Late in the night the other evening I was awakened by a thunderstorm. I am not sure if it was the flash from the lightning or the rumble of the thunder that woke me, but I lay there for a few minutes and listened to the power of the storm raging around my home. I decided to get up and go sit out on my porch so I could better experience the intensity of the storm and let it wash over me. I sat out there, drawing in the scents of the storm, anticipating the exhilaration when a flash of lightning illuminates the night and reveling in the rumble and vibration of the thunder throughout my being. I was really wrapped up in being in the moment and appreciating that tiny segment of my life.
As much as I was “in” that moment, I also began to remember that I did not always enjoy and welcome thunderstorms. I was taken back to a time when I was afraid of the storms, all the way back to my Grandparents home many years ago. A wood frame farm house built up on brick piers two to three feet off the ground. On the front of the house was a large brick and stone porch that went all the way to the ground, but on the other three sides of the house the brick piers were open and exposed with nothing more than a few flower beds camouflaging the space between the ground and the underside of the house.
My grandfather built that house – I remember being told about the huge thunderstorm “back in the 30’s” that came through the area with tornados that ripped down trees and drove pine straw deep into the wood like needles in a pin cushion. I remember being told that after the storms passed my grandfather (and a few friends and neighbors, I’m guessing) loaded up the trees that had been blown down in the woods on his farm and took them to the local sawmill to have them milled into lumber. “Waste not, want not”, I remember him saying as he told me the story of that farm house. When the trees had been turned into lumber he went back to the sawmill and loaded the lumber up and brought it back to the farm and used that lumber to build that farm house that I loved so much.
And then later, when we would visit my grandparents and the inevitable summer storms would crop up in the afternoons booming and rumbling and flashing lightning and shaking into my bones, I would think about the story of how that farm house that I was in came to be. The storms would shake and rattle that old house. You could feel the storm even more there as that old farm house was up on those brick pillars and the vibration of the storm would surround you top to bottom, left to right. And I would think about those planks of wood that my grandfather used and how they came to be planks of wood from trees that had been right there where that farm house stood. And I would be concerned and just a little worried…
My Grandmother seemed to understand without me ever uttering a single syllable on the subject – Maybe she thought about those planks of wood as well.
Whenever those storms would start she would pull out a box of old Reader’s Digest magazines that she kept – years and years of them. And we would sit there together and read while the storms raged on around us. Not the stories or the “My Favourite Person” articles or anything of the sort. We would read the jokes. Years and years worth of “Humour in Uniform”, “Laughter, the Best Medicine”, and “All In A Days Work”.
Before long, the storm would be forgotten. We would read silently, sitting there together with a small grin or slight chuckle every now and then and every so often one or the other of us would share a joke out loud. After a while, one or the other of us would notice that the storm had passed and we would put the little magazines away. Perhaps just slightly reluctantly, but with the knowledge that they would be there to be shared together for the next storm in my life.
So I sat there on my front porch – soaking in the passing storm and realized just how much power the laughter had over the fear. And I wondered if my grandmother knew just exactly what gift she was passing down to me at the time.
I suspect she did.