It’s officially hurricane season in Florida. It starts at the beginning of June, and just five days later we had our first big tropical storm (Colin) make an appearance. We get ready for this time every year–buying water, making sure the house is in okay condition. Just in case. There are all the memes that show Floridians equating hurricanes to partying and, sure, some people may do that, but not all of us. Heck, not even in college.
I remember several years ago, about five, having a pretty bad tornado watch. We left work early, which we all cheered for but quickly regretted as we navigated the flooding streets back home. I think I drove 10 mph the entire time, and I lived a good 30 minutes away. The rain kept falling, hard, on my car and every now and then, on a quiet stretch of road, there’d be a clearing and I’d see the leaves start swirling together in a circular motion, and I’d get scared. Of course it wasn’t a tornado, but you never know when you’re in the midst of it.
S was already at home, with the news on. The weatherman had his sleeves rolled up, so you knew it was serious. We lost power not long after. I remember scraping together a dinner of peanut butter and bread because we didn’t want to open the refrigerator. I remember dining by the light of candles. One of my best friends lived across the street at the time, so we came over to share in our dinner. We joked about the end of the world, because it kind of felt like that. We played board games in the dying light of outside.
When the storm stopped, we walked outside to see the damage and our jokes felt real and strange all in one. We lived in apartments over popular shops and restaurants. There were always cars driving by, music play, people laughing. Tonight the streets were empty, with an eerie glow over everything. Rained on. Kind of green. Kind of off. Everything was fine, everything was the same, but it felt different. Everyone was fine, everything was okay.
We went back to my friend’s apartment where her neighbor was having a party now that the storm was over. Anyone could come! Anyone could drink! That’s how we celebrate here–when everyone is okay.
I learned a little later that a tornado did hit down, just not by us. In a neighboring city. And then, one hit down later that season in Tallahassee, near a restaurant we used to frequent.
It wasn’t a traumatic storm in the least. We didn’t have to run to shelter thank goodness. But for some reason every time hurricane season hits, I think of that one. And I can never figure out why. Why do we remember some moments over others? Why are some more present in our minds?
I don’t have the answers, but last night as I drove home from work in the calm before the storm, I thought back to it. As I took in all of L’s outdoor toys and hid them in our screened in porch, and secured down her sandbox, I remembered this feeling of calm after it all passed. As we walked the streets that were ours, but felt so distinctly different. I thought back to it.
And I probably will again, as storm after storm passes. So, no, we aren’t just partying every time a hurricane is predicted. We’re getting ready.