My daughter, her husband and their two children flew to New York from their home in San Francisco to visit with us over the July Fourth holiday. They do this every summer for a week.
Rhone is 10, Salonge is 13. We took them out to a beach fire at Indian Wells the first night they were here. We went to Main Beach in East Hampton, where they have this wonderful sign on the lifeguard stand that reads “Bathing Capacity 250,” which always reminds me of the maximum number of fish allowed to be caught by fishermen for any one day. We took them to Ashawagh Hall, where we watched a blacksmith bang soft metal into various shapes and sizes in the old blacksmith shop there.
On their fourth day here, at breakfast out by the pool, there came news on the radio that a hurricane was headed our way and would reach us on Thursday. Our hurricanes generally come in late August. This was a rarity, indeed.
Rhone got all excited. “I’ve never been in a hurricane before,” he said.
He had been in earthquakes before, though, and we’d been in San Francisco one night when we felt a tremor strong enough to wake us.
“It’s like an earthquake,” I said. “Except the earth doesn’t shake and objects don’t fall off the shelves. Also, it doesn’t last just for a few seconds. And big gashes don’t form in the earth.”
I grinned at him mischievously. He looked at me and made a face.
“Instead, what it is,” I told him, “is hundred-mile-an-hour winds that blow trees through the rain sideways and the electricity goes out for a week and we run out of food. You know that big tree house I once had on the hillside?”
“It blew away in a hurricane,” I said. “We never found it.”
He was silent for a while. My daughter, his mother, stared at me.
“Of course, this one is not going to be like that. It’s just going to sideswipe us as it comes north, whacking us with its tail as it goes by. So I think we will just get a little rain and maybe some big surf in the ocean.”
Well, Hurricane Arthur came up the East Coast and ran aground hard on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with hundred-mile-an-hour winds, then came our way, spinning along tuckered out. The weather forecast said there was about a 90 percent chance it would pass here well out in the Atlantic before ending in Nova Scotia, Canada. I crossed my fingers.
What we did get on Thursday night and Friday morning July 4 (effectively ruining several Independence Day events that day), was a warm, humid, tropical downpour that flooded the places that always flood in downpours. It also knocked a few branches off trees. Late in the morning, alarmingly, our power went out in the middle of a World Cub quarterfinal, but it came back on within 10 minutes, and after that we had patchy rain and the tide was a little high.
I thought it worrisome that a hurricane came by in early July. In my 55 years here I have never known a hurricane to come this early, even one that just sideswipes us as it goes past. But I couldn’t decide if this augured more hurricanes to come or if it meant that God was getting his fury out of his system early. Last hurricane season, we had no hurricanes at all.
“So,” I asked Rhone when it was all over, “what did you think of your first hurricane?”
We were sitting that Saturday morning out on an isolated part of Napeague’s beach, having a big picnic. We’d hoped for big waves. The sea was offering wavelets.
“I like that they name the hurricanes,” Rhone said. “We should name the earthquakes.”
“They’d name the first one after you,” his father said.