For Laura

Who through no fault of her own was never taught to love a storm.

I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I was an adult. I had heard of it of course but people afraid of thunder seemed as mythological as people who hated you for your skin color. I was confused to find out both existed.

My mother wouldn’t let us fear a storm just as her mother wouldn’t allow her and hers would allow her. So the tradition of dancing in the rain was passed generation upon generation and only just now for the first time due to unfortunate twist of fate missed you. So I’ve written down my memories as best I can to try and describe how it’s done so that you can teach the boys and it won’t be lost to them. As far as I know this family tradition goes back hundreds or even thousands of years with our ancestors! I can’t imagine it ever being different. Somewhere in 1516 some kids in the Scottish highlands danced in the rain- then later became us and this is how it came about:

The second mom heard a rumble she loudly announced it was popcorn time and we all knew a storm was coming. Popcorn was ONLY made for storms and when the Wizard of Oz came on once a year. A storm caused the same festive excitement one would see in birthday or holiday party preparations only it was done much faster and without warning. If the house was a mess the second a storm was detected we hurriedly tidied up so that everything looked nice for the special event. Windows were cracked the screen door was opened and the house was filled with the scent of approaching rain. Someone might run out into the yard and take some rose clippings off the bush for the table if it was that time of year. We crowded around the stove to watch while mom made popcorn on the stove top, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but always with urgency, lest the popcorn not be ready in time and we miss the fun. Later the invention of microwave popcorn seemed like a miracle. It took all four of us; me my mom and sisters scrambling about to accomplish this fast enough to be outside so we wouldn’t miss it. Occasionally the storm came and went to fast and that we did. That was so disappointing! But the best times we sat under the porch eating popcorn while it grew darker and watched as the thunder and lightening rolled in. Sometimes if the thunder was REALLY loud it deserved applause and mom would yell and clap as lightening streaked the sky. She taught us to count how far the lightening was away. And while we ran back and forth sometimes playing in the rain sometimes eating popcorn, we always counted the time between thunder and lightening so that when it grew too close we new to sit under the porch until it was safe to go out in it again.

If we were lucky the rain gutter in front flooded enough to float leaf boats with tiny stick people in front of our home. We learned acorns were too heavy and often the water wasn’t deep enough even for sticks and that maple leafs make the best boats. We always prayed it would come down harder and that it wouldn’t end too soon. So a storm became a holiday in our home. The lightening a fireworks show. It was never loud enough, bright enough or came down hard enough.

You may remember me telling you before but I’ll put it down here again because it defined my childhood memories of rain. My last memory of my grandmother was a storm. She was only 52 when she died. I was 6 or 7 and we were visiting her in Dallas when a summer storm hit. “Hurry!” She yelled. Take off your clothes before we miss it!!” We knew the drill and all excitedly stripped down to nothing but our undies and undershirts with her in her bra and slip. Grandmother lived in an apartment complex so my mom wasn’t sure about the spectacle of us half naked in this environment, but grandmother wasn’t going to miss it. I remember my mom stayed behind and yelled after our figures retreating into the storm, “What will the neighbors think?” Grandmother already halfway down the stairs with us behind her half turned, then threw her head back to respond, and THIS- THIS is the memory of my grandmother thats etched into my mind forever. I can still see her frozen in time like it was yesterday, her long straight black, not quite wet yet hair fell to the middle of her back and lifted around her face as lightening streaked the dark sky behind her. She shouted, back, “They will think, ‘that crazy lady sure is having fun!’” And in that instant she became the best most perfect grownup in the world.

Finally when I think of rain I think of a night like many others when your sisters were little. Rose was 3 or 4 and horribly sick with pneumonia. It had been a very rough two days. Nothing made her comfortable and her breathing was labored. I was praying for the antibiotics to kick in and it might have been right around the same time of night it is now- 1:48 am and I’m listening to storm in Austin, while you’re hearing it in Cleburne. I wonder if the night I’m recalling to you, you might have heard the same storm in Dallas while it rolled into Austin 200 miles away. Roses fever was high and everything was so still and quiet in the house- I was tired and felt alone in my burden as one does in the middle of the night when these things occur. I was also sad Rose hurt. It seemed we were the only ones in the whole world; Just me, her and that horrible fever. She cried while I rubbed the perspiration from her forehead with a wet washcloth. That’s when to my surprise, I heard the rain start to fall. Suddenly, excited I got up and opened her window. I watched for a few seconds as her curtains blew back and forth gently and the familiar scent of goodness started filling her room. There was life in the house again and the air stirred. It felt like God sent us a gift. I crawled back in bed and whispered in Rose’s ear that a storm had come. She smiled slightly half awake. We laid there and listened in silence as the rain fell on the roses outside her window. Gradually her body relaxed, soothed by the sound of rain and low rumbling thunder. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I whispered, knowing that many of her memories of rain already mirrored mine. She finally fell asleep listening to the thunder and what would have been a very hard night suddenly wasn’t so bad.

So you see, there has never been a time our family didn’t love rain until now and this is my fault, but hopefully this helps you know how to teach the boys to love it too so they don’t live in fear of it as you have. Sending you popcorn today.

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