Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Rainy night

On the Bright Side

I was thinking of writing something else this evening for my column, but a sudden and surprising rainstorm happened and that got the memory center in my brain working.

I love thunderstorms; I think I always have. I don't ever remember being scared in one, but I do have lots of memories of enjoying them. Having grown up mostly in the Midwest, I had plenty of opportunities for stormy experiences.

One memorable storm was in Chariton, Iowa, the summer I was 12. The thunder and lightning were simultaneous, meaning the storm was right on top of us, and it was pouring down rain. And the thunder was sharp and house-shaking. My parents weren't home so our neighbors came over and got my younger sister and me to go to their house where we would "feel safer."

I know they meant well, but I don't remember being frightened. However, while we were all sitting in their living room listening to the storm and counting the seconds between lightning strikes and the booming thunder – sometimes there were no seconds to count – one bolt of lightning came through their living room window and the force of it knocked the neighbors' daughter over. She was older than me, sitting on the floor with her legs crossed and thanks to the lightning, she did a backwards summersault across the room.

All of us felt the electricity in the air, but no one – including the daughter – was hurt. I don't remember being frightened at the time, but it seems like I must have been. Thinking back on the experience as an adult, I can't help but marvel that we all survived and the house didn't burn down.

Another time I was visiting home (as a college student), alone in the house with my mother and her dog Timmy. Our town was under a tornado watch, and Mom and I were standing at the picture window looking out at the sky, trying to see any sign of a funnel cloud. Suddenly it started to rain. As in pouring rain.

We breathed a sigh of relief as common folk wisdom says when it starts to rain, a tornado is unlikely. My folk's house was also near the bottom of a hill, and near a river, both of which should mean we were relatively safe from tornadic activity.

However, the house jolted suddenly. I grabbed the dog and we made haste to get to the basement. The phone rang while Mom and I were standing by the ping pong table, trying to remember which corner of the basement to get into for optimum safety.

I answered the phone; it was a neighbor calling to see if we were okay since a tornado had hit our house. I looked up and sure enough, there was a hole in our roof, letting in the rain.

The calling neighbor told me he and some others had been watching, and they saw the twister form and fly over other houses. It touched down and took a bite out of the roof on my parent's house, then dispersed. The only other damage caused in the whole neighborhood was thanks to bits of our roof flying into other houses. And still it rained.

As a former lifeguard, I remember many times getting all the swimmers out of the lake or the pool because of thunder and lightning. As a former softball umpire, I remember calling a number of games off due to lightning. Lightning can be dangerous, as most of us should know, but most of us have never had the experience of being struck by it. Thank goodness.

I also have great memories of lying in bed when I was in high school; my bed was situated in a sort of alcove where there were windows on three sides. I loved those stormy nights when the trees were swaying in the wind and thunder and lightning were happening regularly and rain was beating against the windows.

Even better, when it rained during the daytime back then, when we lived on the farm, I used to go out to our pole barn with a good book and make myself comfortable on a bale of hay – sometimes in the company of one or more of our horses or a cows – and listen to the rain on the tin roof. Ah, such a wonderful sound.

Now, here in Tehachapi, those sorts of experiences are few and far between, and maybe I love them even more for that very reason. Tonight, the thunder shook my house and scared the cat, and the rain pounded on my roof and skylight, and I just smiled and hoped it would last a lot longer than it actually did.

Oh well, it was lovely while it lasted, and the memories made me smile too.

© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer and author of On the Bright Side, a Collection of Columns (available locally at Tehachapi Arts Center and Healthy Hippie Trading Co), welcomes your comments at [email protected].