You hear it first. Really, how could you miss it?
It sweeps through with the breathtaking blur of Gene Krupa’s flailing sticks badgering and barumphing at the skins, cajoling wave after wave and whoosh after whoosh of sound. Millions of tiny jubilant splashes in a muscular trill, a cacophonous drumroll of rain.
The truth is I wasn’t expecting the storm at all. As always, it was night itself I was after.
Drive-in Movie: 1965
it was the pajama ride of our dreams. The three of us rattled around the expanse of backseat like kernels sizzling in a popper. We had pillows but no one was going to waste time sleeping. It was just getting dark as my Dad pulled into a parking spot and fitted the receiver onto his window. We made it! The dancing hot dog on the screen said there was just enough time to get to the snack bar. Hurry, hurry, hurry! We wanted Good ’n Plenty! We wanted Milky Ways! We wanted Raisinettes! We got a box of popcorn. For the three of us. To share. If I stood up I from my spot in the backseat I could almost see the bottom half of Mary Poppins through the front window. No, we were not going to lay out on the hood of the car like those other people.
I turned my back to the movie and instead looked out the slanted rear window. I could see the whole sky, black as licorice. There were stars. They sparkled like Sno-Caps. My very own snack bar, my very own show.
Oak Park Boulevard: 1967
It was all wrong, completely wrong, totally wrong. Which of course made it feel so very right.
A quick scissor kick (I was learning to swim) and I was free of the covers. The summer darkness in the house was damp and foggy. I gingerly felt my way to my hearts desire, left conveniently on the floor. There it was! I had it.
Light sliced from the bathroom and slanted through my doorway just so. I was drawn to it like a nightgowned moth. Very carefully, very quietly I cracked it open. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I loved this so much. I couldn’t wait until morning. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had an upside down house. You could jump over doorways! You could swing down stairs! You could sit around her chandeliers and pretend they were campfires! An upside down world where everything was just right.
Looking out at the comfort of the darkness I wished that night was day and day was night. An upside down world where everything was just right.
Wawa, Canada: 1972
We were not exactly roughing it, unless you consider roughing it taking an overnight on the camp bus and pitching a tarp in a local trailer park. Grudgingly we took a walk into town to forage for food, proudly procuring a few Coffee Crisps, several Mackintosh Toffees, a whole salami, and a can of Pringles. We hoarded this stash shamelessly. But it was going to be okay. We just might survive our time in the wild.
I waited until it was dark and everyone else was asleep. Silently I untwisted from my sleeping bag and crept from the bus. With small, stealthy steps I quickly made my way down the path to the lake. The dark around me was dense and verdant, packed with muffled sound. I kept my flashlight beam low. Then I snapped it off. Why would I need it? The whole sky above was massed with stars, a swirling and twirling marching band before my eyes!
No one would ever believe it. I had found Van Gogh’s The Starry Night in Wawa, Canada.
Dominos Pizza, Ann Arbor, 1981
He pounded furiously, stretched gently, then casually flung them into the air and then down the line. Dough after dough. Never missed! I was the toppings girl, plunging my hands into various vats of pepperoni and onion and mushrooms as if I was playing a never ending game of Whackamole. Sausage was awful and sticky. I had to keep plunging my fists into the olive juice just so I could scrape it off my hands. I dreamed of graduating to saucing and cheesing. But not just yet.
I got off at 2 am. It wasn’t at all quiet. Let’s get real: here at night any night percolated with adventure! But I headed for home. My plan was to be up and out by 8 am. Because that’s the quiet time here. I grabbed it.
Had my Piggle-Wiggle dream come true?
Riverside Drive: 1993
They are so tiny, so very small. “I’ve bought chickens bigger than that!” someone squawked as I hurried anxiously past with the double stroller. I know. They were identically fed from droppers, one boy in my arms, his brother in a rocker. I switched their places every 15 minutes. It took over an hour to feed them, each time every time. They had to eat every three hours around the clock. They took turns sleeping but they were too small to know that there was no turn left for me. Day and night blended to charcoal.
Around the corner, Big Nick Burger lit up the dark. Everything you could wish for hot and ready 24 hours a day. I wanted it. We were, after all, in the city that never sleeps! All I had to do is get off the couch…
Our House: Just now
The storm itself has taken a breath but the rain continues, a ready steady strum. At last the night is what I was looking for, deep and velvety and enveloping.
There is no noise to speak of. There is so much to hear. I’m listening…
Dawn always catches me by surprise.