The thrill of thunder and lightning
It was Thursday morning.
As I opened the front door to retrieve the newspaper, I was startled by a spectacular thunder and lightning cascade.
It rolled into the corners of the house, filling niches where, inside, we felt safe.
“That was close,” we both said.
We ran to close windows, unplug computers and try to calm the now very frightened cat.
The lights flickered and went out, but only for a short while.
I recall times as a child, when I stayed with my grandmother in her tiny bungalow and the electricity failed during a storm. We’d light the kerosene lamps and settle in for a cozy time with the storm raging outside.
There were three “oil” lamps in the cottage.
One was huge, made of clear glass, a workhouse lamp shedding the most light. There was a tiny lamp with a tiny chimney and a handle that you could use to carry it from room to room and there was the lamp with the painted shade that I thought was just about the most beautiful thing in the world. It was lovely unlit and to my child’s eyes, magnificent when filled with fire.
But thunderstorms had a more momentous meaning in our house.
My mother, the wonderful woman that she was, was terrified by them.
She passed that fear on to us recounting ghoulish stories of people who met horrifyingly crispy ends in a storm. We were forbidden to use the phone, run water, stand near a window, be outside, near an open door, hold anything metal or have wet hair during a storm.
Mostly we were encouraged to sit on the sofa while she and my grandmother recounted stories of things like ball lightening and the lady who was zapped while she was filling her tea kettle.
My mother and grandmother were not, however, without armaments during a storm.
These weapons employed to…well, you know, I really don’t know what these things were supposed to do. Maybe keep the lightning away? What were they?
First you had to open two windows next to one another, presumably, and I can remember asking about this one, to encourage any lightning that came in one window to go out the other window.
They also believed and practiced the belief that burning palms gotten on Palm Sunday was a protection against lightening. Really, I have no idea where that came from. I even researched it as some kind of traditional English remedy.
My mother and grandmother were from Cornwall, UK. They brought English folklore with them.
Somehow other parts of that folklore that were prescriptions for protection from lightning were not in their toolbox. They didn’t know that acorns, mistletoe and holly were also thought to be safeguards during the thunderstorm. It seems that burning palms was a concoction of their own.
In point of fact, the proscriptions that my mom put in my head all those many years ago were on point.
Despite all modern technology, lightning with its accompanying thunder is as dangerous as ever.
I’m remembering a July storm almost 30 years ago. We were living at the cottage that summer.
I had gone shopping in Marcellus when a massive storm with all of its bells and whistles came through.
Strong winds, copious lightning and thunder and torrents of rain sent me dashing in my car back to the cottage. I had left the children in the sun. Now they were in the maelstrom. The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the rain. Roads were blocked with fallen tree limbs on one road after another. It took several nail biting detours to get to the cottage. My children must be terrified.
Finally, finally making my way over the camp roads, I made it to the cottage, dripping wet.
I apologized profusely for leaving them alone in the storm. They looked at me as if I had three heads.
They were playing a card game while the storm that scared the wits out of their mother was a passing meteorological event for them.
They had closed the windows and porch doors and were sitting away from anything that could conduct lightning. They told me that they had learned to do these things in science classes.
I guess I forgot to pass on the terror.