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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Ice Storm Baby Steps


A blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

I’m no longer writing Nerd Girl from Los Angeles. I’m not ready to explain why, but I’ve decided to spend a few months in Portland, Maine, visiting family and arranging my ducks in neat little rows. Call it a transition period. I’m not 100% confident it’s the right thing to do, but if I were sure, as several friends have pointed out, I’d be crazy.

On Thanksgiving Day my Dad and I climbed into a fully packed 10-foot truck and headed east. Then east, then north-east, then east, then mostly north(east), for five days. Now I’m struggling to fit my world into my parents’ landmarked colonial house, already full of the life they’ve created without me. I’ve been gone for 17 years. Literally and mentally I’m straining to adjust.

Last Thursday I fell on my ass. Literally. It had been raining for two days, then it turned to freezing rain, meaning the drops became ice on contact. When my California-shod feet met the brick sidewalk in front of the house, my right foot slid then sailed into the air and the rest of me followed. Thank god nobody saw, the fall was so vaudevillian I’m sure they would have guffawed. I landed on my hip and elbow and was thankful to be young.

Mentally, I’ve been searching for a local yoga teacher who can remotely compare to Adam at the Hollywood Y, and that night’s Ashtanga class had a small chance. So with much trepidation I pulled on stretchy pants and headed back out on foot.

You know when you can’t pick up a wet ice cube that’s fallen on the floor? Imagine everything around you being like that. I wanted cleats and a pick, but all I had was baby steps.

Not so bad, actually. Baby steps keep you balanced. The natural rock from side to side centers your weight over one foot, so if the other can’t find purchase you won’t be doing splits. Brilliant!

It was embarrassing, shuffling past idling cars at crosswalks, hugging signposts and fences (though all these things were as slick as the ground), but I made my way and the class wasn’t cancelled.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realized this was a proper ice storm, the worst one in history, in fact, and we were in a State of Emergency. A quarter of the population (maybe more) was without power. All over New England trees were ripped apart by the sheer weight of the ice coating them. They fell on roads, crushed roofs, and ripped down power lines. My father came home early from work, and I started dinner.

We learned that my grandparents had been trapped since morning, shivering in their house with no heat and a useless electric garage door opener. They expected the power to return at any moment, but now it was getting dark, so they came for dinner (luckily I was roasting a chicken) and would sleep at a B&B around the corner.

It was the first time in a long while that I’d seen them not because I was in town for a holiday and it was the only chance to see them for another 6 months or more, but we were acting like a family who needed each other. It was nice.

Today it feels strange to write about ice and wind when the temperature is a balmy 45°, and even stranger that it only took me 2 weeks to call 45° balmy again, but I guess one never forgets.

Boxes litter every corner of the New England colonial and I know my adjustment will be slow, but without sounding too cheesy I suppose the ice storm has taught me (the hard way?) that if I know where I’m going and roughly how to get there, my small, balanced steps will carve out a path.