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Frightened of Thunder?

Thunder-199 Illustration: Daniel Morgenstern

The other day, lightning split the sky and thunder rolled across the city. She first shuddered, felt the need of flight ... as the usual feelings of fright and horror took over ... she was ready to run and hide ... and then, she stopped and smiled ... she remembered! ... Oh, there are so many different things to remember when thunder strikes ... but this time, she smiled again, and relaxed. She was home ... she was safe. Mixed a stiff drink, took a few sips, and that made it much easier to go back ... way back.

She is terrified by thunder; really very, very scared of it ... yes, to this day! Her first reaction when she hears it is to run and hide under the bed. When WW2 broke out in 1939, they lived in Europe ... and that was what she was taught to do ... when you hear sirens, before the booms come, she was told to run and hide under a bed. Which she did ... always. Did nobody ever think, that IF that bed fell on top of her, being a small child, it would kill her? But no; apparently, beds were made of sturdy stuff back then, and it was the safest place to hide under ... so that is what she did, and they all somehow survived that dreadful war ... but thunder stayed with her and is no friend of hers; and never will be, no matter how old she gets to be.

It became very difficult when she became the mother of two boys ... how can you, as a mother, show fear to your children, she kept admonishing herself. She had to somehow be able to learn to pretend. "Oh look what fun" ... no, she could really not do that! She once mentioned the problem to a friend of her mother's ... next thing she knew, six of her mother's friends took up her cause; it took time. All sorts of discussions arose. Dozens of cups of coffee were consumed; they argued, they talked; they all had "memories" which were brought up ... and all were mothers. Finally they made a decision, and she was invited for coffee: "You cannot show your children fear", she was told; as if she did not know it! "You cannot be bringing up children, if you are scared of anything", the old girls lectured her ... right! "You must learn to hide it, and hide it well," she was admonished by one and all. They all decided that fear is destructive, and transferable. One old crow lectured her that if she let the children know how scared she was, they would be afraid for the rest of their lives of everything. All six of them got into the act, and she was told by one and all: "You must be brave and pretend that there is no fear in you; there is nothing wrong with a storm, it cleans the air." They told her, "Convince yourself, and you will be able to convince your children. You, as a parent, are here to give your children protection and security." That did it for her; that one word: "security". Her children had to have that ...

And so she tried. She listened to their words, they had wisdom, they were right. She knew it was important, was thankful that there were not too many storms in this country, but still, when one was expected, she lectured herself sternly, got really prepared, and she felt that she was quite successful in swallowing her fear, and was able to present a quiet and composed self.

They have a very large door, leading out onto the terrace, with a view of Tel Aviv, and the sea beyond ... so the lightning, when it comes, is very visible as it splits the sky and goes into the sea. Very dramatic, especially at night. And the thunder actually shakes the house ... at least, she thinks it does. But, one must be brave, she was told, one must and must and must ... and so, quite ready and prepared, when a storm hit, she would take both boys to the door, hold their hands, and explain to them how beautiful nature really was, how glorious the sky looked divided by the lightning ... and how magnificent the thunder sounded ... rolling over the city ... where did they think it went? It cost her, it cost her dearly. But she did not want her children to grow up insecure. So after every one of those escapades, she always congratulated herself on a job well done, had another stiff one, and prayed there would be no more storms ...

Years went by, and both boys, young men now, left home, and were living overseas ... but one day they were both at home for some holiday or celebration ... and there was this dreadful storm. She was sitting on the sofa in the living room, facing the blooming, horrid door, where the storm was really raging ... she closed her eyes, forcing herself not to cry, she was praying for it to end; holding herself tightly together, she was not going to give into her fear. No way. The boys were home, and all these years were not going to be erased with one storm!

Suddenly, she felt that she was no longer alone; opening her eyes, and relaxing her body, she saw that both young men were sitting on each side of her; they took hold of her hands ... she looked at them, shocked: "What are you doing?" she asked. "Holding on to you!", they both said at the same time ... "We always knew how terrified you were of thunder", said one laughing, "since we were both very little ... we tried to help you to get through it ... by holding tightly onto your hands during storms", said the other. 



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Tuesday, 18 June 2024

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