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Front Porch: Nature offers best fireworks

Thousands of folks across the area ooohed and aahed over fantastic fireworks displays last night. But while I enjoy the bang, flash and dazzle of pyrotechnics, they really can’t compare to what Mother Nature has to offer.

I am a thunderstorm junkie. And summer is my season.

The minute the air grows heavy and the clouds darken, I rush around the house, opening windows and pulling up the blinds. I eagerly scan the skies for the first brilliant zigzag of lightning.

I love it all. The bone-rattling roll of thunder, the radiant arcs of electricity that split the sky and the heavy rain that follows.

A few weeks ago, my youngest son, Sam, and I got caught in a terrific storm on our way home from the opening night of “Mary Poppins” at the INB Performing Arts Center.

Rain fell in blinding sheets and the sky crackled with electricity.

“Cool!” said Sam.

The poor visibility made our drive home a bit more challenging than I’d prefer, but I couldn’t help but exult with Sam at every bang, every crash and every sky-illuminating flash.

“Did you see that one!?” I yelled.

Now, I’m no adrenaline-seeking daredevil. In fact, some might find my love of stormy weather out of keeping with my character.

After all, I slept with a nightlight well into second grade.

I was also terrified to be left alone. When my dad left me in the car at the store, I was convinced he was never coming back. When I went to my first summer camp, I was positive my parents would move and not tell me. I pictured myself standing alone at the campground after all the other parents had come and fetched their children. I imagined having to go live with the scary camp director who urged me to dive off the high dive, even though I KNEW I couldn’t touch the bottom of Silver Lake.

I still shun roller coasters and you won’t catch me sky-diving or bungee-jumping.

But I’ve never found thunder and lightning frightening. Consequently, neither have any of my four sons.

One of the wildest storms I can remember occurred when I was immensely pregnant with Sam. It was a hot August night and the heat and humidity left me miserable.

Sleep eluded me as I tossed and turned. And then I heard it – the distant rumble of an approaching storm. I threw back the covers and padded out to the deck.

My swollen ankles held steady as lightning flashed across the night sky. The air felt as expectant as I was. My bare feet felt the rumble of thunder vibrating through the slats of our wooden deck.

And then – the rain came. Heavy and warm, it washed across my brow and drenched my cotton nightgown.

Just a taste wasn’t enough. Down the stairs I went, out into the rain-drenched lawn. As thunderbolts split the sky, I lifted my arms and spun in slow circles. Never has a rain felt more refreshing.

“Are you alright?” Derek called from the deck.

I daresay he was worried at what the neighbors might think should they peek over the fence and see his pregnant wife dancing in the rain in her nightgown at 2 a.m.

He fetched a towel and I dried off and slipped back into bed. I quickly fell asleep to the comforting sound of receding thunder.

Perhaps that’s why none of my children is afraid of thunderstorms – my enjoyment was transmitted in utero.

All I know is when Sam and I arrived home after the play, every window was open – every blind raised and all the lights in the house, turned off. Our oldest son was over doing laundry and the five of us sat in the living room watching the spectacular light show.

We sipped mugs of marshmallow-topped cocoa and cheered when lightning lit up the room. Our cats stayed nearby, a little anxious, but not obnoxiously fearful as some animals can be.

Soon the storm moved on leaving behind brimming puddles, a few strewn branches and a small group of happy fans.

Thunderstorms speak to me in ways I can’t explain. And all the flash and bang of man-made pyrotechnics can’t hold a Roman candle to Mother Nature’s fireworks.

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at columnists. Follow her on Twitter at #!/cindyhval