A Walk on the Wild Side

There must have been some wild stormy nights in Los Angeles where I grew up. I should have at least a few memories of looking out of the huge north facing picture window in the living room and seeing storms pass through or snow collecting on the distant San Bernardino Mountains or at least lightning occasionally crackling across the night sky in waves or forks, but I have none.

Northern California was different. When I transferred to Cal in the sixties I packed a warm raincoat and a small umbrella. I left five years later with two degrees and vivid storm memories- creeks overflowing, wind driven water pouring over brick steps, thunder clapping above, leaves and branches falling from trees waving wildly overhead as I rushed to classes in my flimsy shoes.

I felt I was well prepared for both life and storms.

Then a “100 year storm” arrived when my husband and I living in Orinda, a small city just over the hill from Berkeley. When it hit it was violent but exciting. We wanted our two young children to remember this special storm. We dressed them up in their rain gear and boots and told them we were taking them out for a “walk on the wild side”. As soon as we opened the door, the wind and rain assaulted us, water was rushing down the street, lightning flashing above. We didn’t turn back. Holding hands tightly we all paraded downhill until we reached the Orinda Country Club then headed up to Lake Cascade. When we reached the pipe designed to funnel storm overflow downhill from the lake into the Country Club swimming pool, the noise was deafening. The 100 year storm water discharging from the lake had created a thundering waterfall. We stood riveted, thrilled to watch the unharnessed water carry mud and debris down the hill to the overflowing pool, then across the flooded pool parking lot before racing off to the golf course below and disappearing from our sight.

A few years later I was still living in our Orinda home but my husband had moved out. There were three children now- Alissa, Rob and their baby sister Erin who was only a few months old. Erin’s nanny Lynn, who just recently arrived from Bradford England, was also now living with us. It was a large house. I had the baby in a bassinette next to my bed, the others were all sleeping in separate rooms down the hall from me.

The storm hit in the middle of the night. I heard it immediately since I was so attuned to the listening for small baby noises. The wind howled, the rain pounded on the roof, drummed on the skylight over my bed. Then came lightning followed by thunder. Rob who was 8 was the first to run down the hall and crawl into bed with me. Close on his heels was Nanny Lynn who was frightened and worried. Alissa at 12 was the last to arrive. This time I didn’t suggest a walk on the wild side. We all snuggled together in the big king sized bed weathering that storm.

It wasn’t a 100 year storm, but it was a night none of us have forgotten, except Erin. She managed to sleep through it all, cozy and warm in her bassinette.

Interconnecting Circles