Just Write: Storms

September 10, 2013

Just Write.

I pull into the parking lot just as the first crackle of lightning flickers above, a silvery shard in a darkening sky. In the five-minute commute, the clouds have gone from gray to gunmetal. We’re in for a doozy.

I press the steel buzzer by the front door of the building.

“How can I help you?” a voice blares from the speaker.

“I’m M.’s mom.” I raise my voice over a boom of thunder. “It’s my first day volunteering in Mrs. _______’s class.”

“I’m opening the door,” she says, and I hear a heavy click.

“It’s so dark out there I couldn’t see it was you, Dana,” the attendance secretary says. “They’re out herding the kids off the playground. That storm’s coming fast.”

I wait outside the empty classroom as kids trickle in.

One boy wipes away tears, his nose and cheeks a hectic shade of red. He’s walking as fast as his legs will carry him.

“It’s okay, Henry,” a boy says, rushing to catch up. “It was just lightning. It’s okay.”

“But I don’t have a raincoat,” Henry bleats, using his jacket sleeve to slick away tears..

“Nobody does,” his friend says. “Nobody thought it would storm today. It’s okay.”

A cluster of girls follows, eyes wide and charged with excitement.

I study the passing faces with unabashed interest, and they stare back. Some smile in return, others eye me warily. A few gaze back with the same bold interest.

Miss M. is at the back of the pack, holding her teacher’s hand, somber.

When she sees me, her face breaks open.

“Perfect timing,” her teacher smiles. “M. was just telling me that she feels a little homesick.”

I pick her up and hug her tightly. She folds into my body, a thing that’s all too rare. She’s getting too big to want cuddles. I’m trying very, very hard not to let this hurt my feelings.

“It’s scary outside, Mama,” she whispers in my ear.

“I know. It’s just a storm, though,” I say. “It will pass.”

“Will we have to stay here all night?” Her brown eyes are enormous in her small face.

I laugh a little. “No, baby. We’ll leave in an hour, like normal. We just might get wet.”

She grabs my hand and leads me into the classroom.

“Will you sit by me?”

“For a minute, until I start spelling group.”


A horrific boom of thunder rolls, eliciting high-pitched squeals from the girls and shouts from the boys. The rain sheets down the window; we can’t even see outside anymore.

“You got here just in time,” Mrs._______ says. “This is crazy.”

“Colorado weather,” I say, shaking my head.

“I’m putting you with a few girls today,” she says, handing me a bundle of dry erase boards and markers. “M. isn’t in their group, but she has her own stuff to work on–I think I’ll send her out with you anyways.”

Smart woman.

I sit around the table with my daughter and three other girls.

“Hi,” I say brightly. “I’m M.’s mommy.” I give a smile to signal benevolence.

One of the girls blurts, “I’m Ella. There’s a Stella in the class, but that’s not me.” Her hair is ornately curled and adorned. Her mother must possess the doing-hair gene.

Alas, I do not.

“Nice to meet you, Ella.”

I turn to a girl with little starbursts of freckles on her cheeks. She grins widely, displaying huge gaps of missing teeth. “I’m Vivian.” She’s got a bit of the devil in her, I can tell. I like it.

The last girl eyes me suspiciously. She’s considering not answering me, but relents. “I’m Shelly.”

I attempt to get down to brass tacks, but the kids can’t help gawking out the window and jumping out of their seats every time lightning strikes.

“Will I be able to ride the school bus home?” Vivian asks. “My mom says lightning likes metal things and I’m pretty sure my school bus is metal.”

“I think you’ll be just fine,” I say. “Storms that come on this strong usually don’t last. When it’s time to go, I bet it’ll have mostly blown over.”

Vivian considers. “Lightning also likes really tall things, and this building is really tall. Taller than trees, even.”

“Not Redwood trees,” Miss M. pipes in. “Those are huge.”

“I highly doubt we’ll get hit by lightning. I think we’re fine. Okay, girls, let’s try to focus. Next word: ‘about.'”

Ella giggles. “You say that word funny!”

“I do?” I say it again. Danged if the kid doesn’t have a point. “When I was little, I lived in North Dakota. They say some words a little differently. I guess I still sort of have a North Dakota way of saying that word.”

“Where’s North Dakota? Is it in Europe?”

“Does everyone there talk funny?”

“Are you sure we aren’t going to have to spend the night here?”

“What’s a redwood?”

Sigh. So much for spelling.

We muddle along for a while, pretending to learn.

When the bell rings and Miss M. and I walk out of the building at school’s end, it’s not even raining anymore.

“Wow. You were right mom,” she says, stepping deliberately into a puddle. Then she spies the pink worms on the ground, causualties from the storm. “Eww!”

“They can’t hurt you, silly,” I chide.

“But they’re gross. Worms and snakes and bugs are gross.”

“I know.”

She buckles herself in. We splash down roads.

“That was fun, mom.”

“Good. I had fun, too.”

“Henry got really scared, though.”

“Yeah. He did.”

“I got homesick.”

“I know.”

“I get that way sometimes.”

“Me, too, baby.”

“You get homesick?” She clearly thinks this is nuts. It makes her laugh.

“I think everyone does.  Sometimes.  Even grown ups.”

“Especially during storms,” she says, looking out the window. “Too bad about the rainbows, though. We didn’t get even one.”

“Nope, too cloudy still. But maybe next time, little bun. There’s always the next time.”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Ami September 10, 2013 at 10:03 am

This was lovely.
Alas, I also do not possess the doing-hair gene. Or the styling-clothes gene. Or the put-make-up-on-correctly-so-you-don’t-resemble-a-clown gene. My girls are pretty much screwed.


Biz September 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

Ha, I didn’t get the doing-hair gene either, although my twin sister somehow did – wtf?

I remember Hannah, the one year she shied away from softball to try cheerleading, had a competition and the coach said “make sure they come with their hair in high pony tails with curlers still in them – we don’t take the curls out until right before they go one stage.”

Um, I played field hockey, softball, was on the bowling team and did shot put – somehow my husband thinks I may be a lesbian, but I did not own curlers. We went to the store, I bought pink curlers and got all of about six of them in her pony tail.

The next day we go to the competition, the coach points at Hannah’s hair and says “who did this?!” I said I did. She pointed me to all the other girls on the team, who had like 50 perm curlers in their hair and quickly told me they might lose points because Hannah didn’t have tight enough curls. Gah.

Needless to say, it was her only year as a cheerleader.


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

If my girls want to be cheerleaders, I will slit my throat.


Natalie - The Cat Lady Sings September 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

I love a good storm – reading about one with this kind of detail is second best to being in it. :)


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm


It was a crazy bugger! But I love a good storm, too. As long as a twister or hail doesn’t crash the party.


Arnebya September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I possesses, from careful cultivation of the craft, the doing hair gene. WHERE IS MAH PRIZE?

And this was gorgeous. I could see that damn storm and it made me want to grab a blanket and lay down. And to pat Henry’s head.


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Can you come do Miss D.’s hair? It’s Indian gorgeous-nappy, and I am a complete failure. I need your skillz, girl!


Tiffany September 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I love the way you write. Wont you be so glad you wrote down this memory?


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm


I hope so. Sometimes I just think I’m clanking keys.


Jamie September 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Love the part where you list all the girls questions…oh how easy it is to get off task! Also, can you come volunteer in my class, please? I’d love to get rid of a few turds for “spelling practice…” ;)


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm


Gaaa, those kids had no intention of spelling. Nothing is as good as a weather distraction…


Amy Whitley September 10, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Lovely. I was thinking the same thing as a commenter above: you’ll be so glad you wrote this one down. It’s these little moments that become lost in the pile of forever.


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm


I’ve missed you! How are you? Please poem for me soo. You know how much I love it when you poem. xo


TKW September 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm



Jennifer September 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Sweet, sweet girl. I love that you volunteer at the school. I feel so bad for Henry getting so scared in the storm. Poor babe.


Katybeth September 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

My mom was the hair fairy. She could anything with my hair and did for my whole growing up life. And then like an idiot I moved far away from home and was left to my own devices only to discover I could not put a Velcro roller in my own hair. I never learned, however Cole inherited his grandmothers loved doing my hair and even watched the girls and learned to french braid. I’m never letting him leave home. When he went through the “hair is for girls stage” I had to show him pictures of football players knitting :-D.
Love storms and love that Henry was comforted by his friend and that Miss M is still looking for rainbows. There is always next time.
Spelling Mom! You are so talented!!


TKW September 11, 2013 at 11:40 am


I LOVE that Cole loves doing your hair. That’s adorable.


Kristen @ Motherese September 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

This is pitch perfect, my sweet friend. I felt the barometer falling with each word.

We had a doozy of a storm a few nights ago. A thunder clap was so loud, it woke me from my sleep and I gasped like an intruder was barging in. I usually like storms – as long as everyone is safe at home – but this one’s attitude was too big. xoxo


TKW September 11, 2013 at 11:47 am


The big, booming ones at night freak me out, too!


Contemporary Troubadour September 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

One thing I give thanks for year-round is that Seattle gets few thunderstorms. I’m still a bolting rabbit at the sound of thunder. Growing up with Midwestern summers will do that to you if you already hate gunshots, popping balloons, anything loud and sudden … :P


Velva September 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Totally precious moments spent with Miss M.


Alison September 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Ooh, I love this little glimpse into your life, and a sliver into your girl’s day.


Jessica September 12, 2013 at 3:48 am

Dana – it’s been a long time since I’ve had time to sit down & read. Once again you blow me away with your words! I must make more time…


Justine September 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm

You have such a way with making me feel like I’m right there beside you guys. It’s actually raining outside right now, which makes this post feel even more real.

Also, the doing-hair gene? Skipped me too. Our girls are destined to be wild-haired children. :-)


Barbara September 16, 2013 at 4:00 am

I got a pass re the hair and makeup gene. Huh. In fact, I don’t remember any of my friends doing it either.
Love storms…but would rather not be driving in one as I was last night while driving to go out to dinner….lightening like crazy. drivers pulling over with hazard lights flashing. Scary.


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