by Jan on October 1, 2010

A Holiday is nearing and I am yearly visited by memories laced with gripping fear and delightful fascination. The year was 1962, I was nine years old, living in Portland Oregon and it was October 12th, Columbus Day.

As I walked to school that day, lunch box in hand filled with peanut butter on white bread, a browning banana and a thermos of milk, I noticed the air felt balmy, the sky gray and the Fall leaves were blown about by the wind. I had no idea on this daily trudge to our institution of higher learning, that I would end up huddled under the stairs with my family around one gas lantern.

Walking home from school, the wind whipped around us and we giggled at how the it blew our hair about and how silly we looked. I headed over to Nancy Robinson’s house to play. I remember eating cheese and playing the piano.

My mother called Mrs. Robinson and asked her to send me home announcing a windstorm was coming. I was on my way but got distracted by the fresh cookies in the kitchen when my mom came over herself very rattled and ranting on about this wind storm. I couldn’t see the big deal until I stepped outside.

As my mother held on to my hand, I was literally lifted up off my feet like a kite taking flight. My mom grabbed a hold of me as we hurried into the safety of our home.

It wasn’t too much longer the first tree fell. The sound of timber cracking and the earth shaking thuds from the weight of the trees became the background symphony for the evening.

My mother grabbed a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti, a camp stove and a lantern as we huddled safely away from windows and under the strong supporting beams of our home. I have never felt so terrified and yet so safe as my father assured us amidst the shattering of glass from the falling trees, that we were going to be just fine. He had been a boy scout (very impressive to a 9 year old) and had inside information on how these things happen.

By the glow of the yellowing, somewhat noxious lantern, we told stories, sang, played cards as we waited the storm out. Then silence. As we stepped outside our backyard, littered with giant fir trees, looked like an unexplored jungle. It was thrilling but the excitement only lasted until the next day when we learned of the devastation and deaths.

Every Columbus Day I remember the storm but I also remember my family huddled around the camp stove eating possibly the best spaghetti I have ever had because even though outside was dangerous and unpredictable, we were safe. We had each other and we had an expert boy scout to boot!

For more information on the Columbus Day Storm see:


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