My father died when I was three leaving my mom, at the age of 32, to raise seven children alone. At the time of my father’s death my oldest sibling was twelve. With so much responsibility heaped upon her, my mother required that we strictly adhere to basic rules: Don’t talk back, go to church and always look for humor in storms. I know that last one is odd. Mom never told us that was a rule in our family, but her actions gave us cues about how to weather storms.
When we heard rain pelting down on our house, with the thunder rolling and lightening flashing, we kids knew how we were expected to respond. All seven of us would hurry to our mom’s bedroom. She hurriedly waved us all inside. The last person who entered always turned off the lights and closed the door. We would all crowd around her. Some of us were in her bed and some sat on the floor right by the bed. We spoke in hushed tones; not because of the thunder and lightning. We were quiet because we had learned being quiet was standard protocol before the show began. During storms, in an effort to keep us calm and unafraid, mom became the consummate performer. She told stories, but her specialty was telling jokes.
"There was a minister going to church one Sunday morning. He saw three little boys sitting beside the road. He stopped and asked them if they were going to church. All three replied, “No sir.” He asked one little boy how old he was, and the boy said “13.” The minister said if you turned that around you would be 31. He asked the next little boy how old he was. The boy replied “12 years old.” The minister said if you turned that around you would be 21. He asked the last little boy how old he was. The boy said, “11, now let me see you mess that up!”
We would burst out laughing and then immediately settle down and wait on the next story or joke. She never disappointed us. Mom seemed to have her routine all planned. It was during storms she became a bit of a prankster. She didn’t take a break and kept us entertained no matter the length of the storm. We never feared approaching storms. We took comfort in knowing the show would soon begin.