As Hurricane Alex was swirling into Texas I had a vision from my childhood. In it Daddy is stepping up his pace, with focus showing in the set of his jaw and his shoulders. He climbs into his yellow Texas Highway Department pick-up truck heads into the storm. He’ll check for washouts at bridges and flooded spots in the roads. He’ll put up barriers and flares before anyone can drive off a bridge or into washed out pavement. And he likely won’t be back until the storm has passed.
I am aware he is getting a real adrenaline rush from being able to do something in a crisis, and actually enjoying his role. But Mother? She’s getting a different kind of rush. Now she is alone with three kids in a house she is certain will be either blown away or struck by lightening. For us kids the biggest fear is the embarrassment of Mother following through on her repeated threats to move us to the courthouse for safe shelter. No one ever invites us to go to the courthouse as far as I remember, but Mother feels welcome there just the same. Her courthouse vision kinda reminds me of the farm Lennie was always going to in “Of Mice and Men,” except the courthouse is real — stone and marble fortress real.
I don’t know it, but I am receiving good training for my future in Florida during hurricane seasons. From Daddy I am learning to take the bull by the horns, to prepare and help avert tragedies. From Mother I learn situations are seldom as bad as imagined. To Mother’s consternation, my siblings and I also learn how funny over-reaction can be. It’s a wonder we aren’t sitcom writers.
I have a vision of a particular storm that shouldn’t be treated with gales of laughter, but is. This time Mother tells us we’ll be safer in our car with rubber tires to protect us from lightening strikes. She is even more afraid of lightening than the wind, but we suspect she has ulterior motives. So we run to the detached garage and pile in our ‘39 Chevy. We are thinking: This is it! We are on the way to the courthouse where workers will stare at us and point and laugh. If that is her intention, the Gods interfere. As we crank the windows up and lock the doors we hear a crack and the ground shakes as the mesquite tree crashes across the driveway behind us. We aren’t going anywhere. Who needs canned laughter?