Minggu, 28 Agustus 2011

The Eye Of The Storm

My father loved a good storm. New England was subjected to several hurricanes in the early 60s. Donna in 1960 hit land at a category 2/3 storm on the second Monday of September. WBZ announced numerous school closing. My primary school, Our Lady of the Foothills, was one of the first on the list. My older brother and I were happy to stay home. We were new kids in town.

That morning a raging gale howled against our split-level ranch house and the windows vibrating in their sashes. The lights went out at noon and my father lit a kerosene lamp on the kitchen table. Our family of eight huddled around the flame like Neanderthals sheltering in a cave.

Several hours later the hurricane abated to what seemed a whisper.

"The eye of the storm." My father rose from his chair and motioned for my older brother and me to follow him to the front door.

"Where are you going?" my mother demanded with arms on her hips. She was a beautiful woman, but her voice rang wi the authority of someone who had carried six babies in her womb.

"Outside to show them the eye."

"Hurricanes are not a joke." My mother had been through the 1938 hurricane. It didn't have a name. The winds had hit record speeds atop Great Blue Hill and hundreds had been killed in its path.

"I know." Hurricane Edna in 1954 had destroyed his sailboat on Watchic Pond. The hull lay in the backyard. Six years later he had yet to repair the damage to the mast. Six kids were a lot of work. He pointed out the living room window. "The skies have cleared. We'll only be a few minutes."

My second youngest brother bounced off his chair. My mother grabbed his wrist.

"Only a few minutes." My mother trusted my father to obey his promise. He loved her enough to convert to Catholicism.

"I'll keep them safe." My father led us outside. We lived in the shadow of Chickatawbut Hill. The sultry wind raced through the trees. Branches were scattered across the back. The counter-clockwise swirl of the cloud funnel opened to the heavens.

Overhead the sky was blue.

"This is the eye of the storm."

The three of us 360ed on the lawn to gawk at the storm's awesome power and glory. Lightning pulsed within the cloud wall like the Aurora Borealis. If my best friend hadn't drowned a month ago, the cyclonic display would have reinforced my faith in the Almighty. Instead I said, "Wow."

Rain dotted the walkway. The brief respite was coming to an end, My mother yelled at us to get inside.

My father lifted his finger for another few seconds. He had fought the Maine's Great Fire of 1949. I never had seen him scared other anything other than my mother's wrath. He quickly explained to my older brother and me how hurricanes formed in the tropics. We were 9 and 8. His meteorological lesson was lost on us, but the oppressive pressure of the powerful storm weighed heavily on our skin.

"Remember this for the rest of your life. Few people see this."

My mother's next demand was an ultimatum.

"If you don't come in, I'm locking the doors." She was serious.

"After it's over, we'll drive to Revere Beach." My father guided us inside the house.

The second half of the hurricane stuck within minutes and lasted into the evening. The weatherman on WBZ radio announced the all-clear message wagon, as we were going to sleep. School had been cancelled throughout New England. My father was excited as a child on Christmas Eve and he whispered a reminder.

"Tomorrow Revere Beach."

And the boyish joy in his voice kept us awake for another three minutes.

Tomorrow promised to be a big day.

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