Furniture and Flashlights

Sometimes memories are sparked – quite literally – by nature.

Furniture and flashlights. That’s what I think about when I see lightning and hear the crashing thunder. My earliest memory is of me kicking my tiny feet in my crib, blinded by the bolts as thunder smacked against the window pane. The dark room was illuminated over and over again. For years I thought I was recalling a dream, but my parents assured me it was very real. I was fascinated by storms, and I still am. But there came a time when it frightened me.

A lot of my love for nature, and way of thinking, came from my grandfather. He was born into extreme poverty and fought hard to grow his own business; a furniture store that sold “mark down” furniture to those who were hard on their luck. (If you are familiar with the HGTV series “Home Town” based in Laurel, MS….that is the old Smith Furniture store, Papa’s store.)

After returning from his work and having our family dinner we would take nightly walks together, me chattering away as children do, and Papa listening in patient amusement. He taught me about the stars. He took me fishing, though I admit it took only one grandaddy long leg creeping towards me on an old Mississippi log to keep me from going back! We planted trees and hiked through woods. But it was the nightly walks I most looked forward to.

I can remember walking with him one night, watching the lightning in the distance. The air was hot and sticky, and the lightning was very far away, so far that although it was brilliant the thunder was barely a low rumble, and a long time coming. I was nervous, but Papa kept walking. “It’s just God moving his furniture around,” he said casually, strolling with his large but gentle hands tucked into his pants pockets.

“What about the lightning?” I asked, face turned to him but side-eyeing the flashes down the street.

“What do you think it is?” I remember his voice being deep and slightly rough, like he was speaking directly from his chest.

I considered the question for a moment. “I think it’s the angels holding flashlights because it’s dark and He can’t see.”

Papa smiled and agreed. We continued our walk. I kept my eyes to the heavens, wondering why God didn’t ask for help with moving the furniture around.

We try to find explanations for the things that scare us. Sometimes those explanations are meant to ward away the evil we conjure in our minds. Sometimes it is nothing more than a security blanket.

Papa died shortly before my sixteenth birthday. His death was the first to really affect me. He was larger than life, gruff, but an extraordinarily generous person. I couldn’t fathom that exceptional life force leaving me.

When the first thunderstorm came after his death, I walked outside and listened. And I did what we all do. I took comfort in the fact that God now had a strong, determined, ex-furniture store owner by his side.

Just to help him shift things around a bit.


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