The Chicago winter caught up with me… in Houston.

What the entire f***?

I am a native Chicagoan. A very proud Black Chicagoan. The first 25 years of my life I spent in Chicago. This means that I am deeply familiar with winter. I also loathe winter with every fiber of my being.

I am one of those kids that walked to school in the “Blizzard of 1979”. The snow piles were bigger than I was. I was 6yrs old. That shhh traumatized me. Winter in Chicago was brutal.

I left Chicago for New York. A New York winter is okay, but messy. On the subway, you have on too many clothes, then you come out the subway to get to your destination and it’s instant pneumonia. Seriously. In fact, I hated winter in New York, too. Different reason. Due to the food deserts in Black neighborhoods, in November before a massive snow, I would bulk shop on frozen foods, household goods, and toiletries. From Thanksgiving to February, there was absolutely no reason for me to leave the house except to go to work, come home, and maybe go to get my hair braided. …but I was not shopping or doing much else. Not even partying, and I looooove a good party.

I hate winter.

In England, milder winter. Snow. Cold. Not a lot of sun. Depressing. I didn’t like it. I drank my body weight in lager and I drank so very heavily in winter, in England. I was a looooong way from my real friends, my family, everything I ever knew. So the winter months for me were mentally and emotionally brutal. I remember sitting next to my ex-husband every night after dinner under a blanket for comfort. When I would go to the bathroom, I would cry my face off because I was so sad. The seasonal depression was relentless and on top of it, I was sick as a dog. My fibroids were ravaging me in real time. It was surreal. When we left for Houston, I felt like that was my second chance at life. I am quite sure if I stayed in England, I would be dead. Either by the consequence of my poor health or suicide.

In 2006, we landed in Houston. When it came to winter, I didn’t have a problem. 40s here, 35 there. Mild. It’s summer time for us Midwesterners. Here everything seemed better. Winters are mild, you still get a smidge of sun. Sure you have to run the fireplace, cool. A skull cap and gloves will come in handy, doable. I seemed to have landed on my feet climate wise in the “H”. I need a lot of sun it turns out, it’s good for my mental health. I like the heat. I like the mild winters.

And then 2021 hit? What the f*** happened?

A polar vortex that stretched down to Houston? How? Why? Y’all better fix this global warming shhh NOW.

Absolute terror set in my heart and mind. Firstly, this ain’t Chicago, but a Chicago winter was coming. Houston homes aren’t built for this!!! So that was the original source of my panic. Feeling the cold in my house. I lived through two Chicago winters without heat as a teenager. (Do not ask. That shit still traumatizes me to this very day. I cry just thinking about it.) Having survived two Chicago winters without heat, the thought of my home being cold and my child being cold and my dogs being cold was like a nightmare unfolding. No. Just no.

The Chicago winter had caught up with me. I was none too pleased to see it. I’m scared of it. It kills people if you are not prepared.

And so I prepared. I lit my fireplace and said to myself, the $700 gas bill will be worth it, don’t let that fire go out. I layered up my Heir Apparent and myself. I laid out extra blankets in the dog’s room. I bought can goods. I made hearty stews.

Then the temperature dipped hard. Ugh. Then… the power went out. F***!!!

I woke up at 230am with no power. All I could think about is the two winters we didn’t have heat in Chicago. So like a mad woman, I sprang out of bed and put 4 blankets on my child. I went and I put sheets on the dogs. I jumped into my old UIC sweatshirt, put on a skull cap and pulled out my bootleg Nike football jacket. The fire was still going, praise God.

We went 12hrs without power. I called my co-parent and asked for the kid to be taken to his house because he had heat and power. I would stay with the dogs for the long haul.

I was prepared to long haul it in the cold. All of my Chicago instincts kicked in. See, I was actually built for this. So I hunkered down until the power camera back on and then nothing was promised, so I stayed hunkered down. Using as little power as I could, hoping that my conservation meant that others would not have to suffer.

I had been dripping my taps two nights before the freeze. My outside pipes were insulated and then covered with towels. My water meter and the mains for the sprinkler system was insulated by plastic tarps and bags of potting soil. I ran my dishwasher or washing machine at night to keep the water moving. I checked the water pressure for airlocks. I boiled water.

Everything a pioneer woman should do, got done.

And now I am suffering some type of f***ing PTSD. I am really angry they shut down the grid and put people at risk like they did. They don’t know what a Chicago, Wisconsin, or Minnesota-esque winter can do. If you are left to the elements, it can kill you. Bar None. Houston was not ready for that type of cold. It’s not built for it, but the state infrastructure should have been prepared for it.

The Chicago winter caught up with me. I have been running since 1998. I thought I had left it behind me. I was wrong.

And in my 15 years in Texas, I am thinking about leaving when my kid goes to undergrad. I have never seriously considered it. … But um, I ain’t going to do this type of winter with a weakened infrastructure in my old age with possibly no one to support me. I’m very aware I could be living alone as a Black American senior with no one to care for me and no social community. I’m not dying due to governmental ineptitude and a lack lustre infrastructure.

I’m still mad that Chicago winter caught up with me. It was 73 degrees today and I am still mad.