Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining

My mother was peeking out the window, holding the curtain in a death grip.

A rumble of thunder and she quickly let go.

“Lauren! Quick! Turn on the weather channel!”

She had already turned off the lights, lit candles, and stocked food. We were prepared for the worse.

“What are they saying? WHAT ARE THEY SAYING??” she yelled.

“That there is a severe thunderstorm watch 20 miles away from here.”

“That’s it! Everyone down in the basement.”

My mother scooped me up and dragged me downstairs, leaving my school friend Matt sitting on the couch confused.

She planted me on the basement couch and waved her finger in front of my face.

“Don’t move. Don’t go near the windows. Just don’t move. Where is Matthew?”

“He’s still upstairs Mom.”
“Dear Lord.”

We heard a muffled voice calling from upstairs.

“Hey Ms. Modery,” Matt shouted from the top of the stairs, “Um, if you guys are going to stay in the basement, I think I’m just going to walk home.”

My mother flattened herself up against the basement wall and slowly felt her way to the bottom of the stairs.

“Are you crazy Matthew?! Look at it outside! LOOK AT IT!”

We all looked outside. The sky was gray with a few streaks of lightening, but my mother was absolutely convinced that a tornado would appear at any moment. In the middle of central New York.

“It’s really ok, Ms. Modery. I live just down the street. You guys have fun down there.”

We listened as Matthew collected his things, opened the front door, and exited the house.

My mothers face went blank. “Oh no! The front door is unlocked now!”

I watched as my mother paced around, the wheels churning in her head. If she didn’t go upstairs and lock the front door, the storm could bust through our house at any moment and instantly swoop us up and slam us down like paper dolls.

She decided that locking the front door was the right thing to do, but it took every ounce of her strength to make it to the top of those stairs.

This is what happened every time there was a thunderstorm growing up.

I had no idea until I was an adult that my mother and I were is abnormal. Even when my friends would tease me at school, I figured they were the ignorant fools. “Yeah just wait until lightening strikes your ear lobe while you’re talking on that phone!” I’d laugh to myself.

After I moved to Texas where thunderstorms are a way of life during the summer, I’d try to politely suggest to my mother that she did not have to rush off the phone and sleep in the basement after hearing a rumble of thunder. I didn’t want to emasculate her deeply rooted fears, but it seemed a little ridiculous. “Hey Mom, can you believe that my friend Jesse used to do tornado drills in school growing up in Oklahoma? Now isn’t that too bad? Now didn’t she really have something to worry about?”

“No, I don’t feel bad! She was stupid for living in Oklahoma. OH MY GOD! I just saw some lightening. I have to go.”

You may wonder why my mother has such an irrational fear of thunder and lightening. What I neglected to mention is that she saw someone getting struck by lightening as a child. Or rather heard since she was running screaming in the other direction when the two people got struck. She said it sounded like someone shot a gun next to her ear and, well, I guess that is a sound that never leaves you, does it? However, you’d think as you get closer to 60, childhood fears will have already dissipated. I guess some never do.

What childhood fears do you still have?
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  • Reply Doug January 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I lived through the huge tornado that hit Xenia OH in 1974. A lot of my parents neighbors act like your mother. Hold up in there basement sanctuaries all night because of storms. I never had any baggage caused by the tornado. It did however provide an awesome story for the impromptu speeches in high school and later college. People love to hear that sort of stuff.

  • Reply Angie January 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I think I'm more the opposite. I developped fears with age. Some of the silly ones include tsunamis/floods/tidal waves, and airplanes. Every time I board a plane the panic attack is worse than the last time. Don't know what it is, I'm just getting more scared with age.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    @Doug- I'm guessing tornados are not common in Ohio either?

    @Angie- I'm the same way! Just over the past year, I've developed a anxiety-inducing fear of flying. I think it's when you start to grow up and realize that you're completely vulnerable.

  • Reply paintnpencil January 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Thunderstorms and lightning. I think I may even be worse than your mother. I hide, first turn everything off and go through some of the most terrifying moments of my life. I'm older than your Mum. Some things never leave us.

  • Reply "Julie" January 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    i'm terrified of earth quakes. i live in houston….yeah I know. But I've been in a 7.8 on the richters and that shit was horrifying. I can only thank goodness I was ok, and lucky, and it makes my hurt for the ppl in Haiti.

    I'm terrified of puking too. Like obsessively compulsively terrified of it….

  • Reply IT January 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    That people will think I am a total dork.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    @PaintnPencil- 🙁 I think you and my Mom should meet.

    @Julie- 7.8!? Where was that??

    @IT- Even if you are a dork, you should embrace it. I do!

  • Reply T!nK January 28, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I am scared of the dark. Like really. I have been in this apartment by myself for a month and more nights than not I have someone sleeping here with me… (like, actually sleeping not like… SLEEPING WITH sleeping) because I always "hear" someone opening the front door, or "see" someone standing on my staircase which is across from my bedroom door within direct line of sight of my bed. I also have to keep the closet door closed when I sleep. I think I'm afraid that I am going to wake up and there is going to be like a gateway to hell or something. Or the boogey man.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    @T!nk- Wow! That is so interesting. There are times when I feel that way, but not all the time. Thanks for sharing. Makes us realize we're all not alone in our fears.

  • Reply Colleen January 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I wasn't allowed to take showers during a thunderstorm because my mom was afraid that lightning would strike an (exposed?) water pipe and shoot electricity through the faucet.

    Luckily, thunderstorms never lasted more than a few hours.

  • Reply Uncle Staple January 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Whenever I walk past a sewer grate I am afraid I'm going to drop my keys in it. It's not crippling or anything, but it does put me on edge for a second.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    @Colleen-Oh yeah, I wasn't allowed to turn on faucets or go to the bathroom. I had to hold my pee the entire storm.

    @Uncle Staple- Very interesting. Do you grip your keys closer to you when you walk by?

  • Reply Uncle Staple January 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    yes, or pat my pocket to make sure they are still there.

    in fact i had to check right now, just from thinking about it.

    they are there…phew.

  • Reply Austin Eavesdropper January 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Love this story (as usual)

    I will never stop being afraid of snakes. The way they move is unnatural. I have never been bitten by one, mind you, I just…don't trust them.

    All this, and my husband and I lived with a SIX FOOT BOA CONSTRICTOR for two years.

  • Reply Sassy January 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    My grandmother once told me about a rat that swam up through her toilet as a child. I developed a mantra—A MANTRA—that I recited every time I used the bathroom until I was fourteen. And I'd be lying if I said I still didn't check for rats before dropping trou.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    @Uncle Staple- hahaha… I'm glad you still have them. Now I will be doing that every time I walk past a sewer grate and I'll think of you.

    @AustinEavesdropper- I'm with you on that one. That probably is my number one fear. How the hell did you live with one??

    @Sassy- Please tell me that you're kidding. PLEASE TELL ME!! LIE TO ME!!! I DON'T CARE!

  • Reply Laurie January 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    My best friend's dad was struck and killed by lighting when we were twelve. He was checking on their animals before the storm arrived (or what he thought was "before").

    I live in Florida where lightning is a way of life. Come summer, you can bet your ass some old geezer from up north is going to be struck while playing golf….or heat stroke will take him out. Idiots.

  • Reply cjschlottman January 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    When I was five, my mother let my older brothers take me to a movie called "Invaders From Mars." For the next two weeks, I woke in the night thinking someone had put a large glass dome over me and my bed, and there was a hole in the middle where a gigantic needle was coming at my middle to suck out my insides so monsters in silver helmet could take them back to space and study them. Terrified and crying, I dove between my parents in their bed and couldn't sleep unless my Daddy put his hand on my stomach to keep the needle away. You won't catch me trying to get on any space ships, but ironically, I grew up to be a nurse and a regular blood donor, which involves VERY large needles. Who knows what makes us what we are?

  • Reply emma January 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I first want to say I'm so entertained by your blog: love it. My fear? Water. I hate lakes because they're so dark – I'm always irrationally afraid that some kind of sea creature will reach up and rap itself around my ankle. Yes, deep sea creatures … in a lake. Even funnier? I'm not that afraid of the ocean. I was a strange child.

  • Reply Hipstercrite January 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    @Laurie- Dear Lord! That is terrible! My Mom's middle school boyfriend slept walk and fell down the stairs and died. Life is strange.

    @CJSchlottman- Maybe you became a nurse to overcome your fear? That is admirable.

    @Emma- Thank you very much for that! I'm with you on the dark water. Actually I think I'm more afraid of dark water than snakes. Stems back from swimming lessons as a child where our coach said if we didn't swim fast enough, sharks would get us.

  • Reply Yvette January 29, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Cement stair cases. I was always very careful going up because I was scared that I would trip and bust my front teeth on them.

  • Reply samsstuff January 29, 2010 at 1:01 am

    I spent a lot of my childhood in California. You'd think that would make me more afraid of earthquakes, but I'm not that afraid of them. I am afraid of lightening, though. I've known several people who where struck (but lived). I always count the seconds between seeing the lightening & hearing the thunder, so I "know" how close the lightening is.

  • Reply KeLLy aNN January 29, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Even though it's not so nice what happened to your mum, your story had me rumbling with Laughter. The only thing that still scares Me is whatever was tapping at My window practically every night for years.
    Never did have the guts to look out the curtain….

  • Reply DeRosa080208 January 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I don't swim in the ocean. I don't like swimming with things I can't see below me. Not a fan. Plus, it would be just my luck to be stuck in a real life "Jaws" situation. Ugh.

  • Reply DeRosa080208 January 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I also used to be afraid of the pool cleaning device that looks like an octopus or giant squid. I used to think it was going to pull me under and eat me. o_O

  • Reply tee January 31, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    My mom used to tell me to stay away from windows during a thunderstorm because you could get struck by lightning and become a vegetable. To this day when I think of lightning I think of being turned into a cucumber.


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