While other people's childhood reminiscences might include building tree houses and tea parties with their genuine Chatty Cathy Doll, mine center more often on hurricanes. The charming, leafy subdivision I grew up in was a peninsula that stuck out into Galveston Bay and which was smacked by tropical storms pretty regularly. Every autumn, inevitably, I would be roused in the early morning by my mother who would announce that we had to put all our earthly possessions up as high as possible cause some stupid hurricane was heading our way and flooding was imminent. Great.
And then, having stuffed our clothes and groceries in the attic and propped the couch up on cinder blocks, would we flee to higher ground? Oh my, no. We would sit and wait, "see how things go" and only leave once the bay waters actually invaded the house, which they did six or seven times (I have lost count over the years) before the city finally condemned the charming, leafy subdivision and forced my parents to move to a more sensible location, a move they should have made decades before. Some of these floods were six and seven feet deep.
When I was six, the eye of Hurricane Carla, an enormous Category 5 storm, passed directly over the little town I grew up in. The National Guard came to our door and ordered my father to get us out; we drove through water that came half way up the car doors. And where did we go? Five minutes "inland" to my granny's house, a house you could walk to the beach from. Cause that was safe.
And that's the point, the world I grew up in was astonishingly casual about hurricanes, storms that killed people every fucking year somewhere on the Gulf Coast. Of course, meteorological predictions were much more primitive and tropical storms rarely travel in a straight path, so hearing one was "coming our way" was a prediction regarded with jaundiced eye. My granny could do better watching which way the birds flew. The grocery store printed hurricane tracking charts on their paper bags. During Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the weatherman would interrupt with the latest coordinates and you could mark them on the map to see which way the fucking thing was lurching. It was like a not very amusing game. I remember the truism that it's supposed to be worse to be on the west side of the hurricane, but now I can't remember why. Maybe it was unlucky.
But then came Hurricane Andrew and all his little brothers ripping up Florida; and Alicia, which finally forced my family from their home; and, of course, Katrina so now the storms get much more the respect they were due.
And now here comes little Isaac, still only a tropical storm and only predicted to hit land as a Category Two, but coming in with spectacular timing, interrupting the RNC convention (sort of yay) and eyeing the anniversary of Katrina (so very much not yay.)
That's why as I sit here, halfway across the continent, remembering the weird green color the sky would turn right before a really big storm settled in; the nasty stench of the muck that the storm surge would flood our house with; my mother wading through the den to reposition her favorite recliner, I'll be honest. I am so grateful to be out.
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