September 11, 1999
Portents

"Terri," writes my pal Heather B. this morning, as I'm struggling to get today's entry composed, "i think you should quit your job so you can devote far more time to your journal. Just my opinion."   Heather ... *I* think that's a FINE idea! Let me discuss it with Franz, OK?  (As soon as I untie him, I mean ... )


por*tent (noun)
[Latin portentum, from neuter of portentus, past participle of portendere]
First appeared circa 1587
1 : something that foreshadows a coming event : OMEN
2 : prophetic indication or significance



It's been an unsettling few days, Dear Readers  ...  filled with signs, portents, near-misses, unexpected plot twists and all-around-weirdness. And it climaxed with the storm on Wednesday night.

"Something BIG is about to happen in my life," I informed David as we drove home from work that evening.

"Good or bad?" he asked.

"No way to tell," I said anxiously, scanning the Oakland skyline. And a few seconds later, there it was: another flash of summer lightning, streaking sideways across the sky towards Alameda. It wasn't even 6 p.m., but already the sky was night-black. No rain   ...  no accompanying roar of thunder, yet  ...  just lightning, illuminating the buildings along Broadway like a silent battlefield.

David was positively entranced.  Lightning -- summer or otherwise -- is apparently a rare occurrence in the Bay Area. (Sorta like Taco Time.)  He thought it was MAJORLY COOL. But all *I* could think was:

"Uh-oh."

Everybody has a pocketful of superstitions. I have an entire WARDROBE of them. Most of my personal superstitions pertain to good luck (saying "Rabbit Rabbit" on the first morning of the month; safety pins in birthday cakes; my lucky wind-up chicken) or making wishes (on white helium balloons and airplane vapor trails; in tunnels, while crossing my fingers and holding my breath). The critically important superstitions, however, are those that involve ways to avoid bad luck.  

I'll never pick up a penny that isn't heads-up, for one thing. Touching a tails-up penny is just ASKING for trouble.

So is listening to "Marrakesh Express." I have a good luck song -- "I'm Into Something Good" -- and a bad luck song -- "Marrakesh Express." If I spontaneously hear The Good Luck Song, it means something wonderful is going to happen (like finally getting those sea-monkeys). If, god forbid, I am ever forced to listen to the dreaded Bad Luck Song all the way through, something horrible will happen. (Don't ask me how I know. I just know. My greatest fear is being strapped helplessly in a dentist's chair and having THIS SONG come wafting over the speakers.)

The biggest, baddest, most significant *portent* of all,  within my peculiar little belief system, is summer lightning.

Summer lightning was the background music of my deflowerment, at age fifteen, as my clueless boyfriend and I fumbled beneath a neighbor's tree. 

Eight years later, it flashed outside the windows of Aldersgate Methodist Church as I said "I do" (all the while thinking, "At least, I THINK I do").

I drove through summer lightning the night before my grandmother died ... and again, the night before my online lover invited me to fly across the country to meet him.

A particularly violent summer lightning storm presaged my run to Oregon, two years ago. As I walked to the office that morning -- knowing I wouldn't be going home that night -- or ever -- I could actually smell the ozone -- or was it brimstone? -- left over from the previous night's storm.

And lightning crashed outside the windows of The Tree House a year ago this week, as I stood at the kitchen sink and poured that final glassful of cheap chablis down the drain.

Is it any wonder I consider it an extremely powerful omen?



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We came home to The Castle that evening, and I phone-chatted with my Tots. It had been their first day back in school, and I was anxious to hear all the news.

I spoke to the Ex Hub for a while, too, mostly about Daughter #2's Boyfriend-From-Hell. ("He's starting to grow his hair back, anyway," growled the Ex.)

All in all, a nice conversation. I hung up feeling pleasantly connected to everybody in TicTac.

Meanwhile -- outside the windows of The Castle -- lightning continued to flash. The hair on the back of my neck absolutely refused to lay flat, the entire evening. I walked around feeling tense and prickly.  The fact that the next day was going to be "9/9/99 Day" absolutely DID NOT help. ("Think of it this way," said David, in an attempt to cheer me up. "In Australia it'll be 6/6/66!")

By bedtime, the lightning storm was in full atmospheric throttle. At one point we turned off all the lights and the TV so we could *enjoy* the lightning better. We could hear the thunder now, too ... huge, explosive, roof-shaking blasts, every couple of minutes.  Much to my amazement -- in spite of the storm, in spite of my goofball superstitions  -- I was actually able to drift off to sleep, shortly after 10. It had been another loooong day with Franz the Frantic, and I was worn out. Who knows? I thought. Maybe this was one summer lightning storm that was simply that: a summer lightning storm. Not a portent, or an omen, or a sign from the heavens. I snuggled deeply into the blankets, buried my face beneath a pillow ... and sank blissfully into the deep warm waters of unconsciousness.

Until the phone rang.

"Mom?" came Daughter #1's trembling voice. "I'm sorry to be calling you so late ... but something's happened to Kacie. She's been in an accident."

To Be Continued ...

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