I spent the first 25 years of my life living in Missouri where weather happened on a regular basis.
When I was a baby, my aunt and uncle’s house was hit by a tornado (spawning a lot of our family mythology which I won’t get into here). We did not have a basement at home, and I have a very clear memory of driving to my grandparents’ house as a young child, the sky a sickly greenish-yellow and the air strangely calm and thick out the car window as we outran a twister. In high school, it was not uncommon for the schools in my small town to close for weeks following ice storms that rendered the hilly Ozarks roads impassable by buses. I remember the crackle of breaking trees, the shattered-glass sound as the ice hit the ground. We had flash floods and crazy summer thunderstorms, real toad-stranglers.
For the last 12 years, I have lived in Berkeley, CA, and worked in San Francisco. I felt maybe half a dozen earthquakes in that time, horrible gut-wrenching seconds that were gone before I processed what was happening. But weather, real Midwestern weather, was largely missing from the equation. Rain became something I wanted to go out and run in, so soft and gentle were most of the storms. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw lightning or heard thunder. Once there was a hailstorm that accumulated on the ground for long enough that I saw school-aged children playing in it like snow. Another time I experienced the briefest of flurries in the Financial District. Mostly, we feared droughts, or complained about the fog.
I’m not sure whether it’s my age or the last decade sans intense weather, but the recent string of thunderstorms has put me on edge. Last week we had thunder/lightening several nights in a row and I barely slept. It did not help that Huck, Cooper and Kitty all demanded space in our bed during the worst of it. (My animals are 100% Californians.) But even before the animals came calling I was having nightmares about tornados. In the evenings, while normal Midwestern folk were going about their business, I was making excuses to stay home so I could get the animals to the basement if need be. When the skies grew dark and menacing during the day, I could barely get work done in the middle of checking the Doppler.
The thought of Joel and Claire and I being in separate places during a tornado makes my heart hurt. The thought of my animals being home without me during an intense storm makes me sick to my stomach. Putting this in writing makes me feel like a crazy fatalist, but just today a funnel cloud was spotted about an hour and a half south, and I felt an overwhelming urge to make an excuse to go home. Even though it’s sunny and clear outside!
Surely I’ll get used to this, right? I can’t go through the rest of my life scared of thunder and lightning!