Sunday, April 27, 2008

My wife, the storm predictor

Sunshine rained supreme yesterday at Camp Mabry, during the Cub Scout Adventure Day. But on the morning following the overnight camp, we were just plain rained out.

After the day’s events — some of which included bow and arrow shooting, fishing, and bike riding — clouds crept in and chased the sun away. Clouds so ominous, they seemed to confirm reports of a storm in the far distance.

Many families decided against camping and went home. But then the clouds pushed out to reveal a crystal clear sky. Five other families, plus ours, decided to chance it.

Before nightfall, I pitched the tent and we set up. After dark, we played a game of nighttime Frisbee. Soon, I had a small campfire going. The air overflowed with noises of camp: Squealing children, warbling insects, chattering leaves.

We grilled hotdogs, roasted marshmallows, made S'mores. My wife suggested that we sing songs, but my son and I were worn (Only hours before the Cub Scout event, we'd participated in a 5K family run.). It was my son who first said: "I'm tired; Let's go to bed." So we put out the campfire, made one last trip to the restroom, and turned in for the night. Faster than a thunderstorm could blow through, we dozed off to sleep.

A few hours later, I awoke to my wife nudging my ribs. She wanted to know why the sun wasn't shining. At first, I thought that, maybe, she was talking in her sleep. To some degree, I still wonder if she wasn't. I grabbed my cellphone to check the time, and then reminded her that, at 3 in the morning, the sun was busy shining on China, halfway around the world, to which I earned a little smack to the head.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't. My wife was concerned about something. She was up and down, climbing in and out of her sleeping bag. She paced the floor, which, in an 8-by-8-foot space, was enough to wake even a hibernating bear.

Although I was fully awake, she bent down and nudged me again, wondering if I'd noticed how strong the wind was blowing. I hadn't. Finally she got dressed, unzipped the tent and went outside. When she returned a short time later, she warned that a storm was coming.

The air was cool and moist, and soft flashes of lightening illuminated our tent. In the distance, I heard the quiet rumble of thunder. I wasn't worried; That kind of thing happens often in Central Texas. The weather was teasing us. I buried myself inside my sleeping bag.

For a long while, my wife stood staring out of an opening in the tent, looking as though she was watching a ghost. “If she's afraid of a little rain,” I thought, “next time, us guys will leave her at home.” She closed the tent, adjusted my son’s sleeping bag, and then climbed back into hers. We both fell asleep.

The next voice I heard came a few hours later. It was the Scout Master in charge of the event. He was standing outside of our tent, passing along a message from park security. In the haze of my sleep, I only caught a few of his words: Storm, golf-ball-sized hail, evacuate. Immediately!

We scrambled like eggs to get dressed and gathered our belongings — sleeping bags, luggage, and an inflated, double-sized mattress. Then we darted through an open field and jumped into our van (It took me several trips; I refused to leave anything behind except for our tent.). In a convoy, we followed park security through a maze, past the military museum, to where we took cover inside a cafeteria.

The storm wasn't awful, though the experience scared my son. Rain beat down for about 20 minutes, and then we were shuffled back to the campground to collect our tents before the next round of storms.

How does this relate to children's publishing? Well, it doesn't. But it does recall a camping picture book I've been working on for the past three years. A story weighted down with too much childhood nostalgia. Through this experience, I think I've found the direction my story needs to take.


Charles Apple said...

Most summers, when I was a kid, we'd hitch up the pop-up camper and trek across the country. By the time my folks divorced, I had seen the Grand Canyon three times, Mexico, Canada, the White House, Niagara Falls, San Franciso, Disneyland -- the one in L.A. -- Disney World, Yosemite, Yellowstone... you get the idea.

On our final trip out west -- 1973, when I was 11 -- we stayed one night in a campground smack in the middle of Missouri.

The same thing happened to us: In the middle of the night, rain started up. The wind increased dramatically. Lightning and thunder crashed all around. I was mighty scared. Mom and Dad told me to go back to sleep. But who could sleep with all that going on?

The next morning, we packed up bright and early and hit the road. We found a little greasy spoon and decided to stop for breakfast.

Which was when we discovered a tornado had hit a couple miles away. A big one, too.

Not fun. At the time, anyway. I'll bet the story will be retold time and time again as your son gets older!

Camille said...

We were driving towards Kerrville on Friday night and we saw some of that central TX lightning. It was pretty spectacular and lit up the hill country in spectacular flashes. It freaked-out the entling, big time.

rindawriter said...

Well, I hope you didn't get wet in the sleeping bags, nothing I hate worse than a wet sleeping bag, and the second worst are wet socks....I'm glad it wasn't a monsoon rain like the kind we got as a child doesn't stop...for all day...for all night..for all...for all night..just pours down steady. The lightening and thunder are sort of just the icing on the cake so to speak..