A major weather front passed through our area the other night, bringing lots of rain, thunder, and lightning. I don’t consider myself a light sleeper, but whenever the rain falls hard or the thunder roars resoundingly close, I wake up. The storm didn’t end until late in the morning.
When I was a young boy, thunderstorms fascinated me. I was warned by my parents to take shelter if I was outside and a storm came up with thunder and lightning, so I was aware of the danger of a powerful storm.
However, my strongest memories are not from massive lightning bolts stretching jaggedly across the sky or a simultaneous thunderclap and lightning bolt seemingly taking out the house across the street or the tree in the backyard. More vividly, I recall the silence from outside after the thunder and lightning passed by, the slowing patter of raindrops, and the decidedly different scent from outside as a result of the ozone created by the storm.
The house that I grew up in did not have air conditioning. There was an art to adjusting the opening of the window in those days, depending on the outside temperature and the time of the day. Evenings were cooler than the daytime and depending on the time of the year, you might have to close the window if the temperature dropped too low late at night.
In the middle of the summer, the windows were open and you were always hopeful for a breeze to move air around the room. During storms, you might close the bottom half of the window and open the window from the top; the storm window reduced the chance of the rain coming through the screen if the window was opened from the bottom.
The widespread adoption of central air conditioning reduced the numbers of us who learned the art of using windows to regulate inside temperatures. If my adult daughters are aware of the post-thunderstorm scent from fresh ozone, it is only from their experiences outdoors and not inside our house or their apartments, all of which are air-conditioned.
After the storm the other night and the flood of repressed memories, I plan to go outside and sit on my porch the next time a storm rolls through. If it’s a warm summer night, I will probably hear the noises from the crickets and bullfrogs breaking the rhythmic patter of the rain. If I’m lucky, I’ll smell the fresh ozone in the air and once again, experience a rush of memories from those younger and simpler times.