Monday, February 7, 2011


Occasionally, the Matron reminisces. Fun! This is her second round with this topic but . . . well, new readers would not want to miss so much fun!

Given her recent run-in with the Virus which has taken up residency in her home (felling children in a domino, one at a time style just to extend its stay), 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.


trash said...

Well ... at least it is a pretty tree, no?

Kimber said...

Wow, somehow I missed this post before. Fantastic! I share your fear of storms, although my fears are (so far) unsubstantiated. My house sits under 3 enormously tall ash trees, so ...

Deb said...

Finally had to have the city remove the 300ft old maple tree on the corner of the street. Visions of it falling into my bedroom and taking me out during a hurricane made me make peace with losing the tree. This spring I'm planting a Liberty Elm in its place. They're supposed to be Dutch Elm Disease resistant, plus, they can grow 15 feet a year.

I still miss the old tree. It shaded and kept our house cool on the west side all summer long. Then, when the leaves fell, it allowed light into the house that warms the rooms on that side.

She is missed.

Wenderina said...

How many traumas (natural and man made) can a Matron survive? You must be due many years of peace and prosperity by the universe.

MJ said...

You must have been a cat in a previous life ~ you have 9 lives! Amazing!

Karen said...

Get rid of the tree.


Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carol said...

I lived down the street from a man who claimed to be hit by lightning twice in his life. (He was in his mid 30's). I never got all the details as it was hard to have a conversation with someone I wasn't going to get within 500 feet of!

Heidi Strike said...

I can't believe I've never heard any of these stories before (from you or from my mom)! But she's a bit opposite of you- she loves storms!

Anonymous said...

Big old trees and storms are a very unpredictable mix. We just took one out of my MIL's back yard--it was totally hollow inside! Scary!

Cindy in Walla Walla said...

I was going to comment with an "I hear your pain sister" sort of comment. I bounced a 300 - 400 pound limb off my head in a storm. But after reading the entire piece? I got 'nothin.

So let's just go with what Wenderina said "you must be due many years of peace and prosperity by the universe."

Anonymous said...

You had me shaking with the very first snippet. I'm glad I read this in the morning after a cup of coffee, and not late at night when I can't sleep... because it's been windy here.

Daisy said...

Our neighbors had a cottonwood poplar hybrid tree that was historic in its own way, genetically engineered by the paper chemists looking for pulpwood. Two years ago we noticed this huge tree listing a bit to one side. The neighbors did, too; they hired a crew to bring down this historic but aging tree.

I preserved the history by bringing in cross sections of the trunk to use in teaching. Meanwhile, the listing tree is no longer endangering any neighboring houses - or ours. If you need to remove your tree to maintain your safety, do it!

Brandy K said...

No one would fault you for that tree removal.

I know a guy. He's good, real good. They call him the arbocider.

Ulrike said...

You clearly have some kind of weather-related superpower.

Just need to figure out how to harness its awesomeness :-)