Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thunder and a Memory


Just a few minutes ago the strangest thing happened. I was transported back in time…by a sound.

I was sitting in my recliner reading P.J. O’Rourke’s new book when I was surprised by the tingling of sleet on the window pane. I turned off the floor lamp to my left so I could see out and there they were, tiny sparkling pellets of ice dancing on the sill. Then I was startled by the sudden, misplaced peel of crackling thunder. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, I flew through time to the basement of the Winn’s Baptist Church parsonage, to a wildly similar cold April night in my eleventh year. It was after 10 and I was supposed to be asleep, but on this night I was sleeping in the bed in the basement, not my warm room upstairs for one reason and one reason only. It was opening night of Major League baseball, and my green hard plastic radio could pick up the Cleveland Indians games better from the basement. It was either 1968 or 1969, I’m not sure which. The Indians were playing the Tigers, or the Orioles, or somebody.

The radio was a mess, the color of diseased avocado, with a disfigured glob of burnt plastic on one side from where Donnie and I had propped it up against the baseboard heater one night to improve the reception for a Yankee game. As ugly as it was, there was something about the unheated, molded, mice infested atmosphere of our basement that agreed with my second hand radio delivering perfectly the high fidelity radio waves from WERE, 1490 AM in Cleveland along with the dulcet tones of Herb Score.

On this particular night I was about three innings in to a pitcher’s duel when I noticed the wind blowing a gale outside. Then the sound of sleet against the window panes of the outside door, and finally a frightening peel of thunder so full of cracks and pops, that it sent this eleven year old scurrying up to his bedroom faster than Lou Brock going from first to third on a single to left field.

I hadn’t conjured up that memory since it happened. But tonight, 17,000 sunsets later, it comes rushing back as clear as a bell. The mind and its memory is a terribly awesome thing.