Suddenly the hot day seemed to stall. The sun disappeared. Everything got quiet and very still. Looking up into the sky, I was shocked to see it suddenly dark. Storm clouds crowded where the brilliant blue had been only minutes before. The entire sky was suffused in charcoal and shades of grey. Such majesty in that infinite depth defied reason and shocked us with the change from light to dark. The sheer power of thunderclouds which seemed to crash against each other in their rush to cover the heavens, drove us to action. The leaves on the trees seem to be turning backward. Not a breath of air stirred them. Not a single leaf moved, and yet the knowledge that something was barrelling towards us galvanized us into action.
Moments before, we had all been playing in the yard. My younger sister, Dede, and our little brother, Bucky, about two years old, enjoyed ourselves. We ran around under the giant oak tree and played games of tag. The three of us enjoyed a peaceful hot July day, not a care in the world. The air was sticky, thick, with heat. We girls were wearing sundresses while our brother was in cotton shorts and a collared shirt. Our clothes were attractive and freshly ironed. Our mother wanted us to look good no matter where we were.
My sister hated to get dirt on her dress, but I was often careless of my clothes. There were trees to climb, stones and pebbles to fashion into imaginary things. There were flowers to pick. The dogs ran around chasing butterflies, panting and wagging their tails. We had a mossy place under the trees where we made a fairy garden. Tiny sticks and pieces of gravel made it look like a village. That was a game we could play for hours. We were well into it when we realized the weather had changed. It happened all in a rush, without warning—a total reversal from hot and sunny to dark and stormy.
The laundry hung on the clotheslines where it had been drying in the sun. Quickly, the maid, Hettie, rushed to bring in the sheets. Our nurse hurried to gather up the upholstered cushions for the outdoor table and chairs where we had our lunch. “Go run upstairs and close the windows on the back-side of the house,” she told me.
I ran into the house up the shallow stairs, carpeted in pink, to the second floor. I was feeling very responsible and grown-up. I began with the farthest room, which was the guest room. The room had a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams. The forest green wall-to-wall carpet had a leaf pattern etched into the fibers. There was a fireplace and windows on three sides of the room. The leaded windows facing west were wide open. I reached up and cranked them closed one at a time. Then I ran into the bathroom, but the small window was closed. Next, I went into Renie’s room and shut the two windows overlooking the back terrace and the two giant elm trees that shaded it. Cranking the metal frames shut was not too difficult, but sometimes sliding the safety latch could be tricky. The second bathroom also had a closed window. Finally, I went into the nursery and closed the last two windows just as the wind suddenly buffetted the glass hard. There seemed to be a roaring in my ears from the force of it. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky. Soon after the flash, a crack of thunder made me jump with shock. The sound came at me fast, then rumbled and rumbled, getting less noisy as it passed like boulders rolling down a hill.
The hot, humid air that had hung like a cloud inside the house and outside instantly dissipated. The air suddenly cooled as if someone had turned on a fan. It tingled with ionization and the distinctive odor of ozone. The colors were bright against the darkening sky and clear, so clear and clean they hurt my eyes. Suddenly rain pelted down on the slate roof and plunging against the glass windows with pinging sounds. Heavy rain washed the slate roofs clean. Torrents shined the flagstones of the terrace. Heavy showers washed the leaves of the trees and soaked into the thirsty lawn. The grass seemed to become more intensely green even as I watched.
That change in the air was almost indescribable. It was so unique and memorable, it makes me smile to recount it in my mind. I can practically smell it, taste it. Those days were pleasant in a way that was simple and uncomplicated.
Copyright©. 2021 Bonnie B. Matheson