When Mike and I had been married for about a month, there was a huge thunderstorm in our neighborhood. The sound, right outside our bedroom window, frightened me awake, and Mike had to pin me down until I realized that everything was okay. I was embarrassed for the truth to come out: I do not like thunderstorms.
What did your parents tell you about storms? I have one vivid memory of my dad holding me in the kitchen chair, back door open so we could see the rain and the lightning. He told me the angels were bowling. Every time the thunder boomed, he laughed and said, “Good one! I am sure that was a strike!”
I like this view of heaven, where games are played. My dad prioritized fun, and I imagine him roping Biblical characters into raucous rounds of Pictionary (perhaps his drawing skills are improved on the other side). We played board games as a family, and he cheated at Uno, and I kept score as my parents and their friends played countless games of spades. He taught me horseshoes and layups. When I was older, he made me put down my book and go outside. I learned, then, to love summer afternoon thunderstorms, because they meant I could stay inside and read. They always passed too quickly, and I would be shooed outside again.
A few weeks after my maternity leave, we had a fierce storm in our neighborhood when Mike was away on an overnight field trip. In my tired state, I did not realize how bad it was until it had already passed. I kept my eyes closed and prayed that Atticus would not wake up. Thankfully, he did not.
Just recently, though, loud sounds have begun to frighten him. He had a screaming, terrified fit when Mike used the blender a couple of weeks ago, surprising all of us. Even, I think, himself. We try to warn him about food processors and coffee grinders and have taken him to Starbucks so he could watch Alisa make frappuccinos. But when a storm rolls through at bedtime, as it did on Monday night, there’s nothing to do but endure it.
Grandaddy told me that the storms are angels bowling, I told him. I held him in my arms, sang The Doxology and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. I rocked his shaking body until even his frantic eyes began to calm. We listened to Linford and watched the stars from his twilight turtle. I told him that weather makes noise sometimes and that I would stay with him so he would know he was safe. It was a bad storm, lasting well over an hour. I told him I was scared, too. I don’t like thunderstorms, I said. With each lightning strike, I fought to breathe and keep my heart from racing. He rubbed my arm and I rubbed his head until his eyes closed and his breathing slowed and he finally put his head on my chest. I was happy to be needed, to focus on something other than my own fear. I drank in his hair and his skin and his eyelashes.
I had not rocked Atticus to sleep since our days of nursing, and while I do not miss those 2am feedings, I will grudgingly acknowledge that there were times when it was almost cozy to sit in the dark room nursing my boy back to sleep in my mom’s old rocking chair. I did not get euphoric breastfeeding feelings, but it was satisfying to meet his needs. On Monday, I felt that same satisfaction at being able to calm him down, but in a less physically draining way. What a difference it is to see my big boy curled up in my lap with his doggie. What a difference it is to feel as if we are comforting each other.
One day we will laugh at the storms. We will talk about the angels and Grandaddy and the loud sounds of bowling. Until then, we will find solace in being quietly brave together.