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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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Though dangerous and damaging, there is something special about being with your family during a storm.
Though dangerous and damaging, there is something special about being with your family during a storm.

Surreal peacefulness of a stormy night

 

Last night's storm reminded me of when I was a kid growing up in good old Wisconsin Rapids in the 1980's.

It's probably the first storm I've seen in Milwaukee that reminded me of the storms we sustained up north, even thought the meteorologists pointed out that we've had four "once in a hundred years" type storms since in the last 25 years: in 1986, 1999, 2008, and now.

We were fortunate enough not to lose power during the downpour, unlike many of our neighbors to the north and south.

We had only a trickle of water in the basement, which is likely due to the fact that our neighbor to the west has no gutters on her house. We stayed dry and cozy inside, watching the lightning dance off of nearby commercial buildings and literally light up the sky. Some of the flashes seemed cinema-like, as if we were in a theater watching a seen from the" Amityville Horror;" others just cast a soft glow or a crack across the glistening and somewhat puddle pavement.  The thunder rumbled continuously like the finale of a giant fireworks display.

Growing up in Rapids, tornado season was actually a season, when seemingly (at least to a kid) once a week, we had to shuttle to the basement as the sirens and the power went off, while my dad went and smoked on the porch and watched clouds swirl around.

The basement in our first home, an old farmhouse, was one of those pull-up double doors from the bathroom floor with a rickety wooden staircase-again, straight from a horror film. After mom became friends with the neighbor, we'd go into their large, uncluttered basement instead, where we could ride bigwheels around the support posts or play ping pong with the older kids amongst candles and camping lanterns. Storms were less scary when you had something to look forward to.

When we were older and moved out to the rural areas, a power outage also meant there was no water.

Mom and dad kept a stash of flashlights and candles nearby and a battery-powered radio that my dad would set to a combination station of all Beatles, all the time, and the National weather broadcast.

We'd sit on the floor and play cribbage, sheepshead, or board games by candlelight and snack on junk food, intermittently cheering when the power would flicker back on for a moment. Bigger windows in that house meant that if we went to the basement, dad would just stand in the window and wonder at the clouds.

Over the years in Milwaukee, we've been pretty fortunate with our power during storms. The few times it's gone off, it's been past bedtime, so even though Alex will have a start when his alarm clock bleeps off, we haven't had to do a lot to keep him preoccupied during the storms.

I almost wish we would have one of these early evening outages (one that's short enough that we don't have to throw away everything in the frig and freezer) so we have an excuse to devote it to a game of crazy eights in the dark.

There's something special about a real storm; the fact that you can't have the TV or Wii in the background and sitting by candle light and lanterns, just spending time together, to make the time pass, with the settling (and sometimes unsettling) drip drip of the rain, and the occasional booming of thunder filling the background silence.

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