“What are you going to do about this damn storm?” she asked my mother.
“Perhaps you’d like to speak to the superintendant?” my mother replied.
There was nothing she could do about this storm, or the weather in general. She never had been able to control the weather. She did, however, control the switchboard at Independent School District 206. She answered these kind of calls from angry parents whenever a snow storm threatned to cancel, or did cancel school for the day. The students of ISD 206, as I can attest to personally, loved snow days. A freebie. Somedays, if you were super lucky, or a big believer in prayer, you would actually get a snow day on the day a large test was scheduled. Many nights before exams were spent praying for large amounts of snow. But religious intervention or not, parents were never happy. It meant time off of work, or finding a baby sitter, or worst case scenario, staying home with them yourself.
My mother had been cursed at, yelled at, threatened, hung up on. “One moment please,” she would answer. “Where is the bus?” “Is the bus going to be later?” “Two hours late, well then why not just cancel it?” “Why isn’t it canceled?” She was always, “one moment please,” cleared of the situation. This was not the case at home. Even though, at times, after taking hundreds of phone calls, she still answered our home phone “Alexandria Public Schools….” things were not as easy as a simple call transfer. My mother could no more control the weather, than my father. After he left, she was just so sad. Perhaps humiliated. Perhaps angry. Perhaps frustrated. Perhaps as unsure of what to do as the parent on the other line screaming, “What are you going to do about the damn storm?”
And what was she going to do? There was no one to transfer the responsiblility to… she had to deal with it. She had to cry and count the sleeping pills on the night stand and force herself to eat, and then put on clothes, two sizes smaller than last year, and go to work, and as cheerfully as possible, greet the people on the phones and at the door. And she did. One damn storm after another, she got herself to work, and day after day, year after year, call after call, it all became a little more managable. And some days, they, we, would laugh. That was some storm!
My mom’s sister, Kay, had her own weather to deal with. She never could say no to a hurricane, literally or figurately. She lived through two, and married, maybe seven.
We didn’t hear from her for weeks after Katrina. No phones. Only bad reports from her area. Everything was downed…trees, houses, people… peoplejust floating. I checked the internet lists for her name… I had to call my mother first…I couldn’t remember last name….it had changed twice before I was even born. It wasn’t listed, under any of them. A neighbor’s cell phone brought word that she was fine. Of course she was fine. To date, she had survived whooping cough, rheumatic fever, a husband’s death and/or murder, a tax scandal, toxic shock syndrome, an fbi investigation, possible lupus, a son’s suicide, and hurricane Rita. They warned everyone. Get on the bus. Get out of town. You have to save yourselves. It’s not safe here. Please, the television and radio begged. Get on the bus. She never got on the bus.
When my cousin Todd shot himself in the head. My aunt got on her hands and knees, scrubbed up the blood with a bucket and a rag. The rain beat against the window. The water turned pink beneath her hands. What are you going to do about this damn storm?
The only similarity that I could see between her and my mother, was the shared shape of my grandfather’s face…long and lean, built to carry a certain gravity. My mother was able to get on the bus. My aunt never has.
We began in grade school praying for snow. Some of us learned to eventually pray to be released from the storm. Not to be spared, to be saved.
My grandfather told me when my father left, you can turn in, you can turn out… you can be like your mother, or your Aunt Kay?
I prayed for snow. I took the tests. I rode the bus. I got on and off. I found good weather.
What’s going to happen now? Anticipation, hope, joy is always near… “one moment please…”
Beside still waters. acrylic on canvas. jodi hills