“Don’t ever take a bath during an electrical storm.”
This advice from mom came just before she left for her Friday night bingo game. I had heard her say this before, but never took the advice too seriously. After all, teenage girls are all about looks and I had a date.
The electrical storm was reaching a peak by the time I removed a fresh pair of jeans from the clothesline in the basement and was ready to head for the bathroom. The bathtub, one with a curved rim and ornate feet, was at the back of the house on the second floor beneath a window overlooking the backyard. Roaring thunder shook the house as I moved up the stairs. From the bathroom window, bolts of brilliant lightning illuminated the backyard peach tree as it weaved mercilessly, tossed about by strong wind and heavy rain. I paused long enough to consider this favorite tree. This was not a small tree, but one that had survived many decades.
I sank deep into the warm bath water and closed my eyes, hoping the rain would pass before my date was due to arrive. In the interim, I still had power and was safe inside. The water felt good on my skin and if I concentrated, I might be able to hear the softer rain beyond the storm.
I wasn’t prepared for the shrill cry of shattering glass as the window gave way to the weight of the falling peach tree as it plummeted into the bathroom, finally collapsing against the rim of the tub. Suddenly pinned by the top of a large tree and surrounded by glass, I sat motionless in the water, afraid to move.
I surveyed the top of this beloved tree, which now filled the tub and much of the small bathroom. Wind and rain spilled through the window. I needed to get out. But, I was alone in the house and not near a phone. I was not even certain that I had escaped or could escape injury.
I tried, but couldn’t budge the tree and was left with the option of trying to slide myself out from under it. I carefully picked reachable glass from the water and began slowly sliding my legs while pushing up with my arms. Eventually, I was able to position my legs in a way that enabled me to push my way up and out of the tub.
I was lucky, the peach tree was not.
The vacant spot at the back of the yard reminded me of the fate of my favorite peach tree for many years. I grieved this tree that had provided fruit and shade every summer. And although the pain I felt from the loss of this tree in such a traumatic way grew dimmer as the years passed, the tree was never forgotten.
Recently, Bette Midler did an interview with Jane Pauley on the show Sunday Morning. In talking about her career past, she said, “Never look back, always look forward. If you’re looking back, you can’t look forward – you can’t go forward.”
Women of a certain age (an apropos term from the Divine Miss M herself) can certainly appreciate the reflections on life from this amazing lady with the pink highlights in her hair. Some seasons in life end, so that others can begin.
The year that I married John, we planted a peach tree in our backyard, in honor of our new life together. This year, she is bearing multiple peaches for the first time. I like to think that in some strange way, my favorite tree has finally received justice and life has come full circle, once again.
As for my date that fateful night – he stood me up.
As for my mom’s advice – certainly wise, but sadly, I am still tempted to bathe (shower, not a bath) during electrical storms. My “dates” are much better these days.