It was a bright and cloudless morning in the high desert town. We were (I think) at Sunday school. Then the sky went dark. We raced outside. We saw the horizon glow like a sunset. And we felt the ash on our faces like dirty snowflakes that refused to melt. In that moment, I experienced with giddy naivete a thrill that I continue to seek out even as an adult, namely: If this doesn’t kill me, it’s going to make for one helluva story.
With my fondness for all things Chicago and LA, it may have escaped your attention that I was born in tiny Richland, WA, and lived there until I was 13. (John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” brings me back there every time.) My dad was a scientist at nearby Battelle Northwest Labs. We lived in a tiny house, on a tiny street, with two cats and two dogs, a few blocks away from the Columbia River:
It was an excellent place to be a kid. We picked cherries every summer that my mom turned into pies and jam. My dad fished the lakes and rivers and caught one trout after another, which my mom would coat with Saltine cracker crumbs and pan-fry with a splash of Rainier Beer, then stand over my sister and me while we ate saying, “CHEW CAREFULLY! Those bones will choke you.” (This explains a lot about my control freakitude.)
I know this isn’t the usual Mother Drucker fun and I’ll be back, I promise. But Mount St. Helen’s 30th anniversary brought up a lava flow (groan) of memories for me and that’s all I felt like talking about today. Chicago this weekend so you won’t be hearing from me ’til Monday, when I will have eaten an entire city’s worth of pizza, fried chicken and hot dogs and washed it down with gallons of vodka and lots and lots of LOVE.
I leave you with this quote, attributed to George Eliot, which suits my melancholy mood:
“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”