July 22, Friday
It was midnight and I had just finished brushing the girls’ hair, removing the tangles and stickiness that had accumulated during the day. My husband is much better at this than I am. Every time I brush their hair, there are shrieks of protest. I turned off the lights and we settled into bed.
This was my bedroom growing up. The windows here split down the middle and open inward and, upstairs, reveal large rectangles of tree tops and sky. They’re fitted with screens in the summer and heavy glass storm windows in the winter.
I’ve looked out these windows thousands of times through the years: to watch the snow falling in the lamplight, to study the stars, to watch groundhogs and racoons and rabbits make their way across the yard, to see who was walking down the sidewalk, to watch my cat play with a mole on the driveway in the middle of the night – batting, then chasing it, then stepping on its tail, then walking away bored before doing it all again.
I’ve leaned against the screen, signaling through cupped hands to my friend across the street our secret call that meant, “Are you outside and ready to play?”. I’ve closed my bedroom door and sat on the window sill and blown cigarette smoke out the window while home from college. I’ve watched Red Maple leaves, orange and red and as large as your hand, bolt from the trees by the thousands and accumulate in drifts along the sidewalk.
As I lay in the dark and looked out the window, I could see lightning flashing far off to the west. It was so distant that there was no sound of thunder and the sky above us was clear. So I asked Holler, whose turn it was to sleep on the floor in a pile of blankets and pillows and books and stuffed animals to come and sit on the bed with us so she could watch the lightning. The twin bed I’m in is really too small for two, and there are other beds in other bedrooms, but they would rather take turns, one night sleeping in the bed with me and the next night sleeping on the floor beside the bed.
The lightning lit up the sky every few seconds, sometimes in streaks, sometimes in bright flashes that showed the muscular outlines of the clouds. Lulu put her new glasses on. “Mom, I can see stars now.”
The outskirts of the storm finally arrived much later, after we were all asleep, drizzling softly on the trees and the grass. Early in the morning, a breeze, moist and cool, blew in through the windows, ruffling the curtains that my mom made years ago, and signaled the end of the heat wave.