A line of servere weather is moving through the mid-south and it has stormed all night and all day. Any time we have thunder storms, it reminds me of my mother and her fear of storms.
We had an unusual number of storms when I was a child. I don’t know if there were actually more storms then, or if the storms were such memorable events that they were vividly impressed in my memory. I suspect the latter.
Mama was afraid of thunderstorms. While a normal amount of apprehension during severe weather is understandable, mama was afraid beyond anything close to reasonable.
Thunderstorms usually happened in the late afternoon, after the heat of the day had built up. When the rain was coming and the sky became dark, we were called inside to wait until the storm had passed. All the appliances had to be unplugged so the lightning would not run in on them. Everything was unplugged except the refrigerator, which was only unplugged if the storm was a really bad one.
We could not touch anything metal like a pair of scissors during a storm because metal conducted electricity. We could not, of course, take a bath or touch a water faucet because plumbing pipes conducted electricity. We could not talk on the phone, watch TV, or play the record player. I can’t remember if we were allowed to go to the bathroom, but I doubt it.
We could not play with the cat, because cats draw electricity. Mama had pretty rigid ideas about storms and didn’t worry about the difference between lightning and static electricity.
Sometimes mama would take us to a neighbor’s house when a storm was coming. I don’t know why the neighbor’s house was any safer than ours. Maybe there was safety in numbers, or maybe it was because the neighbor didn’t panic at every crash of thunder and the socializing helped take mama’s mind off the storm.
When we were at home during a storm, mama would pull the shades so she couldn’t see the lightning. I don’t think window shades provided much protection, especially since they could not keep out the thunder. Mother would not cook or do any work until the storm was over. The kitchen was full of dangerous things, like appliances, plumbing, and metal.
Storms that came at night were especially frightening. First of all, you couldn’t see them coming and didn’t know it was storming until the thunder, or mama, woke you up. The lightning was even brighter at night. Mama made everyone get up and put clothes on or at least put on a bathrobe. I think the idea was that if the house was struck by lightning, we could run outside without the neighbors seeing us in pajamas.
If it was an especially bad storm, the electricity might go out for a while. I don’t know why we didn’t just stay in bed and sleep instead of sitting up by candlelight.
One time the lightning did actually strike a transformer on the pole at the corner. Fortunately, the power surge only blew out the fuses instead of the refrigerator. This proved mama’s theory, however, that we were all going to be electrocuted by a storm one day.
One friend of mama was even more frightened of storms than she was and would sometimes come to stay with us if a storm came up. I don’t know why she came to mama for comfort. Maybe she just felt better knowing someone else was afraid. She would cry and cover her head with a pillow, saying that feathers repelled electricity. After my mother found out about feathers, she sometimes covered her head too.
I guess the feathers worked as mama was never electrocuted. The house was never struck by lightning and neither was the cat. I don’t know if the milk spoiled while the refrigerator was unplugged.
As for me, I probably would not have grown up at all if it hadn’t been for mama looking out for me and keeping me out of harm’s way. At least, that is what mama would say.
Copyright 2011 Sheila Moss