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On Thunderstorms & Children: Reflections on a Rainy May

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When my son was a wee thing, still wrapped up like a burrito, every time there was a thunderstorm, I carried him outside to the worn wooden bench perched on our front stoop, and, together, we sat and listened to the boomers.

As my burrito grew, he morphed into my l’il Monkey. Whenever we heard thunder or saw that first flick of lightning, we raced to the front door. He’d mastered deadbolts by then, and he turned the knob furiously as if the ice-cream truck were sitting in our driveway. Once outside, we piled on the old bench — my son sat on my lap, holding my hand with a combination of anticipation and fear while I counted: “One-one-thousand, -one-thousand, three-one-thousand…” And when the world shook, we laughed and he begged for another so we waited impatiently for the next thunder-clap to shake our world.

For years we watched the skies darken, the clouds quicken, felt the air grow heavy on our skin. We listened to water slap our sidewalk angrily, and we both came to see how it works: how storms can be furious and yet temporary. He learned that even the scariest storms pass.

I know children who are terrified of thunder and lightning – kids who put their hands over their ears and cry or hide, but my son was raised up on late May storms: flashes of light and all that racket.

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d taking a shower.

{The way my Monkey was starting to take showers.}

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d needed to fill up the oceans.

{The way my Monkey was starting to have responsibilities.}

Maybe it’s because he imagined G-d stomping around looking for something He had misplaced.

{The way Monkey misplaced things and got all stompy and frustrated.}

Maybe it’s because he liked talking about G-d and trying to relate to Him.

“G-d makes rain. And rain makes the world grow, Mommy!” l’il Monkey told me as he stared at the yellow lilies, thirsty for a drink.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that with each summer storm, my summer-son was getting “growed up” too.

One May, I saw my son needed a new raincoat and boots for puddle stomping.

“I don’t need a coat. Or boots,” Monkey said as a matter-of-fact.

And he ran out into the downpour.

Unprotected.

Now I’m not saying it’s smart to go outside and run around on a lawn during an electrical storm, I’m just saying that we did. Okay?

We made up goofy dances, sang ridiculous songs, and chased each other around the yard in our bare feet until we were mud-spattered and drenched.

In no time at all, my little burrito will have graduated high school and turn 18.

We live in an apartment with a less inviting front stoop, so we don’t do the thunderstorm thing anymore.

He doesn’t need require as much from me: a meal, a bed, a place to plug in his computer and charge his phone.

Soon, he won’t even need me to provide these things.

While natural, these changes come at me, pelt me, like hard rain on my skin.

One day, when I am an old woman and I hear the distant clatter of thunder, I will remember tiny yellow rain coats and tiny yellow rain-boots. I may not remember much else, but I will remember those little moments — perhaps as one long blurry moment — when the world turned chocolate pudding and everything was positively puddle wonderful.

What do you remember about thunderstorms? What little moments do you cherish?

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12 thoughts on “On Thunderstorms & Children: Reflections on a Rainy May

  1. Love your writing. It is so easy to read. MYself and my children are not afraid of thunder boomers. I always told them that God was bowling and got a strike that he was so proud of that he was clapping and clapping. Unfortunately our dog, a 100’lb Belgian-German Shepard was terrified. He would hide in the bushes instead of his dog house. Keep up your great stories!!

    1. Hi Sandra! Thank you for reading my words. As you can see, I’m not only a painter, but I’m also a writer. I love picturing your terrified 100-pound dog cowering in the bushes. What a great memory. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Perfectly beautiful! We had cocker spaniels when I was young…and large, long puddles in our driveway…and a downspout through which buckets of water poured onto the rocks waiting to splash and disperse the flow of water. We ran through the rain, too but without raincoats. We had rubber boots but those were for mucking about the pond, or wearing outside in the winter, long woolen socks pulled up to meet long underwear. The thing that always captured my attention, after the rain, when the puddles were replenished, were my spaniels. Back and forth they splashed through the puddles, from one end of the puddle and back again, over and over and over. Sometimes I would join them. I loved the squish of the mud and would sometimes stop to squeeze my toes together. Mud and little pebbles came up through my toes, scraping the soft tissue between my toes. They hurt my toes but the soft, cool mud and the water always freed the stones and soothed my toes.

    1. People don’t splash around in puddles the way we used to. I wonder why not. I used to take showers outside when I was at summer camp back in the 1970s-80s. Those are some of my most favorite memories. Thank you for sharing yours with me today! Great to see you last Friday!

  3. You know that I know. ❤️

    1. I do. It. Is. Awful. I had no idea, so I’m sorry that I didn’t really get it until now. <3

    1. Wow. Thank you, Bubby! It’s so interesting to see who is still out there, reading my words, receiving n=my posts. I felt I’d been too heavy on the painting recently – and now that I’m back to doing both, well…I feel like I can integrate both of my worlds. How are you? Your grandbabies?

  4. I love this essay! And I know how much it can hurt to know that your L’il Monkey hardly needs you right now, or so you think. You may find that once he’s off, he will come around and need you more once again. And I’ll bet that when he is grown, every time there’s a thunderstorm, he will think of those moments of his childhood with you. He will likely share times like those with his own children. One of my favorite thunderstorm memories is being at CSL during the late afternoon after Ladies’ Camp had ended and the day before the rest of my family joined me there for Family Camp. I was all alone in a big cabin in Onondaga, the door open wide so I could hear the pounding of the rain on the ground outside and see the flashes of lightening. I lay on my bunk reading a book, enjoying my solitude, a very rare moment in my life! It was so peaceful!

    1. Hi Faith. I sure hope you’re right about the Monkey-Man coming back. Right now, it feels like he’s slipping away fast. Wait until I tell you about some prom stuff that’s going down. Boy, boys and girls are REALLY different when it comes to THAT. Thanks for sharing your CSL story. XO

  5. I used to love watching the lightning and counting the seconds until I heard the thunder, too. Fun memories. So Cal is about to graduate? I remember reading your writing about his bar mitzvah. Have I known you that long? Did you used to call him something like “Tech” or am I thinking of someone else?

    1. David: I’ve known you for over 10 years, if you can believe it. And yes, he’s off to Ohio State in the fall. During the course of my blog he’s morpherd from Monkey to Tech Support. Now he’s a man. (((weep)))

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