Summer storms refresher for mind and memory

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Although spotty, recent storms and rains along with sunshine and heat have gone a long way toward reviving pastures and will mean bumper hay crops for some folks.

All that bodes well for those who produce food and fiber and I’m happy for us all, but the outpouring of recent downpours and thunder boomers has an unexpected personal benefit.

Those storms have caused me to remember my dearly departed Ma.

She had a thing about thunder and lightning; she drummed it into me every time the two came along, which when I was a little fellow, was about every summer afternoon.

She definitely lived by what I’ve heard weather folks say: “If you can hear it, fear it; if you can see it, flee it.” At some point in my young life — apparently when she deemed me old enough to bear it — she confessed that as a young woman she had been struck by lightning and didn’t want to repeat the experience nor did she want her darling offspring (me) to walk where she had.

So in deference to Mother Nature, each time the summer thunder boomers came our way, there were several things we/I had to do. First was the basic “Don’t go outside.” I knew that already, but she always began her routine with that admonition.

Following closely behind: close the windows and doors, don’t sit near a window, get in the middle of the room, lie down if possible, unplug all appliances, do not get into the tub or mess around the sink or turn on water, and never, under any circumstances — even if Stan Musial calls — do you answer the phone.

That list — and there were other items — led me to several opportunities. For instance, I learned early that if I checked off her list before the first crack of thunder or lightning flash, I could fling a quilt onto the floor, stack up my comic books, raid the frig and while away many a happy moment with the latest issue of Donald Duck while consuming two 16-ounce Pepsis and a jar of Peter Pan crunchy. (Unplugging the appliances didn’t extend to the refrigerator or mean we had to turn off the lights.)

Those activities, no doubt, have contributed greatly to my outstanding physique of today, along with the razor-sharp mind that serves me no purpose other than to be full of useless trivia, including the names of Donald’s three nephews and his stingy uncle. (See me after class if you don’t know the answers.)

Later on in life, after she and I no longer lived in the same house, I would take the opportunity to call her during the height of a storm, knowing she would not answer. And since this was before caller ID, as soon as the last clap ended and the flashes were gone, she would call me and say, “Did you just call me?” When I confessed that I had, she would go on to say, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to use the telephone when it’s lightning and that I’m not going to answer?”

There I would say, “No, Mama, nobody ever told me.’

“Yes, I did, too,” she’d answer.

No matter how many times we played this game, the words were still the same.

Today I mostly do like she taught me. I don’t talk on the phone and typically I stay out of the shower. However, I have taken to making a cup of coffee on the one cup coffee-making appliance. Then I ease out the French doors in our dining room and sit on the screened porch, up against the wall, and watch the show and listen to the rumbles. And if it’s a good driving rain, I thrill to the sound of the drops on the tin roof.

I think of her then; I remember how she told me the thunder rumbles were the sounds of God moving his furniture or the angels bowling. Somewhere along the line I’m pretty sure it was Mama who told me if the sun shone while it was raining, the devil was beating his wife.

Lest the counselors and authorities condemn me here, let me go on record as saying I am not advocating anyone beat anyone, unless it’s the Cardinals over the Cubs. That’s just what she told me about 70 years or so ago.

Now as I sit and consume Juan Valdez’s finest and listen to Mother Nature’s symphony, I think of her and remember.

And, so far at least, I haven’t been struck by lightning ...

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.

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