I had a long week and was looking forward to attending neighbor Genna’s graduation party after work last night. Genna lives across the street from us and we’ve known her for her entire life. She was born on the day of Kacey’s second birthday. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful, talented and generous young woman is the same little munchkin who used to make chalk drawings on the driveway with her sister, Maggie and Kacey. And now she’s graduated from high school!
This seems to be the summer of clouds and rain for us. Yesterday’s weather forecast predicted rain and possible thunderstorms. I prayed all day that the rain would hold off until Genna’s party was done, particularly because two years ago on the day of Maggie’s party, it rained the entire day. That was the year Kacey graduated high school, and we had been invited to six different parties that day. I can only remember being unable to shake a cold, damp feeling as we made our way from one party to the next. And I especially remember how frustrated Maggie and Genna’s mom was after working so hard to coordinate what she’d hoped would be a lovely outdoor party for Maggie’s graduation.
As friends, family and neighbors began to gather across the street, Mark and I walked over to join them. The food was plentiful and delicious. The spread included representation of Genna’s Polish family heritage. I especially enjoyed the homemade Pierogis! It was nice to sit and relax and have a chance to really talk with some of the neighbors whom we normally just give a passing wave and shout hello. Clouds covered the sky but they seemed to be doing their best to refrain from opening up. Some of our group began to disperse and so Mark and I headed back home too. He wanted to catch a nap before going to work for the night. I wanted to shop for a pair of sandals that will go with a summer dress I’ve been wanting to wear to work.
I made the quick drive to the nearby shopping district and spent a good half hour wandering a shoe warehouse trying to decide on a pair of sandals. I found a pair that felt like a dream and then, thinking about the fact that Jake and Kacey were both gone for the night and I’d only be going home to a sleeping husband, decided to go wander around another favorite store. As I drove the short distance, a light sprinkling of drops appeared on my windshield. I quickly parked and hurried inside the store before the skies really opened up. And within minutes of my arrival in the store, they did!
I could hear the rain on the roof like the pounding of a thousand drums. I overheard a store employee remark about the intensity of storm. I, along with other shoppers, wandered leisurely around the store looking at anything and everything. Even if we were to brave the elements to get back to our cars, it was the kind of rain that made it impossible to drive. You’d never see three feet in front of the windshield!
I picked up a couple of new things to wear to work and a Tiki man to add to the Tiki lounge decor out on the deck. Connor’s been wanting me to get this guy ever since he first saw him when helping Kacey buy my Mother’s Day present. He’ll be happy! See what happens when I’m stuck inside a department store and can’t get out? Thunderstorms are clearly good for the economy.
While I wandered the store, I noticed water seeping under an emergency exit door. I was growing restless and wondering when the deluge was going to subside when my cell phone rang. It was Mark, asking where I was.
“Gordm@nn’s,” I said.
“Stay there. It’s bad outside.”
“I know, I can hear it and I can’t even see the parking lot from the front entrance, it’s coming down so hard,” I replied. “I’ll hang out here until I can get back to my car and then I’ll be home.”
“Be careful,” he said.
“Whatever,” I said, thinking he was being just a little bit of an alarmist. “It’s just rain and I’m not going to try to drive in it while it’s coming down in sheets. I’ll stay put until this blows over.”
When I was finally bored of shopping and had the things I really wanted, I decided to go pay for my things and see if I could make a dash for my car. Every time it sounded as if the rain was letting up, the storm would experience another resurgence and I ended up standing in the lobby with my purchases and a few other shoppers, just watching the rain pour down, backlit by the parking lot lights and periodic flashes of lightning. When it finally let up just a little bit, I decided to make a break for it. Other store patrons stood propped against door frames and walls, looking bored. I bent down and slipped off my shoes, dropping them into one of my bags. As I was rolling up my jeans, another woman asked me, “You gonna go for it?”
“I am,” I said, smiling and feeling a little self-conscious as everyone turned to take notice. I picked up my bags, nudged the door open with one shoulder and sprinted through the flooded parking lot to my car under a still-steady rain.
It had let up enough now to drive and I made my way out past the storefronts to the main road. With windshield wipers working furiously, I drove with caution toward home. Just a few minutes down the road, I crossed another main thoroughfare that brings me closer to my own neighborhood and that’s when I began to realize how serious this storm was. The road I was on dipped down into a valley and cars ahead of me were slowing almost to a stop and pulling off to the shoulder. I couldn’t see enough to know what was happening. It was dark out and the rain was still falling, but I soon saw the lead car in our little line-up was making a u-turn. I craned my neck to try to see why. The two cars ahead of me proceeded slowly and I quickly realized what was going on. A flood of water was pouring from a neighborhood that sits up on a hill and a river of water was flowing over the road. I slowly followed the two cars in front of me and managed to pass through the flood without incident.
After crossing the “river,” I had to steer around fallen branches and entire trees. To both sides of me, I saw trees that had been snapped off at their bases or completely uprooted from the ground. A wooden play set in one yard lay in pieces on the ground. I made a left turn toward home, and grew more nervous. I was only blocks away from my own house and I was seeing yards that were flooded and broken or fallen trees everywhere. It occurred to me that while I was shopping, thinking there was only a heavy rainfall happening outside, there was actually a dangerous storm raging in our area.
As I pulled into my own garage, I saw the last of Genna’s grad party guests huddled inside her family’s garage. Mark was just getting into his truck and I asked where he was going.
“Your mom and dad’s. They lost a tree. Are you coming?”
I was still barefoot from my race through the store parking lot, but grabbed my purse and hopped in. Mark steered the truck slowly through a narrow aisle bordered by the vehicles of Genna’s party guests. One block away, I could see my mom through her front window, hugging herself and talking on the phone to who I assumed was my dad. He’s on a mini-vacation, fishing up north with my brothers. A large tree was laying across my parent’s street, reaching from neighbor Vivian’s yard almost to my parent’s front yard. Mom’s garage door was open and she met us as we walked through to her back yard where one of her trees was now laying on its side, sprawled down the embankment of my parent’s property.
The pictures aren’t great. I only had my iPhone to snap photos and night had fallen. But I could see enough to know that this was one scary storm. People were out everywhere, walking the neighborhood or inspecting damage in their own yards with a dazed demeanor about them. When we were assured that my mom was okay and had agreed there was nothing that could be done about her tree for the time being, we went back home. Mark trekked around the yard in the dark to be sure there was nothing that needed our attention right away. Amazingly, we suffered no damage. My potted flowers are leaning a little bit but otherwise, everything remains where it belongs. There are a few small tree branches scattered around the yard, but they’re not from our own trees. And I find myself amazed at the force of nature and the way it seems to pick and choose where to inflict itself.
This morning there’s the sound of chain saws as neighbors begin to clean up fallen trees and I am feeling extremely grateful that our property was spared.