Rolling Thunder

Fun with stormsAround here, the sound of thunder has been stored away in short-term memory. We've phased into one of those extended periods of hot, dry weather that always seems to come on the heels of our springtime rainy season, so the sky is silent. A different kind of sound is stored in long-term memory. It's the sound of thunder, too, but not the echoing kettledrum we get at the lower elevations. This one sounds like a rifle in a tool shed, which can be frightening, especially to a four-year-old.

We weren't living at timberline, exactly, but even a few thousand feet below that level, thunder is jarringly sudden, and acute. It probably doesn't help that there's virtually no delay between lightning and the explosion that follows, but that comes with the territory when you're living with your head in the clouds. At the time, this was little consolation to my young daughter, who had suddenly and inexplicably become fearful of thunder, even though it was a familiar sound after four years of life. But as is so often the case during those formative years, what's tolerable one day isn't necessarily so the next, and all the explanations—or sympathy, or hot chocolate—in the world don't amount to a hill of beans. Sometimes the fear remains anyway.

As it happened, this particular problem had an easy solution. Really, it was an accidental solution, but that doesn't matter so much. What matters is that the thunder lost its teeth, and became funny; after all, it's much harder to be frightened when you're laughing. In this case, the solution amounted to nothing more than sitting on the floor with my young daughter in my lap, and with every crack of thunder we rolled backward while I made the "aaaaaiiiiiiiii!!!" sound.

The first time we rolled back up into our starting position, my four-year-old seemed a bit shaken, and not entirely unafraid. The second time, there was a little smile on her face. By the third, she was laughing. After that, we didn't have to do it anymore because the fear was gone, but we did it anyway. When the next thunderstorm came, we did it again.


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