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Don't You Know I'm Afraid Of Thunder
Storms scare me.
They always have, ever since I was a little girl. I used to hide under the covers, hugging my teddy bear until the storm was over. As a child, it is all right to be scared by thunderstorms. As an adult, it makes you seem weak, pathetic. I've tried every technique in the book, but the fear is still there.
Nobody knows the real reason behind my fear, because I've never told. I don't plan to.
I was in the ninth grade. We lived in the downtown area, the part of Chicago that nobody wants to travel to. I walked to school — it was five minutes away. Buildings as far as the eye could see—and the people! Old, young, black, white, just every mix you could possibly think of. Dad joked that Chicago was really the melting pot of America. I guess he was right.
Mama was never around, and when she was, she was drinking all of our money away. Why Dad never found someone better than her, I don't know.
Mama always acted crazy when she was drunk. But she was sort of funny to watch; if you were an outsider her eccentric behavior would amuse you. To the rest of the family it was an embarrassment — Lucille's problem.
My hoi-polloi aunt was the worst. "Darling, Lucille needs help," she'd say to my father, "Edward, why don't you get her some help? Send her off to a facility; they'll take care of her."
And my aunt's favorite saying: "It's not good for the children, Edward; poor Beth always wonders where her mother's gone. And Julianne, Edward, dear Julianne, she must know what's going on. How's she going to turn out without a mother around?"
Dad never listened to them. I was proud of him in one way, for not letting her stubborn family get in the way of raising his children. In other ways I was angry with him — Mama needed help, couldn't he see that? My father was horribly stupid.
Dad wasn't home that night. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened. Mama came home in one of her moods — we could all tell where she'd been, though she'd tried so hard to cover it up, we knew. They say children are ignorant, but we could tell.
She came in through the door; laughing, tipsy... Beth liked her when she was like that, for she was too young to know. I remember every little detail about that night—Mama in her bare feet, the intoxicating smell of her Chanel perfume that she always wore, the way the light glinted off the silver pendant Dad had gotten her. She was laughing, speaking too high, too fast in that lyrical voice of hers.
"Julianne, Beth, wanna go for a ride? Mommy's got the keys, keys to the pretty car, Beth you know how you love that pretty car. We can go for a ride, show off our fine selves in that pretty car, just us three girls."
I stepped back. "No, Mama."
Beth tugged at my hand. "Come on Jules, please?"
Mom smiled. "Come on Julianne, you'll have fun, I promise. Would I lie to you?"
Yes, I wanted to say, you do all the time. But I held my tongue. And I went with her, because she asked. Because it made Beth happy. It made Mom happy, too.
"Aren't we fine?" Mama asked as we started the car. Smiling giddily, she stuck her arm out the window and waved to people I couldn't see.
"Mama, slow down," I said worriedly. She just smiled that smile of hers.
"Julianne, we're fine, I've been driving this car for years."
BOOM! The thunder crashed outside the car, lightning illuminating the sky. Whimpering, Beth snuggled closer to me. "Shh," I soothed, gently stroking her hair. "It's okay." Though inside I was scared, too.
Mama kept driving, increasing speed. "Mama, slow down!"
"If I slow down, nobody's gonna look at us in this fine car."
"I don't care!"
"I DO!" Mama yelled back. "Now, shut up and let me drive!"
The thunder kept crashing, echoing Mama's mood. "Mama, you're scaring Beth."
"No, I'm not. She likes it, don't you Beth sweetie?"
Beth said nothing, instead clung to me.
The thunder crashed. Mama laughed loudly. Then... darkness.
I don't remember anything after that. I do remember waking up in a white, sterile room. I remember being called "lucky." I remember visiting Mama and Beth's graves a week later. I remember...
Oh, Mama, why? Don't you know I'm afraid of thunder?