Yesterday we drove through a few ugly storm cells. Then when the storm moved, the dark clouds continued to linger above the highway. Seeing the clouds reminded me of my years growing up in the little valley we called home.
Growing up there gave us a lot of freedom. I had very little fear. I was not necessarily fearful of poisonous snakes, but I was aware and taught how to protect myself from them. Most every house could be found with the front doors open with a screen door to allow the mountain breezes to move through and provide a much appreciated breeze. I remember being afraid when my father went out as part of the volunteer fire crew to fight forest fires. And once or twice, we would hear of someone breaking into an isolated cabin ‘up on the mountain’ but it was a rare occurrence.
Weather was no different. We had plenty of thunderstorms with lightening, but I never feared the thunder or the lightening. We knew how to determine the distance of a storm by counting the number of seconds between seeing lightening and hearing a clap of thunder. All of the older two story houses were equipped with lightening rods with decorative glass balls on two ends of the roof structure. The lightening rods are connected to a grounding rod buried in the ground. The glass balls served a purpose as well. The theory was that if the rod was struck by lightening, the glass ball would shatter letting the owner know it was time to check for potential damage.
While we had thunderstorms, more often than not, we had rainstorms. Just saturating downpours which nourished the gardens and fed the creeks. This was the non-destructive rain that everyone hoped for.
Our home was nestled in a valley surrounded by four mountain peaks. If you were attentive you could see sheets of rain move across the mountains toward our little valley. As kids, we swam in the creek. We had three ‘swimming holes’ but the most popular was the one we referred to as The Millpond.
During the summer we spent most of our time swimming and sitting on a towel spread along the rocky creek bank. This is where almost everyone learned to swim, me included. I remember the older teenagers applying a combination of baby oil and iodine on their bodies in an attempt to get a tan. Yikes!
When we could see rain clouds and the leaves turn upside down, everyone headed home. The Millpond was in the holler which meant the trip to our house was along the road, across the bridge and on home in a u-shaped path. The closer the sheets of rain were, the faster we moved until we were in a full run. This became what we referred to as trying to outrun the rain. We seldom made it home without getting drenched in the cold summer rain. Such a great memory.
Later in life, I went home to visit. In this valley, almost everyone walked everywhere. I was alone, visiting before going to a training class in D.C. for my job. I started out on a walk one afternoon. As I stepped off of my father’s porch, he said “It looks like it might rain.” I nodded and continued on my way. I missed that freedom and wanted to take advantage of walking while I had the chance.
I was about 30 minutes into my walk when the rain came up behind me. First, a few heavy drops, widely separated. Then more drops until a solid sheet of rain was upon me. I was soaked. Then, I did as I had often done as a child, I stepped onto the covered porch of a house no longer occupied to wait out the rain.
Within minutes, I saw my father’s car driving down the road. He saw me on the porch, pulled up and motioned for me to come to the car. As he had tried to do so many times in my life, he came to my rescue.
Such a bittersweet but beautiful memory.