What’s Next? Frogs Falling From the Sky?

Quake, tropical storm bring out recessive worry gene.

What a week.

In the middle of interviewing someone by phone last week, I feel the house start to shake. I’m ready to light into my teenage sons for jumping in the living room and they say, “Really mom, it wasn’t us, it was an earthquake.” They turn on CNN to prove it.  

Three days later, on the eve of Tropical Storm Irene, the Giant supermarket on Emaus Avenue in Allentown looks like a plague of locusts had hit the produce section. The only bananas left were a couple of black spotted ones. The red seedless grapes were decimated and the handful of Gala apples were looking like escapees. 

I used to make fun of people who rushed out for milk and bread at the first whiff of a snowstorm. Yet there I was--one of the locusts--unable to pass a grocery store without going in for just a few more provisions before Irene made her debut.

I scoured the house for flashlights and canteens, bottles, jugs and pails to fill with water, just as the emergency services people had instructed.

Then the rains came. And came. And came. The winds shook the trees next to our house ominously till I was sure one would come down on us.

Sunday, my son Danny and I went out to take pictures of the flooding along the Little Lehigh Creek in Salisbury Township. He practically salivated at the thought of trying to tube or raft down the rushing water--no doubt an accident waiting to happen. I was torn between being the protective mom and wanting to raft with him.  

A friend of mine says every time she hears of a weird accident she makes a note to tell her kids not to do that. So when she heard about a boy who cut his Achilles tendon when he stood on the rim of an empty fishbowl and it broke, she made a note to tell her kids “Don’t stand on the rims of empty fishbowls.”

That might have sounded crazy to me once but now it makes sense. I come by my own worry genes honestly. Back in 1983, after a military coup in Grenada led to a U.S. invasion there, my parents went on vacation to neighboring Jamaica with several other couples. My mother left me a two-page single-spaced typed letter on what to do in every eventuality, including if someone staged a coup in Jamaica. She made it clear she would not want the Marines sent in to rescue her and my father, but their friends, the Mauses, would like the Marines sent in for them. So her question was: Could the Marines rescue the Mauses and not them?

Such an active imagination can be a blessing and a curse. Now, almost 30 years later, I have more respect for those in every family who assume the job of Worrier-in-Chief. Last week, we should have been paid overtime.


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