Sunday, April 6, 2008


Occasionally, the Matron reminisces. Fun!

Given her recent ruminations on her luck, so far, she was reminded of other kinds of fortune.

You do not want to stand next to her during a thunderstorm.

Reader, spring is upon us. For some sweet innocents, that means the green leaf and the tender bud. For the Matron? April heralds Storm Season.

That's right. She is never happy, weather-wise. There is winter. Which is cold and inconvenient. And everything else (except Autumn, when she content -- ablaze, even).

See this?

When the Matron was a very very Young Miss -- as in just three years old --she was playing in the front yard with her doll, Beverly-Doris.

Don't you love the her way with Name, that early?

These are her very first memories of life upon this planet. The thick wet day, all heat and bother, drops instantly into something cold. She needs a sweater. So she grabs Beverly-Doris and walks toward the house when she sees the world has turned yellow. That fast!

And there is something brown and fuzzy, rumbling off into the distance. It looks like a moth, but makes noise.

Suddenly, Mama is screaming and crying: "Run, Mary, run!"

And they both do, in that instant when sticks and grass and leaves and old paper strips suddenly whip by, lightening speed and fury and ice. Does she run into the house or is she grabbed? Everything blurs together. She is falling--pushed-- down the stairs and under a mustard-colored blanket while the world whips itself dumb.

The windows all break. Someone is crying.

When they emerge, the house is gone. It's that simple and complex. Where there once was a life with dainty wine-glasses and wedding photos and sheets for the baby-crib, there is a pile of rubble.

The Mother takes Young Miss and her even younger sister and runs --as fast as they can-- to a neighbor's house. Because another tornado is coming.

Two days later, her mother sorts through the rubble and weeps. She is just 25 years old. She thinks she's lost everything. But one divorce, one more child and two more years later, that sky will be darker.

When she was 8, her Mother hauled the three children into the station wagon. Apparently, not enough church-going had transpired and the family was off to do penance. Er, Mass, on a random Sunday.

While en route, their car was struck by lightening.

Struck. By. Lightening.

The engine stopped and that car? Never moved again. Other vehicles backed up for miles to report the spectacle. Young Miss remembers a loud boom, an incredible white flash, and her rain boots tingling.

So bad weather has haunted the Matron in a very special way. Have a comparable story? No, she doesn't think so.

Hear that siren? She will be in the basement.

Except for the night that the 15 ton, 100 foot tree fell on her pregnant self, wreaking $45,00 worth of damage to a $65,00 (this was a marginal neighborhood in 1994 at the time of purchase) house.

See that tree? Under there, that's the Matron's old house!

Near the end of May 1998 while pregnant with Scarlett, a ferocious storm rocked Minnesota. Thunder, lightening and straight-line winds clocking 80 miles per hour.

The Matron was trying to be reasonable. This was no tornado. Just big old messy winds. John was watching television downstairs in the living room. The neighbors had lights on. Normal, regular old storm. But she sat up in bed, bothered, returning to a conversation with her 94-year old neighbor the day before.

Ninety-four year old Grandma Kueppers had shaken her finger at a neighbor's tree: "I've lived with that monster for over 70 years," she said. "That tree is going to fall. It's rotten."

When the wind moaned and branches whipped, she got up and checked on the (then) cherubic Stryker. Sound asleep in his crib. She looked at that tree. Was it shaking? Coward, she joined John in the living room just as the sirens went off.

While John grabbed Stryker and the Matron threw the dogs into the basement, that rotting tree picked itself up by the roots and slammed into the house, entering in four spectacular places -- and destroying two cars and a garage in the process, as a sort of bonus.

When they emerged from the basement, the house was awash in wind and rain and crackling power lines, downed. Soil in the kitchen, leaves where dinner should be.

Here's the Matron and two-year old Stryker at the roots, one day later. That was one helluva tree.

Indeed. The tree required a crane to dislodge from the house (this is how the Matron knows precise weight and height of said monster). That tree? Left a two foot long, one inch deep crack on the wall by Stryker's crib. The bedroom where the Matron was fretting? Absolutely destroyed. A tremendous half of the tree sprawled through it.

Here's what the engineer who examined the house said: "Wow. If this house had been built ten years and two bricks later, your toddler would've been dead."

Wasn't he considerate of her eight-month pregnant state? Are you allowed to murder engineers sent by the insurance company? She's sure there's a provision.

Later, the media men and meteorologists would debate whether the wind was just one big line-drive or a bona-fide tornado. The Matron doesn't quibble over semantics. She understands that disaster, by any name, strikes twice.

So when they moved into their current house -the dream house with 40 windows overlooking the river and city - the previous owners took care to point out The Tree.

"See this cottonwood? We think it's nearly 200 years old. You can see this tree from downtown and all the bridges."

Their single, heart-felt, on bended-knee request? Don't cut down that tree. It's historic.

Yes. You can live in St. Paul and look toward the city skyline at the biggest, tallest, oldest and most dangerous trees, swaying high above the city along the river bluff -- and there's the one conveniently located outside of the Matron's bedroom window. Ready to kill her.


Suburban Correspondent said...

My life seems so pedestrian by comparison. And that's a good thing...

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Give me an every 20 years California earthquake any day!

Jennifer S said...

Incredible stories, all of them. You had me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails the whole way. I grew up in southwest Missouri, so I've been through countless tornado warnings, but never a tornado.

I'm amazed that you were smiling in that photo of the tree roots. Was it a smile of terror?

You have your storm supplies, right?

Anonymous said...

Well know. I haven't been that riveted, (sheesh, all that talk of PHD's and this hippy is checking the dictionary before she comments), to anything in a long while.
Too scary, there are very few trees in NYC you know.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, just gripping, those stories. I am always in awe of people who live in areas where tornadoes strike with regularity. They scare the bejeebus out of me.

Heather said...

Wow, I'm glad I don't live in the same city as you.

I can't decide if you're lucky or unlucky.

Ari_1965 said...

When the sky gets that yellow haze and air is still and humid, I always stand outside for a bit and hope to be carried off to Oz. Once there, I would not spend my time blithering and whining on about making my way back to my marginal sepia existence. I would melt the Wicked Witch, inform all the Ozzians that I am now queen, choose the tallest of the Witch's soldiers as my body servants, and spend the rest of my life lounging around on my velvet-cushioned throne with a Munchkin as a footstool.

Becky Brown said...

Real life is far more interesting than anything we could ever make up! For what it's worth, I'm also the one who insists on NOT EFFING AROUND when there's bad weather ... and I've never had a house blown out from over me.

Karen Jensen said...

Oh my gosh! I'd be a little paranoid if I were you.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. I think statistically you should be perfectly safe...

JessTrev said...

Wow, that is some crazy sheet. I am a big believer in the emergency stockpiling of water etc but your stories give credence to my Dh's point that in a real emergency (not just 1/2 inch of snow in DC rendering the city impassible for 48 hours) none of it would be helpful. Do you really still live in the shadow of the enormous 200 yo tree?!

Camellia said...

Oh, have the high wind magnetic attraction. At least it's not lightening. ALWAYS head for the basement. Because, when it's happened that many times, Dorothy, you just should.

Unknown said...

Wow. How did you not grow up to become a meteorologist, hell-bent on figuring out what makes a tornado tick, so that you could develop an early warning system (all the while sporting shiny, shoulder length hair and a spotless white tank top)? Seriously, you've seen Twister right?

Julie said...

In MS, we have only two seasons: summer and January. Although, we did have a heck of a tornado blow through north of here on Friday. That tree outside your window? Looks magnificent in an awesomely scary sort of way.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I remember that spring/summer of 98, being pregnant also, and living only a few blocks up the hill from your old house, and being w/o electricity for not just hours, but days, and hooking up to our kind neighbor's house by extension cords draped across our driveways because her "tranformer" was on a different power pole and she had electricity - but, we never dealt with fallen trees - and Oh - your name for your doll is the best!

Mrs. G. said...

Just when I'm sure I've read my favorite post of yours, you write one more. I like that you are still willing to live your life a little on the edge. If it's not another tree, it will be something else. Way to shake your fist (gently) at fate.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

When a tree that big swallows your house? You can call it whatever the hell you want!

Carol said...

Hello, I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading it, all the way down until I saw the "feral cat" and the blue heeler (we have a formerly feral cat and two blue heelers and live in MN, too!) I have always loved storms. But your post made me think twice. Yikes.

Thanks for a fun blog.

Fairlie - said...

Oh man. I'm glad I live half a world away. You seem to have some kind of bad weather magnetism.

Kimberly said...

Those stories are insane! My heart was pounding.

I love you, but you can never come to my house. We lose trees constantly (9 in the 7 years we've lived here and that's after having 7 unhealthy ones taken down) but fortunately, none have hit the house yet.

You are super brave to leave that 200 year old monster standing. Have you had it inspected for health?