Nothing like a storm on a hot tin roof

When I was a child, we moved from our country home on the prairie to a city home more than 500 miles away. Our home was now mobile, a block of metal set on a piece of land that seemed to me to be no larger than a postage stamp.

My parents had fallen on hard times, and soon we learned this was as good as it was going to get. I wasn't happy. My days of running through open fields seemed far away.

But in those early days, I had no idea how this close-knit community would grow on me as time went on.

In a trailer park, people watched out for each other's things. No bicycles were ever taken without everyone on the street knowing exactly who did it. No parties went on behind parents' backs. And no one ever broke into a home while you were off on summer vacation.

Summers always brought storms. When wind storms were on the way, Mom would phone from her job at the hospital. The hospital was on the leading edge of the traditional storm line, just on the outskirts of the city.

Through her window in the hospital's laundry room, Mom would see the black clouds forming into rolls of darkening dough, rising and blotting out the blue sky.

At the first rumble of thunder, she would phone home, and we kids would jump into action.

We raced around - bringing in laundry, closing windows and screen doors - battening down the hatches.

When all was secure, we did something Mom would have not approved of. We would go outside to sit on the steps of the trailer to watch for the storm.

The air was thick, and it was silent and warm right before a storm hit. If we were fortunate, we would have homemade popsicles in the refrigerator. We would take them outside and watch, eyes glued on the massive storm clouds gliding our way. All around us, neighbors sat out in patio chairs, holding umbrellas. It was a time to compare storm notes, to revel in nature's awesome show, and to exchange phone numbers "just in case."

We'd watch the lightning and thunder until the eldest sister deemed it was too dangerous for us kids to stay outside.

One time our big sister forgot to bring us in, and we had a wonderful hail fight in the middle of summer. Neighborhood kids picked up chunks of ice and tossed them at one another.

The sensible adults rushed to cover their tomato plants, to protect them from damage, and we all ran inside when penny-sized balls of hail turned into golf balls.

We watched from the windows as the balls of ice thundered on our roof. In the trailer the sound was amplified, and it seemed to echo off all the nearby trailers at once. It was a chaotic symphony of ice and metal and thunder - certainly louder than anything we had ever heard before. We covered our ears and squealed in delight.

The next day the neighbors all gathered and talked about it for a long time. There's nothing like a storm on a hot tin roof.

Too soon that part of my life was over. I grew up and moved with my family into a modest house.

Then I got married. After a few years, my husband and I were searching for our first home. No, we didn't move into a trailer. Instead, we got a quiet place in the country, a house at the top of a hill.

And fortunately for the kid in me, its new tin roof echoes the storms that sometimes come on hot summer nights - reminding me of those days years ago.

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