Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Wizard of WI 1984

25 years ago I was preparing to have my first child. Not knowing what my due date was, the general medical consensus was 3 weeks earlier, making me a little anxious. It was Father’s Day and my husband then, a professor of psychology, thought the birth of our child would make a great gift. I figured any time now would be just fine.

A little over a month before on Mother’s Day, the local grocer was offering a free pint of strawberries and ½ gallon of vanilla ice cream in honor of all Moms. There I was approaching my original due date, in line with coupon and berries and cream in hand, when the “wizard” says “You can’t get that stuff, you’re not a Mother yet”. I burst into tears. I was hormonal, emotional and it was already warm for May in Wisconsin. The ice cream did wonders soothing my hormonal storms but his unappreciated observations dug into my side like the baby’s heel.

After a lengthy drive in the sunshine, we found our way up in Milwaukee on that Sunday, Father’s Day afternoon, when I had decided I had had about enough. There in the park was a picnic table and before I could reason through my thoughts, my actions took over. I climbed up on that table and stood on my tiptoes so I could be as high as my natural height would allow, then leaped off the edge into the sand, with the hopes that it would jar the little one loose! According to friends “in-the-know”, I hadn’t even “dropped” so the wait was going to be indefinite.

As we drove home, the only thing visible for miles was the occasional blinding flash of sunlight reflecting off the silver silos in the distance. The rolling green hills of neatly planted furrows, each leading to the red barns and glistening silos, met with the white puffy clouds on the horizon in the eternal blue sky. It was a picture quiet and still. No activity, no movement or action outside or in. I wondered if that leap was going to have any effect at all.

Living in Wisconsin, southern, flat Wisconsin; always has the threat of breaking the peaceful pastoral stillness with weather - severe weather. At 11PM. as we were settling in for sleep, the sirens broke the blackness with a piercing scream only audible when a tornado had been spotted. Most residents had become desensitized since severe weather events occurred regularly. The sirens didn’t stop. Being from Ohio, I awaited the tell-tale sound of a train, but nothing. My heart started to pound and adrenalin coursed thru my veins in what seemed like tens of minutes, trying to convince my then husband to get out of bed and head down to the basement. My maternal instincts kicked-in and I grabbed the cat, the flashlight and radio and called the dog to follow as we scampered down the steps toward the enclosed cedar closet. The husband, feeling left out, followed soon afterward, nonchalantly closing the door behind him. We turned the exposed 60watt light bulb on by pulling the familiar rigged string attached to the ball chain. Fortunately, we still had electricity! The radio and flashlights had fresh batteries (thanks to my foresight) and we listened intently to the weather broadcast for a detailed update. Several tornadoes had been sighted in the area. My heart pounded faster and harder. The dog and cat stayed close and the husband bailed. “What if I go into labor” I screamed at him as he headed up the stairs. “Wake me up” he replied in a now distant voice, probably approaching the bedroom by then. All of sudden, my trusty light bulb went black. Because the closet was free standing in the center of the basement, there was no window, not even natural light from under the door in the stormy blackness. The tornado had hit and it was loud. I held the dog closer, petting her frantically, and waited. The radio station signed off, then broadcast nothing but static. The flashlight was dimming to that yellowish-brown hint of illumination that causes you to keep smacking in your hand to recover the light.

By now it was well after midnight and I finally grew very tired. The fresh air and sunshine, the long day before mixed with the hopes of giving birth and recovering from the adrenalin rush, helped me sleep like, well a baby. The phone rang, waking me up @ 8:30 AM to the sound of a terrified voice asking me to see if our neighbors had returned. Apparently, the Girl Scouts led by our neighbor and La Leche League Leader, had taken a canoe trip the day before, just north of us where an entire town had been obliterated by multiple violent tornadoes. My heart sank as I looked across the street and saw no action. Then it happened, I was in labor.

A thrilling 24 hours had brought the nine month-plus event full circle. At 11:02 PM, Laurel Ashley was born happy and healthy and ready to come out. Thank the Gods & Goddesses! Word was the neighbors were safe and sound, all girls accounted for and no casualties. There we were in the early darkness of the June summer night on the 5th floor of the hospital, breathing a sigh of relief until that familiar, screaming siren sounded in the distance…Ugh. We were all fine. Better than the many who perished in the nearby town of Barneveld. We were truly blessed.

Happy 25th Birthday Budgey! And to think, now she has children of her own…

More information about Barnevld, Wisconsin

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