Where I grew up, we had many thunderstorms.
The eastern states have a summer humidity that can weigh on you like a burden you’ve carried all your life. The pressure is always fluctuating, sometimes it doesn’t even rain; there is only a flash of heat and no relief.
But when the storms do come, they are a series of cacophonous rumbles and tremors. It’s not a serious one unless the foundations of your home are shaking; or better yet, you’ve had to seek shelter in your neighbour’s home because yours doesn’t have a basement.
The spunky old Serbian sisters, our very own adopted eccentric Babushkas, were there to shelter us as children. We sat with them in their living room as the house rattled, anxiously watching the weather, straining to hear any change in the storm; ready to run for the basement if the wind began to resemble a thundering train - a sure sign of tornados.
Looking back, these two women lived through so many storms, ones I cannot even fathom- wars, depressions, eras of oppression, the loss of their loved ones, the morphing of their culture- maybe even the loss of it, loneliness. They faced the gods of thunder and rain with stern expressions, Serbian cuss words, and a plate of Milano cookies. My mother too brought her defences to these storm battles- reassurance, love, kindness, and stories.
It was during these storms that I learned how to count blessings. You can count them the same way you count out the distance from you to the storm.
A blinding flash, then:
One, one-thousand; two, one-thousand; three-
A deafening crack.
These are the real storms, the ones that deafen you down to your bones and rattle your little insignificant self. The ones where there is nothing to be done but hunker down and wait it out while the waters rise.
I can’t remember any Serbian cuss words, but some 30 years later and I am now fairly capable at taking on storms. This week I’ve watched several roll over the parkland, they were expected and unavoidable, rumbling their way across the landscape with a momentum I could do nothing but accept.
It hasn’t stopped storming yet, but the pressure has broken.
These are photos from my Pennsylvania archive: one set from my childhood home at dusk on May 8th 2012, and then another group from June 25th 2013. Once older and braver, we'd watch storms roll in from our porch.
The photo below is my brother and I playing in our Babushkas' back yard on a less stormy day.