So, it’s a snugglely night in rainy western Oregon. The family had a hearty stew for dinner and nestle on the couch, watching television. Mom and Dad, my cousins, and two older boys, one in high school and another in junior high, and two little kids, the second part of the family, one of them is a little girl. Our pathways will cross in the most unexpected way. In the mid-1990s, I’ll head to Camp Willowa, at a writers camp called Fish Trap. I head out for a walk, before seven in the morning. On my way back, there is a beautiful child on the road with me. There are only the two of us, and we begin to talk, I’m from one state, she is from another, although she has relatives in my state. “That’s interesting,” I’m thinking. She is off to get a cup of coffee for her dad and she missed the turn. “I’ll show you,” I say. “It’s just on this road.” We compare notes on distant relatives, when some of the names begin to sound familiar. “Wait a minute,” I say, “Is your dad Mike?” She looks at me as if I have three heads. It’s a little unnerving for us both. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m Barb,” I explain, “I’m your dad’s cousin.” Sure enough, we spend bits of the weekend together. Mike’s mom and dad are there, and all the brothers, a singularly splendid time.
But whom I really want to talk about is the number two son, the middle schooler. He’s the wanderer and the inventor, and a few things in school interest him, but not as many as his dad would like. That stormy night, our little guy is exploring, his room, the kitchen, the living room, the garage. Just in the middle of a great part of the television show, there is an horrendous bang, and all the lights go out, like the bang you hear when a squirrel gets tangled up in a substation. The neighbors still have lights, but the family is sitting in pitch black, wondering what in the heck to do next. Number 2 Son blasts in the living room door, he’s disheveled and recovering from the fright of his life:
“Dad!,” he shouts, “I made lightning!”