Senior Moments: Remembering when a hurricane landed on our doorstep

Whenever winds blow, I call them Hazel. Every hurricane is named Hazel, the 1954 storm that blew down a tree covering our front doorway entrance in Virginia. Although she was a force to be reckoned with, my childhood mind, not yet acquainted with fear, remembers a different story…

When the storm hit, I was fascinated. Excited that it might cause school closures, kind of like a snow day except we rarely had snow where I lived. I was unafraid of the unknown. I was many things, but I was not scared.

Like many things in life at that time, the hurricane was an adventure because I didn’t associate it with fear. Climbing over the tree trunk that blocked our front door turned into a game that I played with enthusiasm. The massive tree trunk, laying horizontal to our front porch steps, was a city. Branches were streets and their leaves were houses.

Carefully balanced, I could walk the full length of the city to explore the neighborhoods. The absence of fear, something we are afforded less and less in today’s world, created wonder. It offered opportunity to explore without dread of what I might find.

Leaf-shaped houses where pretend families lived were pawns in my game. When Hazel huffed and puffed and blew that tree down in front of our house, it fulfilled my dream of seeing school closed for the day.

This, all this, was before I learned about being scared. Before I learned that nature could cause devastation as well as create wildflowers. Like people, nature could destroy beauty as well as make it. A soft summer breeze could reinvent itself into a destructive monster.

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This week, people in Florida didn’t have the privilege of pretend games. Massive flooding did not manifest into swimming pool fantasies. The bloated water took lives. The winds destroyed homes and uprooted communities.

Although history would tell another story about Hazel’s destructive impact, that was not the experience of my child’s mind. In today’s world, where we all grow up learning how to be scared, playing let’s pretend is no longer an option.

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