My grandmother and her twin brother were born on her sister’s birthday in 1924. In 1956 (’55?), my grandmother gave birth to her fifth son. Whole lot of Niederwerfers on the 25th of August. Five summers ago, when she would have been 82, and just showing her age, my dad drove Gram and Grampa up here to visit me, and have some lunch in my new-to-me-house. After lunch we went to get ice cream, something if you’re a Bernier, you just do, as if you just tie your shoes, and drove up a river road, that while fifty miles north of where Gram grew up, looks a whole like that place. I told my family about the floods and hurricanes of ’38, ’39 and ’55, and how the dykes were built later to prevent a whole lot of flooding of my town and the one we used to be part of across the river. Well, a part of, until the folks on this side got sick of crossing the river to go to church, so they built their own, you know 340 years ago.
Gram interrupted with a story she hadn’t told me in my 29 years – about how when the ’38 hurricane hit, her parents were away in Hartford, and it was just her 14-year-old brother and her home on the farm that day. And how there was no hurricane tracking service, and no warning, and cows had to be put away, and shutters closed. 14-year-old twins holding down the farm. My gram was tough from a young, young age.
As this hurricane Irene barrels in, I think about the one I spent with Gram and Corey, and I’m not sure, maybe another cousin or two. She took pictures of the tv since Bob was her husband and her first-born. Later she let me climb up on the roof, and sweep of all the branches with a big ol’ broom.
And there is the hurricane when I was eight, and I remember Pops battering down the hatches, and filling tubs with water – and then when it was upon us, taking out his camera, and taking pictures of my hair blowing sideways in the wind. I can hear mom telling us to come inside, and Pops laughing at her nervousness with that laugh- you know the one. No power for a few days that time – board games by flashlight.
Hurricane is blowing in, telling me, reminding me, where I come from – from the tough and prepared, from those who know to take pictures, to tell stories, and to stand out in the winds that blow your way.