The winter storm came upon suddenly as we walked up the woods path on our hurried way to get milk , bread and medicine for our baby brother, the wind became full of ice rain that pelted our faces. My elder sister Laura Jean pulled my hood down over my head, yelling above the wind that was screeching at us, " Bonnielynn keep your head down and hold my head we are almost there!", I heard the fear in her voice and shook my head in agreement.
Soon the rain snow weighed down my coat with freezing wetness as my coat sagged almost to my knees my boots sloshed with each step, the water had found it's way into my worn boots hitting the bread bags my mother put over my feet. I was just six and Laura Jean almost seven, towered over me like the rest of my tall half German family, she pulled at my wet glove, yelling, " Bonnielynn follow me fast!" , and I tried but I could not see any thing because when I opened by eyes frozen ice pieces blasted my eyes, I stumbled and fell over in a wet heap, feeling the water seep inside the barrier of the bread bags, cold like a dagger made my feel tingle. Laura Jean pulled me up by my hood, " come on get up or we die out here like rabbits, COME ON Bonnielynn!", I rolled to my knees, and let my sister pull me to the trees that lined the forest walk way. I was moving my arms around like a robot from "Lost in Space", and I knew we were in real peril of dying out in the frozen Michigan storm, I thought of my mother, she needed me, I pushed on. We walked yards into the woods and came upon a tree strong young that could bend, Laura Jean put me against the tree and tied her coat belt around the tree and us, holding me as she held the tree. The ice storm beat at us for the longest time, Laura Jean kept talking to me, " don't worry little Bonnielynn we will soon be home to have tea, be brave", I nodded, and was just too cold and wet to cry. The wind pulled and we were both soaked, shaking against the tree as it bent with the storm I prayed, " Lord wait, I am just a little kid where is my childhood ? This is not a life for a little kid " , I vowed to survive this, and when I could move far away from any place that had cold snow.
The wind started to slowly die down, and Laura Jean untied her belt and pulled me from the tree, my face had ice on top my nose and my hat had fallen off my ears were numb, she wiped the snow from my face, looking at me, " let's go home Bonnielynn", and I burst into tears hugging her, " Laura Jean we are going to die out here like lost kittens", sobbing my feet were so frozen I could not take the first steps. My sister pulled me along, saying nothing, she was one of quiet thoughts and hardly any show of emotion. I think my mother having me so close behind her and my Grand Mary and others caring for me left Laura Jean depleted of the energy of trying, she would often tell me, " you have the attention and energy of five Bonnielynn I could never be like you", I did not know it then, but she was giving in, defeated, I was too young to understand.
We stumbled back home out of the forest, never making it to the store, the mile home was the longest as I struggled in the icing muddy road, finally seeing the light of our home. Laura Jean held on to me, lifting up to the porch, and I crashed into the front door, hearing my mother's voice, " oh my God, forgive me " , and pulled me into the porch, she took off my wet clothes, yelling out instructions, " heat some water put it in the large basin, make some hot tea NOW", she lifted me out of wet coat placing a homemade quilt around me. I ended up in the kitchen by the stove, my feet in warm water because my mother thought that was what need to be down for frostbite, I slowly drank my hot tea, my feet burning, I did not feel my nose or ears. My brothers and sisters stood around looking at me, until my mother told them to leave. We had no telephone so my mother did her best, and slowly the circulation returned to my feet, but only after a lot of pain.
The next days my nose was a funny white color, and started peeling, the top of my ears were a dark color and I felt nothing, they did not peel, my Grand Mary took one look at me that Saturday morn, " put that child in the car Bill darling she needs a doctor", my eyes got big, I hated the doctor. The ride in to the hospital was long as we lived out into the country and I listened to my Grand Mary blame my Catholic father, " that scoundrel abandoning his children to die in the woods like squirrels ", some how she made it all sound funny and I giggled. The hospital emergency room was white and smelled clean, as the nurse talked to my Grand Mary, she looked over at me smiling, she looked beautiful with her red hair and white cap, I smiled back covering my smile. The doctor came in mumbling under his breath, " what is a child doing out in one of the worst storms in Michigan history, Lord protect this child", as he looked at my nose and ears, he sighed. He stated to my Grand Mary, " the tops of her ears have to go they are dead and I do not know about that nose yet", I looked around " huh?" looking over at Grand Mary who spoke in Irish Gaelic , going to phone someone? The doctor looked me in the eyes, " little brave girl the tops of your ears need to be taken off they are dead any ways and why you cannot feel them understand?" I said ," yes it's from the wild storm Mr", and he laughed nodding his agreement, " I do not think you will need numbing shot but I will give a small one OK?" and I looked down, wanting to be anywhere but there, " OK" , and had shots placed to numb my numb ears, then he cut away the dead top part of my ears, more from the left than right. My Uncle Bill held my hand as the doctor worked, it really did not hurt but what did was the understanding that as a child I deserved better than this, and I knew I would never have better until I grew up.
We left the emergency department my ears bandaged like a Doberman Pinscher with the big question about my nose, " we shall have to see in the next days what happens", my pockets full of candy, and a bag full of coloring books, crayons and story books. We pulled out of the parking lot my cheeks full of bubble gum almost drooling as I colored with my new crayons, the scalpel to my ear tops near forgotten.
Arriving home my mother came to the car she stayed home to take care of my six month old baby brother, she opened the car door, scooping me up speaking in Gaelic, I could feel her cry against me, I understand now what she must have felt but then I was just a child I did not know about parental guilt.
Seems like my mother's entire family learned of the snow adventure, as there were several families in attendance but I suspect it was out of respect for Grand Mary, who they actually greeted, and gave respect to, and as they day went towards the evening meal as we ate dinner late, I sat on my mother's lap. Old songs from Scotland played and we had the most wonderful meal, I was still eating candy like a jail house prisoner. Grand Mary asked me how I was and I said , " good like cherry juice", and the entire room erupted in laughter.