The lightning slivered across the damson sky. No rain; just roiling cloud and temporary silence, like a monochrome movie of purpling hues, its colour muted, eloquent, punctuated with stabs of light. We watched from the naya contentedly, as the performance unrolled before us. Across the valley, where the village crouched encircled by looming mountains, the storm wrought its spectacular display. It rolled around the basin from peak to peak, silent shards of electricity, impressive crescendos of noise following; the Ringmaster thundering the Greatest Show on Earth. My sister, smiling and relaxed, turned to me.
“I love coming out here and watching it. Amazing, isn’t it?”
I nodded. These complex Spanish pyrotechnics were totally unlike our moody English storms.
“Awesome,” I responded. I wasn’t inclined to talk. I just wanted to watch.
“I used to be terrified of storms,” she remarked, “until Mum took me outside in one.”
As she spoke, a stab of memory struck me.
“But that was me!” I cried.
She looked at me, confused, convinced it was Mum. I, several years older than her, was often given the responsibility of care, my sisterly love coming a poor second. Was this memory treasured as a daughter’s birthright, polished with remembrance whenever storms came? Memory can play tricks. Had it with me? My eyes were no longer drawn by the stormy display; they were turned inward, looking at the past.
A heavy storm is howling. My sister, a toddler, is screaming, terrified. Mum looks helplessly at me.
“What can I do?” she asks, desperately.
To the surprise of us both, I have an answer.
“Take her outside. Show her it’s beautiful.”
She hesitates, and I see the problem. She is afraid of storms herself. Does she speak, or do I pluck the words from the air where they are hanging between us?
“We might get struck by lightning.”
The reply comes with an authority I don’t have.
Fear and hope rage within her. The air around us sparks with possibility; and after a short struggle, love overcomes fear. She takes my sister’s hand and together they go outside….
Mum never quite lost her fear of storms, though she, too, often sat on my sister’s naya in Spain, watching the Ringmaster at work.
“You’re right,” I admitted, “It was her. I thought it was me.”
I left it at that, polishing my own shining memory; the memory of a Mother’s courage.
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