Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hurricane grrrls


The backdrop


The year: 1983.
The season: Hurricane.
The place: Houston.
The month: August, hotter than a glassblower's furnace and a whole lot more humid.

I was 6 months pregnant with the Precious Grrlchild and shaped like a rain barrel. Being 5 ft tall and short-waisted (read more legs than torso), the act of carrying what would be a 9 lb 2 oz baby inflated my everything and then some. 

To a casual bystander, I looked ready to pop. That was to come in handy.

The big event

Out of the Gulf of Mexico came a fury named Alicia. She spun the warm waters into hurricane strength and churned her way toward us. The requisite run on hardware stores began, emptying shelves of batteries, flashlights, and candles.

We X'd our windows with masking tape, filled tubs, sinks, and pots with water, stowed away all that could fly away (tricycles, plastic shovels, lawn chairs), and hunkered down in our south-facing sunroom to watch the show.

And what a performance it was. Trees bowed to the east as branches snapped and flew with leaves and other debris like projectiles. Sudden torrents of rain would blind our view and deafen our ears for what seemed like hours.

And then, eerily, the drama paused. We stood up to take a closer look and grasped at understanding; the eye of the category 3 hurricane was passing directly over our neighborhood.

Men, women, and children poured out of their houses and stared up at sunlight filtering through a haze overhead. The air felt uncannily still. But strangest of all was the silence. No birds, no cicadas, no mosquito buzzing, no traffic sounds, nothing. Like extras in film, we stood around awestruck, dumbstruck.

The intermission was short-lived, though, and the wind picked up again, shooing the spectators back inside. Soon, the wind, the rain, the clamor resumed, and this time the trees bowed to the west under the force of Alicia's 100 mph spiraling winds.

On this side of storm, the real damage mounted. Downed telephone and power lines. Flooded bayous spilling into streets. Roofs impaled by trees. Shards of windows littering yards and sidewalks.

And a city of millions ground to a waterlogged halt.

Madness

We had to boil and bleach our water for days. Electricity was out for more than a week, so we operated on battery power as best we could.

This was when no one other than doctors carried pagers, before cell phones and texting and skype. Land lines were life lines. And going without phone service for going on 3 weeks was outrageous, not to mention insanely frustrating.

So when I caught a glimpse of a phone line repair truck passing our house, some kind of madness overcame me. Forgetting my girth, I scrambled aboard Mr. B's bike, peddled with all my might, and huffed and puffed my way after the truck.

The combination of hormones, relentless heat and humidity, and too many days of "making do" turned this preggers citygrrl into a category 5 beast on 2 wheels, and the phone line repairman had no idea what was barreling toward him.

Oh, the look on that poor man's face when I pulled up beside him on that bike. A cascade of shock, horror, pity, and what had to be a valiant effort not to burst out laughing. Then I let loose my pent-up storm:

Would you look at me! I could go into labor any day now!!

(Not exactly true, but a mother tiger must protect her young.) 

Tell me, how am I supposed to let anyone know so I get to the hospital!? I HAVE to have my phone service back!

By this time, he had stopped the truck, and I was trying to balance my heft on a too-big bicycle, staring at him with my round red face, full of self-righteous indignation, just waiting for him to give me some lame customer-service line.

Oh, I was ready, Hurricane Kathleen, big belly and all.

Yes ma'am, I can see that. I'll see what I can do right away.

Smart response. No sassy comeback required. Wind sucked right out of my sails.

Well, then. Please see that you do!

And off I rode back home to where my 2-year-old wild child, by the grace of God, was still napping. (I told you it was madness!)

The dénouement

I checked the phone immediately. And yes, after 3 weeks of waiting, I finally had a dial tone. Bless that man.

Three months later, impossibly bigger and rounder, I gave birth to the beautiful Precious Grrlchild.

She can be stormy, that one. Beautiful and tempestuous.
Or as her high school theater teacher described her:
"Brilliant -- and maddening."

I wonder why.


Image 1 by Weather Research Center
Image 2 by a healthyview.comImage 3 by masslive.com

13 comments:

ellen abbott said...

Great story. I remember that storm well. Our kids were 3 and 5. Our house escaped undamaged but three huge oaks and many big pecans went down on our block alone, right across the power lines. We were out of power for 10 days. The park at the end of the block lost 7 oaks.

Rudee said...

Very funny story, Kathleen. Or is that Hurricane Kathleen?

Gaston Studio said...

Fantastic story and so well told. LOL about the poor telephone man who did the smart thing and didn't have to face a 'mother tiger' protecting her cub and cub to be!

Jane

The Crusty Crone said...

Hi, I was jumping links pointing to Blingee (Rudee started it) and came to your blog. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think I was only at the second paragraph when it popped into my head "Oh... this must be a professional writer. Kewl." That's when I checked your profile. "Well there ya go... its in her jeans!"

Sometimes surfing links brings up treasures. Thx for blogging.

(and in case you were wondering, I used "jeans" on purpose, although 'genes' could fit too. Just not as tightly.)

♥ bfs - Mimi ♥ said...

You BRAVE, BRAVE, FEISTY, FEISTY woman!!!!!!!! ♥♥♥

Pyzahn said...

My jaw is still ajar from the thought of a 9lb 2oz baby. Holy begeezus.

Otherwise, a quite wonderful story. Was your daughter named after the hurricane?

Kathleen said...

Ellen: Wasn't just a mess! But I'm sure not even close to Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike. Did you make it through all those unscathed?

Rudee: LOL. More like Dust Devil Kathleen these days!

Jane: Thank you, my dear. I'd have tracked him down for sure if that dial tone hadn't been on. RRRRRROARRRRRRRRRR. = :^O

Crusty Crone: Welcome!!! So glad to make your acquaintance. Oh, I do like a good play on words, and clearly you're one to deliver! LOL

bfs-Mimi: Nothing like riling up a mama tiger (especially a very hormonal one!)

Pyzahn: Yep. Biggest baby, and easiest birth. Go figure. Nope, my daughter was named after the a lovely friend; but she was marked by Alicia!

Julie B. said...

Like the new background color!

And wowzas! What a story!

Kathleen said...

Hi Julie: The color change today is to support the people of Iran. But maybe I'll keep it!

Julie B. said...

What a neat way to show support!

And yeah, you know that I tend to be partial to green, so I think it's quite pretty as well. :)

Alex the Girl said...

My parents believed that evacuating for a hurricane consisted of leaving our trailer in the middle of the storm with blankets covering our heads and running next door to our aunt's house. Hurricanes meant no school, no t.v., and swimming in the flooded back yard. Loved it!

Hurricane Alicia had nothing on hurricane Kathleen, I imagine. You go pregger girl, you GO!

Erin Davis said...

Hurricane Kathleen! What a great way to describe a very pregnant woman. Not even the fiercest of storms can tame the hurricane that is a ferocious, protective mother.

Kathleen said...

Alex: my mom's idea of preparing was making us all huddle in the hallway (no windows) and keep her calm. For some reason, I always loved storms, too!

Erin: Amen!

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