The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Easter Storm

By Anita Louise McCormick © 1992

Issue: April, 1992

"Won't be long before that Easter storm gets here, I can feel it way down in my bones," Grandma said.

There's hardly a cloud in the sky. It's as warm and balmy as anyone could want it to be this early on in the season. The temperature has been hovering near seventy-five degrees since mid-morning and every breeze that makes its way through the huge magnolia trees in Grandma's front yard fills your nostrils with the sweet, fresh smells of springtime.

It's hard to believe that anything would want to ruin a day like this, even if it could.

But never mind all that. Grandma says the Easter storm is on its way. She's been talking about it ever since she got up this morning. And now, she mentioned it again. Just when I was hoping she'd forgotten all about it.

Grandma made her forecast the minute she came into the kitchen to give us our breakfast. And while we were eating, she made trip after trip to the window, stood up on her toes and pulled back one side of the curtain, then the other. "Can't see it yet, but I know it's coming," she said. "Haven't felt one this bad in ages."

After we finished our orange juice and corn flakes, Grandma went in the living room and turned on the TV - just to see if those so-called weather experts had caught wind of her Easter storm yet.

It wasn't any time until the weather girl came on - all dressed up in a candy pink skirt and a frilly yellow blouse. "Well, folks," she said, smiling her weather girl smile, "It looks like we're going to have a beautiful weekend. We can expect mild weather and sunny skies, with daytime highs near 80 degrees."

Grandma lunged out of her chair and snapped off the television. "Sunny skies? Mild weather? You just wait... we'll see who is right!"

Secretly, I hoped it would be the weather girl. At least this time. I had been forced to spend the past three days of perfectly good weather cooped up in a classroom memorizing multiplication tables for next week's test. If it rained all weekend, there was simply no justice in the world.

But at the same time, I didn't want to see Grandma get too disappointed. She has arthritis. And the only use it is to her is the satisfaction she gets from making weather forecasts that no one can match. She can let you know a storm is coming before anyone else has the slightest clue.

Grandma has seen plenty of weather in her eighty-six years. There's no doubt about it. She's seen seasons come and go, crops planted and harvested - and felt more storms way down in her bones than anyone can remember. To her, the weather isn't something to be measured with charts and gauges and instruments. To her, it is a living, breathing thing - with a personality all its own. They have always had a special closeness. Almost like a best friend you know even better than yourself. It shares its secrets with her.

Over the years, Grandma has come to expect certain things from the weather. According to her, its duty is to put on a big performance for nearly every holiday on the calendar. And more often than not, its shows are right on schedule. Especially the important ones. There's the Halloween frost, Thanksgiving cold spell, Election Day drizzle, Christmas snow, Memorial Day rain, Labor Day heat wave and the Fourth of July downpour.

And then, of course, there's the Easter storm.

The weather does miss a holiday from time to time. But even that doesn't seem to bother Grandma. She says it's because those people in Washington keep changing the day you're supposed to celebrate things. They should leave things alone, she says. You shouldn't expect nature to change its schedule to suit people.

But when Grandma feels a storm way down in her bones, there's no doubt about it. You'd better believe it's coming.

The sun was out and shining at its brightest. But no one dared to put out a wash. Not after Grandma told them that the Easter storm is on its way. About the time they had everything washed and rinsed and hung out on the line, that darned Easter storm would blow in. Then they'd have to run out with a clothes basket and grab down shirts and dresses and pillowcases while the rain poured down like it did back in Noah's day - all to the amusement of the neighbors.

That sure would be a waste of time. Besides, there's plenty of FUN things to do this close to Easter!

Grandma, you see, has had nearly a century of experience in celebrating every holiday there is. When Easter time rolls around, she always boils us a few dozen eggs, then helps us color them. By the time we were six or seven, we really didn't need too much help dipping eggs in a dye tub. And at the age we are now, we could really do the whole project by ourselves if we wanted to. But Grandma seems to enjoy it all so much that we don't want to deprive her of the fun!

One year when we came to visit, Grandma had been sick and Easter almost slipped up on her before she knew it. When she felt a little better, she put on her hat, got out her purse and took us all down to the corner store to buy some eggs and coloring supplies.

As soon as we came through the door, I could tell that something was wrong. The owner, a big middle aged man that always wore a clean white apron, knew exactly what Grandma would be looking for. He had an awful sad look on his face when he told her that while he still had several cartons of eggs left, he'd sold his last package of dye. We all thought we'd have the dullest Easter baskets in town.

But Grandma knew just what to do! Back when she was our age, there was no such thing as Easter egg dye. If you wanted to color some eggs for your basket, you boiled them in vinegar and beet juice!

We waited our turn in line and paid for the eggs. Then Grandma took us home and got out her big enamel kettle. She sat it on the stove and placed our eggs in it, one at a time, being extra careful not to let them break. She covered them with water and added a big spoonful of vinegar.

Next, she got out her step ladder and set it up in front of the pantry. She climbed up, one step at a time and handed us down tea bags, cat food cans and two big boxes of light blue tissues. Finally she found what she wanted - a dark red jar marked BEETS. She poured the liquid over the eggs and lit the fire underneath them.

It looked red enough. But to tell you the truth, I wondered if it was really going to work. Then, I remembered how hard it is to scrub off a plate when you're washing dishes - especially if it's been sitting around for a while before you get to it.

In no time at all, the water got hot. And then it was boiling. The eggs danced up and down. And every time one popped up to the surface, it was a little prettier than it was before. It was working! It really was! We called Grandma over to take a look, but she didn't seem to be a bit surprised by the lovely pink color they were taking on. She said it was exactly the way she remembered it. One egg cracked a little at the end. But all in all, our Easter egg project worked out pretty good.

But now - back to today. Grandma has plenty of eggs and dye on hand. She has straw and jelly beans and three empty baskets - all waiting for us to fill. Just as soon as we get ready. But for now, I'd rather stay outside and enjoy what's left of the good weather before the Easter storm rolls in.

The storm wasn't anywhere to be seen, so we found some chalk and drew a hopscotch. Mary took her turn, then Tina. By the time it was my turn, Grandma called us in to get a snack. She made up our favorite - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

We ate them as fast as we could, then hurried outside to play. It was still nice and warm - but the sky wasn't quite as clear as it had been and the wind was starting to pick up. Grandma got out her big straw broom and swept the magnolia petals off the steps. "It's coming," she said. "Can't be much longer the way it looks now."

We went ahead with our game and tried to forget about storms. In fact, we hadn't even noticed that Grandma went inside until she came running back out with a big stack of newspapers.

"I was right! I was up in the attic watering my plants and I saw the Easter storm - it's coming across the river right now!" She came down the stairs faster than I thought she could and handed each of us some of the papers. "In all my years, I've never seen such black clouds!"

We all looked up at the sky, but from where we were standing, we couldn't see a thing. Grandma looked down at her flowers and sighed. "If you girls will help me, maybe we can cover them before it hits. We can't do a thing about the magnolias - but maybe we can save the crocuses."

Mary and Tina took their share of newspapers. We made tents over the crocuses, propping them up in the middle with sticks and weighting the corners down with rocks, just like Grandma showed us.

About the time we were finished, a big gust of wind took up the avenue, bringing all of last fall's unraked leaves with it. It picked up some other things too. It brought papers, potato chip bags and everything else it could get a hold of.

Then, we saw those big, black clouds Grandma had been talking about. You can bet we got up on the porch in a hurry!

First, only a few big drops of rain hit the sidewalk. I didn't think we would get off that easy. Then another big gust of wind charged up the avenue - and rain came down like I'd never seen. Almost like some giant was pouring it out of a bucket.

It caught plenty of people off guard - that's for sure! Our mailman for one. He ran up on the neighbor's porch as fast as he could, but by then, he was soaking wet.

His mail bag was full of water! I saw him dump it out. Then he laid letters and magazines and advertisements out all over the porch furniture, hoping they'd dry out some before he had to deliver them.

The rain just kept coming. It filled up the street and started over the grass and onto the sidewalk. Back in her day, Grandma said that they used to call it a street flood when something like this would happen.

She told us that when she was our age, she used to sit on the porch and play guessing games with her sisters when it rained. First they'd guess how high the water was going to come - then, they'd guess what would come floating up the street next.

I could make a guess on how high the water would get - but as to what would float up the street next, I really didn't have a clue. There were lots of sticks and limbs going by, but I didn't think they'd count. Then a big green ball floated by.

Then, lightening hit. It was the biggest, brightest strike I'd ever seen in my life! Grandma thought it would be a good idea to go inside before it got any closer. So we watched the rest of the Easter storm from the kitchen window while we dyed our eggs and fixed up our baskets.

Lightening zigzagged through the sky over and over again - and the rain poured down like it would never stop. The thunder would wait for a second or two, then rumble as loud and mean as it could.

If I had been a year or two younger, I would have been scared to death. But I've been reading about storms in science class. I'm onto them now. There's not much to worry about unless you're standing under a big tree or a tall metal tower.

After while, the Easter storm finally got finished with us. It went right over the hills and left us alone. It sure cooled things off, though. It took the temperature down a good ten degrees.

Things are pretty much back to normal now. We all got our eggs dyed. They look real nice.

And Grandma just went outside to check on her mail. I hope she's not in too big of a hurry to read it, though. It has about a week's worth of drying to do!