The recent onslaught of tornadoes in the Midwest and South has brought back some terrifying memories of such occurrences when I was a teenager living in Iowa. I was supposed to write a tornado trilogy and had promised to do so in an earlier blog, but never got around to it. Here is the first of three stories that actually occurred as I remember it.
Part I: Middle School Windstorm
It was one of those sultry late spring days in May near the end of the school year as I peered out the huge multi-pane glass window facing south on the third floor, farside of the library. Escaping into another of my melancholy daydreams, I just wished for the school day to end and the Study Hall to be over. The humidity and closeness in the air was unbearable. This was the Midwest, prairie land, and there were no such luxuries as air conditioners or fans in our school, which had been built in the early 20th Century. The desks we sat at were the affairs one sees in pictures of one room school houses, wrought iron legs and hard maple seats and tops with years of carved names and mementos by bored middle school kids.
The sky was clear with puffed whisps of clouds skirting overhead and birds floating aimlessly on the currents. But further back on the horizon was an ugly purple blue mass of a cloud and it was sliding forward with unusual momentum, a giant enraged fist. I watched as the cloud came ominously closer. Suddenly, large thumps could be heard against the little panes of glass. The poor birds, who a few minutes ago had been gliding peacefully, were now unwitting projectiles.
The artificial darkness from the cloud engulfed the other students and me as we watched in silent horror while panes of glass exploded from the pressure of the terrific gusts and the rain, shards of glass flying in several directions.
Luckily, we were not close enough to sustain injury from the glass, but the warning bell for the tornado sounded and we were quickly shuttled off to the basement, a horrid, enclosed area which was painted a slick forest green enamel. We stood against the wall as the storm passed overhead and thunder shook the school. Mike Hoskins, better known as "Hoss," picked his nose idly in front of me and then smeared his finger onto the dark green. I was sickened by his actions and the damp air that clung to the walls of the lower level dungeon.
Within a matter of ten minutes, the storm ceased and once again, the sky was tranquil. Only the wet ground and a few lifeless birds next to the building indicated that a funnel cloud had just passed over the area.
It was my first spring in Iowa, my family having moved from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. the previous fall. I walked to the bus that afternoon with a newfound sense of powerlessness in what seemed to me a chaotic and foreign land. This was to be the first of many experiences with sudden and violent storms.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
My daughter is caught in a hamster wheel. She can jump off occasionally, but before long, she is on again ... running for her life. A couple of years ago I wrote about her battle with a depressive episode that lasted for months. She spent many weeks in the psych unit at Ellis Hospital. She's been in and out several times since, sometimes for mania, but this time, once again, she's depressed. One of her floor mates two years ago is now her roommate. Meghan and Carleatha shadow each other in a never ending cycle of mental health clinics and visits to the ward. Carleatha. Carleatha, imp, fairy, pixie, a foil for Tinkerbell. Carleatha with the shock of short white hair that sticks up stubbornly on top of her head, Carleatha with that round chocolate face, black plastic spectacles perched on the end of her nose. Carleatha. Yes, Carleatha, a sixty something schizophrenic whose imaginary world sometimes gets the better of her. When Meghan is distressed, she calls out names before her body's battle for sleep finally takes over. One night Meghan, in a semi-conscious, drug induced sleep called out to Carleatha, who startled from sleep replied "Huh? What?" I'm sure she was trying to determine whether the voice was real or not. Ah me. Carleatha.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
A long time ago I lived in a ranch house in Santa Maria, a coastal town in Central California. I might still be there to this day had I not been so lonesome for my two small daughters, who were located on the opposite side of this great continent. Every day I would go out into the backyard, pick apricots from the tree and then plop myself down on a lounger and eat a few of them. I never remember it raining in Santa Maria. The world seemed timeless with clear blue skies and no humidity in the air, the temperature hovering between 70 and 77. There were also huge conifers in the back yard and I found a dropped pine cone that I determined would be a memento for the short space in time I abided there. Today I gaze at it and feel that California sun on my face with that peace of mind that doesn't come often enough. It is a good place to be, indeed, a good place.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Today I am thinking about old friends, people I haven't seen in years. Somehow, all the moving around I did before finally settling down left me bereft of many of them. I wouldn't even know how to find them. The tree is in full leaf decorum outside and I can no longer see the apartment building across the street. I am hiding behind its canopy and dreaming of old times with old friends ... The sun just burst through a cloud.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
My son is leaving in a couple of weeks to backpack in South America. In order to procure needed funding, he has begun to dig in my attic, that hoarders treasure trove that can keep one occupied for hours. We have been culling through mounds of newspaper, bubble wrap and cardboard boxes and rediscovering long forgotten items from his childhood to past flea markets. More than once he has berated me for being a hoarder and has been diligently cleaning as he unpacks the relics stacked in heaps. Last night, after another fruitful trip up those stairs, two pairs of women's bedroom slippers from the 1960s, one in its original packaging and both in unworn condition along with four Hazel Atlas dots juice glasses were unearthed. On Sunday, the good son will sell the wares he has chosen at the flea market in front of the shop. Meanwhile, I have a few new items to gaze at and admire before I decide on how best to let them go and how best to let my son go, too.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
You must understand something. I live in a small city in Upstate New York in a run down section of town that some would call a ghetto, urban blight. I prefer to view it as aged, a character that has survived the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the coming of the railroads, two World Wars, the rise and fall of the local GE factory and lastly the devaluation of American Made goods. I'll admit that the noise and dirt in this neighborhood can sometimes be disconcerting, but I deeply appreciate its history and its natural surroundings. All one has to do is stand at the top of my street and the breathtaking view of the Helderbergs can readily be seen. The tree in the front yard is one of the few left standing on this side of the street and it provides a luscious green cover during the summer months. I have perennials in the front and back of my postage stamp yard. Each day of this early spring I have been able to view the progress of these beauties. The Solomon's Seal is beginning to bloom and the Pink Columbines that seeded their way into the cracks of my foundation are on the verge of blooming again. The tulips beneath the rose bushes create a wreath.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I'm often amazed at the quality workmanship and ingenuity that went into these little sets. The biggest name jewelry houses such as Vendome and Miriam Haskell were masters at making even the simplest pieces of plastic look like genuine jewels. This particular set is unsigned, though it does have a patent number on the earring clips and I suspect that it's a Vendome. Known as "fruit salad," the hard plastic pieces were hand-wired to filigree frames to create fun floral and fruit motifs.
Monday, May 6, 2013
A good buyer who often comes into my shop brought me in this spectacular roll of wallpaper from the early 1970s, probably 1970 or '71 because it contains the logo for Love Story, a very popular film in 1970 that featured Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal. The plot surrounds a pair of young and beautiful college students who fall in love, but the girl is diagnosed with cancer and dies. One of the most famous lines that came out of this film was "love means never having to say you're sorry." This wallpaper is so iconic of 1970/71 and the colors leap out at us in shades of orange and magenta, so pop, so hip. It takes me back to my early teenage years, when our country was in the throes of Viet Nam, college protests and a social upheaval. The vivid colors, logos and slogans become an abstract snapshot and a reminder of a dynamic time indeed.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Every spring Tina cleans and displays her wares in an old barn behind her house. It's that time again, Tina's barn sale. It starts in early spring and ends when the air gets crisp. Not only does Tina sell vintage, but she sells her chickens eggs and the organic veggies she grows in the back yard. She's the girl who never lives beyond her means and loves to pick and make her cash the hard way. I just love Tina.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
May 1st. The month of Mary. I have always loved religious relics, icons and art, so I was delighted when I saw the early 20th Century fleur de lis (French symbol for Mary) tins on the ceiling of my newly acquired shop. These two Italian prints have graced my walls since moving into the space. I sold the Sacred Heart of Mary last week. A tattoo artist had wanted it for ever so long, but couldn't afford it. His beautiful wife came in and purchased it for him as a Father's Day gift. There's a sold sticker on it and if he returns, I'm not going to tell him it's his. Her surprise is safe with me. Young love is wonderful. And, of course, Jesus pieces. I've had several in this shop and they continue to be a good seller. More inspiration. More reasons to believe, have faith and hope.