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Occasionally

My dad was a connoisseur of thunderstorms. He always got out of bed for the major ones, put his bathrobe on and headed for the deck, the house creaking with each of his footsteps. Adam and I, and Robin, once she was old enough, would emerge from our bedrooms and slip outside ourselves. He never got mad at us for being out of bed. Sometimes none of us said anything and other times we were all strangely animated, as though the lightning had electrified something in us. Every time, my brother and I silently (it had to be his idea) hoped that he would find the storm sufficiently captivating that he would turn to us and say, with quiet excitement, something like “Let’s go after it.” If that happened the three of us would giddily head for the front door and slip into some sandals and maybe a jacket and race out to the car, becoming soaked in the couple of seconds it took Dad to unlock the doors. Mom never came along but sometimes she was awake and would stand a few feet away from us, watching us watching the sky, and sometimes she’d be standing in the hall giving us a bemused grin as we ran out to chase the storm. “You’re all crazy,” she’d say, or “You’re going to get soaked,” or simply, gently, “Brandt.” But we wouldn’t let pragmatic concerns break the current we’d generated among ourselves. Nor at the time did any of us stop to consider why Mom never came along. Maybe these trips really just didn’t appeal to her and she really just didn’t want to go out in that weather. She’s always hated being cold; maybe she felt she’d be more comfortable back in bed. Or maybe she was in on it: maybe she’d decided to let these moments belong entirely to the kids and their father. Maybe she knew that her feigned disapproval would enhance the thrill of going out at two in the morning to get rained on, would create a deeper appreciation for our father’s willingness to lead us forth on a crazy adventure.

We’d be fairly subdued in the car, each of us a bundle of pent-up enthusiasm. I would roll down the window and stare out at the storm, inhaling the electricity in the air, certain that this was the most contentment and family belongingness I would ever feel, awake and alive in the dark, determined to consciously enjoy every second and remember it all for later. Adam and Dad took on the task of providing sparks of colour commentary. “Holy crap, did you see that one!” “This is a bitch of a storm, kids.” It was understood that we could go as far as “crap” and Dad could go as far as “bitch” without anyone making a disapproving or surprised remark about anyone else’s vocabulary choices. Dad would drive us down highways, labyrinths of gravel backroads, whatever it took to reach a flat open space from which the storm could be properly appreciated. And he’d pull over and sometimes we’d get out of the car and he’d lift us up to sit on the hood, getting soaked as predicted, and not caring a bit: cool rain and warm summer air complement each other beautifully. Years later I realized or was taught that being in an open field on the hood of a car during a lightning storm is unbelievably foolish, but in those moments none of us considered such things. We were outside of the law, beyond the grasp of repercussions. Nothing bad could have happened to us. We were invincible and inseparable. I believe that even now.

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