It was one of those rare rainy afternoons when I stepped away from my typewriter and settled into the window seat in my studio. I plumped the big cushy pillows, placed my cup of tea on the window sill and leaned back with a sigh.
A beautiful thunderstorm was making its way across the horizon; black roiling clouds with flashes of lightning and cracks of distant thunder completed this perfect scene. As a child, I had learned to determine the distance of the storm by counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and the thunder. One second equaled one mile.
I used a similar technique while living in London during the Blitz. The Germans dropped their bombs every ten seconds. When you heard an explosion you started to count. If you got to five you knew you would be missed. We only got hit once out in the back yard. It blew all the windows out of the house which was a lot less than some other people on our street.
The trailing edge of this storm brought showers to the garden below my window, freeing me of the task which I enjoyed, but was happy to release to the heavens on this occasion.
What I have not learned during my stint on this planet, is to count the seconds between each flash of lightning and clap of thunder in my personal life — and there have been many of them I’m sorry to say.
For instance, the moment I was born, those blinding lights to eyes that had never seen before, and then having someone unceremoniously slap my bottom did not strike me as a welcoming gesture. Was I being punished for being born? Fortunately, Doctor Death, the doctor who attended my birth is dead or I would happily seek him out and slap the living crap out of him and see how he likes it. But I’m a forgiving person — may he rot in hell for several eternities.
That being said, the next ball busting event in my life was the first day of kindergarten. I remember hanging over the passenger seat back rest of my father’s ’36 Ford, screaming my lungs out in absolute protest to no avail whatsoever, and promptly came home after school with a black eye. I don’t remember who did this and no one will tell me. They probably know what I would do to the poor bastard — even now.
Over the next few years, until I reached puberty – and that’s another trip — I misbehaved probably more than I... oh, wait! There was one more epic event. It was the absolute worst moment of my life and it happened at 7:15 AM on August 24, 1942. My sociopathic older brother was assigned the task of altering my life forever — by my spineless parents who could not do the job themselves.
My brother and I occupied the same bedroom on the second floor of our three bedroom Queen Anne Cottage. I don’t remember exactly how he informed me there was no Santa Claus. All I do remember is that I felt panic for the first time in my life. I got out of bed and began running to my parent’s bedroom. Before I cleared the bedroom door, he maliciously added, “And there’s no Easter Bunny either.”
I was only 10 years old. I felt hurt and betrayed, but it was worse than that, and I could find no words to describe it. I had heard my mother use the word ‘devastated’ and the phrase ‘mortified beyond chagrin’ but I wasn’t sure what they meant. I decided on the latter because it sounded better than the former. I told myself I was mortified beyond chagrin. I was forced to grow up and I didn’t like it one little bit. How dare they or anyone else decide when, where, or what I was to believe?
Now let's see, where was I? Oh, yes. About me misbehaving more than I was entitled to. My mother isn’t Jewish but she had a handle on using guilt to keep me in line. At the top of the list was her rant on the thirty-six hours of labor she endured so that I would have the opportunity to misbehave and drive her nuts. But I will have to admit when she finished berating me, she would hug me so tight I would gasp for breath. Now that she’s gone, I would gladly misbehave again for just one more hug.
When I refused to eat my lima beans she brought up the starving children on some far flung island of despair. She ceased using that ploy the day I told her to go ahead and send the remains of my lima beans to those starving children.
Puberty was a high-speed train wreck. The only sane thing I did or said with my dwindling lucidity was when I told my parents I was going to go crazy and I would take them along with me. They laughed at the idea, but years later they admitted I was right.
As the level of testosterone rose, I attacked anything that moved, but I was a gentleman about it. Love had nothing to do with it. Little did I know that love approaches you on its hands and knees until one day you wake up and you’re up to your neck – no, your eye balls in love and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I learned a great deal tripping through the tulip patch of love. Now that the testosterone level has dropped to practically zero and I’ve regained my sanity, I write about it in the most glowing of terms. I live vicariously through the stories and characters I create, writing about the way it should have been but never was.
Sometimes the magic does happen. Just be sure you don’t let it slip away. It may never happen again. You just have to be careful not to trip over one of those nasty frogs hiding under a tulip leaf and fall flat on your face. It’s definitely not cricket when that happens.
The storm has passed, sunlight once again illuminates my studio. I’ll wash my tea cup and get back to my typewriter for the next chapter of love and romance when everyone is young and beautiful and happy.