time, the rabbi’s solution was for the man to bring yet more animals to the house. Finally, when the man was about to lose his mind in frustration, the rabbi told the man to go home, and remove all the extra animals that the rabbi had told the man to cram into his house over those last weeks.

Of course, the man was elated and joyful to find that his home was perfect and peaceful, and really, he had nothing to complain about. After all, he knew it could always be worse.

Apparently, when the 2019 Snowmageddon hit us here on Shasta County’s valley floor, I totally forgot the moral of that story.

It’s an ongoing mental practice for me to lament my home’s imperfections, starting with my yard, and my dreams for a security fence, planter boxes for my future fruit-tree food forest, a bread oven made from some of the tons of river rocks I’ve unearthed, and a porch around the back of the house that would sit above the vents. Inside, I still have two old cast-iron tubs sorely in need refinishing, and I’m not happy with the glossy finish I painted on the restored 1938 doors, or the door trim for that matter, which has never been touched. My biggest interior dream of all is the last frontier of my remodeling project: a flimsy fiberglass bathtub surround in my main bathroom, something I just didn’t have the courage to remove, because in my nightmares, to remove it would be to reveal dry rot, termites and rats.

The truth is, I may call all those ruminations dreams, but they’re really complaints and a lack of gratitude for the riches I already have. The truth is, no matter how much I improve my home, I always want more.

I’m pretty sure those home-owner dissatisfactions were still on my mind last Tuesday, when the first fat flakes started falling here in Redding,

Five days later, when my home was still without power, I longed for my house in its former state of having electricity – imperfections and all.

I tried sleeping two nights in my house without heat, when the temperatures dipped inside to a bone-chilling 47 degrees.

(Yes, Doni is aware she needs to change her filter.)

After that, I stayed at my sister’s. (I didn’t broadcast it here at the time, because I didn’t want to let on that my house was unattended at night.)

Each day I’d return to my house, hauling all my stuff with me, because SURELY the power would return that day, and SURELY I’d be spending THAT night in my house. Each night, I’d end up hauling my crap back to my sister’s, a place that had power, and didn’t, and finally, did have power for good.

Meanwhile, all my wishing and hoping and guessing failed. The power stubbornly stayed out at my house until Sunday afternoon.

Snowmageddon was an equal opportunity power-snatcher from all kinds of people. City and country people. Rich people. Poor people. Even highly public religious people, some of whom were calling in favors of intervention from thousands of their FB friends from around the world who responded with prayers and the healing blood of Jesus over them and their homes for full and immediate powerful restoration. Amen!

Not to say that those folks don’t have any extra pull with Father Nature, or that prayer doesn’t work, but I know for a fact through the word of FB that my home’s power was restored before one rather bombastic churchy guy, renowned for a particularly memorable 2018 Easter sermon.

Speaking of miracles, Snowmageddon did me a small favor, one that I feel somewhat guilty admitting: It wreaked havoc with some trees across the street that were starting to block my view of Lassen Peak.

I can see clearly now.

Thank you?

Beyond those clouds is a clear view of Lassen Peak.

A few minutes before my home regained power I had a conversation behind my house with an REU lineman who was walking the alley, checking overhead lines. I thanked him for his service. He told me he understood people’s angst, because, after all, his home – and most of his coworkers’ – had been without power, too. He said they’d been working non-stop, and, as a matter of fact, he was actually supposed to be on vacation that very minute. I couldn’t help notice that he was a model-handsome guy, which I only remembered later when I saw a friend’s FB post who said she actually blew a kiss to an REU guy as he returned her power, and that he was particularly handsome, too.

I think after multiple days without power, all lineman look extra handsome.

Once again, I was reminded of the Carr Fire, when firefighters and first responders went to work, even as their own families were in danger and under evacuation, and even some, as was the case of RPD’s police chief, showed up at jobs despite losing homes to the Carr Fire.

Once again, like the Carr Fire, I seemed to know more people who’d lost power than who had not.

Eventually, thanks to the work of utility workers from near and far, little by little lines were repaired and power was restored to most everyone except a small percentage of the unluckiest folks. To those people, I feel their pain, and I also have power remorse that I have power, and they don’t. I’m so sorry!

The First Thing You Did After You Regained Power turned into a thing, with some people telling how the first thing they did was take a long hot shower, and others telling how they started laundry, and yet others tell of sitting in a living room with the lights on, watching TV. Me? I cranked up the thermostat to 68 degrees and then turned on the oven and whipped up some coffee cakes. I was in my element.

I wandered from room to room, so elated to have electricity back, clicking lights on and off, just to be sure they all worked, because part of me didn’t fully believe it. And although I was delighted, the experience had left me feeling a bit electricity insecure. Yes, it was on – at the moment. But I kept fearing the power would abandon me at any second. Clearly, Snowmageddon has left me with some serious trust issues, in addition to some broken branches and an ice chest in the back yard still filled with melting snow.

I will recover.

In the meantime, I’m adoring my toasty house and all its amazing modern amenities and conveniences, like my electric blanket and my hot-water heater, and my microwave oven and refrigerator and freezer and range and my night-stand reading light and so many other special things … things I will never, ever take for granted.

My house is wonderfully and beautifully made just the way it is. And if I ever find myself thinking otherwise, I will remember the February 2019 snowstorm that brought Redding to its knees, and will remind myself of one very important thing:

It could always be worse.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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