No one can truly remember their childhood with any degree of accuracy. I can only imagine that I was a handful due to the enormous lengths that my parents went to keeping me calm. From toys to food, to surprises and elaborate rituals; my parents would stop at nothing to keep me tranquil. And no other situation required more calm and quiet than during a thunderstorm. And their favorite method of keeping me quiet was to play an 8track called Mystic Moods, “One Stormy Night”. I remember this 8 track very clearly. It was a pale blue and featured cover art of a bare-chested man with broad shoulders holding a bare-chested woman. His hands were placed so cleverly across her chest that one could only see her smooth shoulders and small belly beneath. The two were behind a window and the rain was falling down around them. I didn’t know at the time that this was baby making music. To me it was a form of audio camouflage. The album itself featured the sounds of a thunderstorm playing over the sounds of music. You could hear the sound of a needle scratching the surface of a record. (Something my brother and sister are too young to even remember.) It was as if you were in a cabin in the woods, under a tin roof, and a record of slow music playing in the background. At one point a train could be heard rumbling in the night through some distant trees. Now it sounds romantic, but as a child, it was so much easier. It was rain, it was thunder, and it couldn’t hurt me. It was only a recording.
We didn’t just listen to this during storms. After all it was the 70s, long before cable television, the internet and facebook, people sat and even laid around listening to music. Groovin was a state of mind that one could obtain without drugs. And listening to the sounds of a thunderstorm without a thunderstorm kept me prepared. As soon as I heard thunder, I wanted to hear my record and I would run to the living room and press the 8-track into the player. It was calming. It worked every time.
But one storm sticks out in my memory and for that storm I was without my 8track. It was Christmas 1982. I found online that it killed three people. I remember it because I wasn’t at home this particular Christmas. My cousin Brian, and my Uncle Lanson and very pregnant Aunt Renee had come down to spend the holidays with us and we stayed at my grandparents house in Texarkana. What stands out in my memory is the color of the sky, the pale green of an Easter egg. The magnolia tree seemed to wave excitedly and throw its remaining cones onto the ground. We stood on my grandparents carport and watched the clouds dance and then at one instant my Pepaw got all of us into the stairwell and we waited. My parents weren’t scared, and I wasn’t that scared but I remember the look of fear in my Pepaw’s eyes.
And I guess that’s why to this very day, I can’t stand it when the sky turns green and the trees seem to bend and bow. And even now when I think about a good storm, I think about that soft train, the rain on a tin roof and an 8track of Mystic Moods and while a storm may rage outside, I am inside safe and warm. All because my parents couldn’t stand to see me cry.
During the last storm I made these little guys and watched channel 12’s meteorologist nearly pee on himself with excitement!