My mom grew up in a tiny green house near a creek in Savage, Minnesota. The house was across from the street from the elementary school baseball field and only had three bedrooms. Six kids (the seventh didn’t come along until some 15 years after number six) and one bathroom. The house was eeny.
When I was a kid I would spend entire weeks there with my Aunt Cathy (she’s number seven and a mere two years older than me). We would swim in the creek (pronounced crick), go to the drugstore a mere block away or the bowling alley (the same bowling alley we used to run) that was only three blocks away, and generally ran around town at whim.
At night we would stand on chairs next to the baseball field’s fence and watch the games. My grandpa, Cub, would bring us orange sodas with ice in a glass. It was everything childhood summers should be, wild, free, innocent.
The house was tiny and it didn’t have a basement. Which meant when severe weather happened upon Scott County my grandma would pace in front of the big picture window and chain smoke filterless Pall Malls. Her anxiety was catchy.
When I was a little kid we lived in a mobile home, which are renowned for their lack of basements. Whenever severe weather happened upon Anoka County my mom would pace in front of the big picture window and chain smoke Marlboro 100s. If the weather got too bad, she would scoop up me and Sister #2 and take us over to our aunt Eileen’s house, taking cover in the safety of a basement. Her anxiety was catchy.
I was the kind of kid who would go on alert the minute I’d hear the severe weather beep on the TV. Sitting in front of the TV waiting anxiously to see our county flash across the screen. I would gather blankets and books to take to the basement, quiz my parents on the location of a flashlight or a battery-powered radio, generally driving them crazy. I cannot even count how many times my mom hollered at me to calm down, that the storm was nowhere near us.
When I was eleven or twelve, I saw Poltergiest and forevermore learned to count the time between thunder clap and lightning strike. I think this was supposed to bring about some sort of calm, but it only strengthened by anxiety. Laying in the top bunk wondering if we should head to the basement if it was I only got to five. Six? Four?
Today a tornado whipped through South Minneapolis. As soon as the news flittered across Twitter, I was glued to the TV, the computer — my arms inflamed with goosebumps the entire time. I couldn’t turn it off. Nobody was hurt, nothing more was happening, and yet I was riveted.
It runs in the family.