Childhood memories can be beautiful – or terrifying.
As I begin to write this blog it’s 7.45pm on a rainy Monday evening in September, 2016. I’m writing about the rain because of the particularly automatic feelings that the sound of rain brings up inside me.
I love the sound of rain as it hits my tin roof, like a white noise that manages to lull me into a dream like state; it’s a soundclip from my childhood. However, if you were to add somebody rushing about the house sounding anxious, the sound of the beautiful rain would evoke a fearful panic from deep within my psyche.
In the happy summertimes of my childhood all the kids in my street loved a warm shower of rain because it created a mist as it evaporated off the hot road and footpath. For us, the mystical fog was the realm of magic and fairies. I used to lay on the damp lawn with my chin resting on my hands and the raindrops massaging my back; peering into the mist, hoping to catch a glimpse of something mystical. A fairy rushing home, an elf looking for mischief or just some magical dust that I might accidentallay breathe in and get mystical powers from. My brother’s joy with summer rain was different to mine. Looking like a wizard, he rode through the mist on his bike and the steam swirled on either side of his bicycle like a magical stage effect. After really heavy rain the uneven concrete footpath outside our house filled with water and we sat along the higher edge, splashing our bare feet in the shallow pool of water. Forty-five years later I measured the pool and found that it’s only 2.5 centimetres deep (about an inch).
During January in the summer of 1973, when I was seven years old, an especially heavy downpour of rain, gale force winds and thunder interrupted our hot, still afternoon. Mum had the house wide open and the storm hit so suddenly that it sent her into a panic. She’d worked all day to get the floors clean, the laundry done and other chores. She had all the windows wide open but instead of sunshine streaming in to freshen up the house there was now rain soaking the carpet.
The baby was crying in the pram outside under the tree and the dogs were barking at the intrusion of the thunder into their yard. The commotion of the dogs, Bubba, loud rain, screaming wind and ear-piercing thunder cracks were all so intense that we could hardly hear each other speak. Mum shouted for me to get the clothes off the line while she ran around closing all the windows. I stood under the clothesline in the thunderstorm; which felt like a hurricaine. My hair whipped my face relentlessly and the clothes on the line hit against my head and upper body as I wrestled the pegs off. Angry thunder cracks came leaping out of the screaming wind, piercing my ears and frightening me with constant lightning strikes. The fact that just five minutes earlier I was outside playing on a hot, still afternoon made the dark, angry skies more frightening.
Burdened by half of the washing in my arms I turned and ran into the house to unload but couldn’t bring myself to go back out there. I called out to Mum, but she couldn’t hear me over the storm. Pushing past the pram (which was now in the hallway) I found Mum sitting on my sopping wet bedroom floor, crying into her hands. This was the last window for her to close and she hadn’t remembered that this room had a bed right under the window. My sister’s bed was okay, the baby’s cot was fine, my brother’s room only had wet curtains and my Mum was a wreck. My heart broke for Mum because she looked defeated – and I’d never seen an adult cry before.
My hand went to her shoulder in a reassuring way and I asked why she was crying. Although the reason was probably obvious enough, I wondered whether she was scared of the noise like me. When she looked I could see that she wasn’t scared… she was angry, annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, defeated… yes, defeated. She asked if I got the washing in and I told her I got some but couldn’t get it all. Unable to understand the logic in my response, she pushed me away and cried some more.
Nowadays rain brings happy memories of splashing in that little puddle and watching mist rise up from hot surfaces. But rain accompanied by someone rushing around in a flustered state makes me want to cry.
Isn’t it strange how litle things stick with children?
For links to my other stories, click here
Image of lady running past clothesline is from Google: http://theophilus.org/rebecca/images2/clothesline72.jpg
Military image: “When a mother sees rain: get that washing safely inside now!” @mum_probs