General Non-Fiction posted October 29, 2023 Chapters:  ...12 13 -14- 15... 

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As we grew older we spent more time across the brook

A chapter in the book A Particular Friendship

Cross the Brook

by Liz O'Neill

We've been watching Lizzy and her friends grow up with the brook behind their house where, they waded, skated, and enjoyed the brook. Now we watch how they find new adventures as they grow older.

Previously: Mother, Nike and I had spent the night at my friend Trudy’s house, remaining safe from the aftermath of a hurricane. There was danger of our house sliding into the brook behind our house. 


When the three of us ran upstairs to the bathroom, we gasped in unison.  In the exact spot Nike and I had been standing, the branches of fall-colored leaves were sticking right through the ceiling.


I've since written a poem about our hurricane experience as I remember it:

                                         The Lamp in the Storm 

 Do you remember, Ma,  It was about 9:00 pm, long after we were supposed to be

in bed   

But we were little then, using that old trick every little kid 

has ever used to stay up just a little later  

We were just getting a glass of water 

After all, what was the glass there for if it didn't want us to use it? 

You came and warned us as all Moms  do,

that you were going to turn out the light if we didn't get back in bed 

But we were little then, and said “don't shut the light out  

we'll hurry” 

But at that moment all the lights went out 

We began to cry  

and beg you to turn them back on 

but you said you didn't turn them out  

 then You assured us you'd be right back   

and you returned with a hurricane lamp.  

You hurried us down cellar   

I can still see us sitting, you, Nike and I huddled  

on our glider sled   

But the thing I remember the most

was the crack of the cannon at the circus  

and how it was my fault that we all had to leave  

because I was crying  

Was that because I was so brave  

that leading everyone  

down the cellar stairs as the crack of thunder 

brought the plaster down on my head   

and we saw the next morning a branch with leaves on it

sticking through our bathroom ceiling

in November 

How still the air was as Nike and I were being carried across the lawn

to a safer house,

for you told us later that the brook that we heard raging in all of  

 that stillness

was only five feet from our house

that you were so afraid 

the house would slide into the brook

But we were little then, and didn't know

there are streams that run deep and storms that rage in all of us 

 It is those times I wait in darkness

for the glimpse of that light of hope and  


that your hurricane lamp filled me with

and I don't feel so little 


The memory of that crack of thunder has stayed with me even to this day.  Thunder and lightning had not always affected me in a traumatic way. Now I have a lifelong case of PTSD.

At work if an angry patient gave me indication they were going to slam a door, as long as I could emotionally prepare for it, I was fine.  However, if someone slammed a door behind me, I was reduced to the reactions of a three-year-old again. That's how PTSD works.  


When it seemed to rain for days and there was nothing very interesting to do, we’d stand in the window and watch the rain pour down into the brook, which by the way, wasn’t as close to the house anymore.  

Mother made sure there was at least another fifteen feet of fill dumped in. When we watched the lightning strike the trees up on the hill across the brook, it still felt too close. I grew to hate the lightning and still do, because I know thunder will follow.  

It is no wonder that every time I hear thunder, I put my hands up to cover my head.  One time, one of the few times our father took us anywhere, we were at a circus, the cannon went off and that was it.  I was struck with terror again.  Everyone with us had to leave because I was dissolved to a bawling three-year-old, and of course it was my fault. 


One summer, I noticed the path of the air traffic for a not-too-distant airport had been altered.  When the helicopters, consistently checking for illegal crops, whirred above my head for about two weeks, I pretty well went over the emotional edge.


After two years, I was tiring of new PTSD incidents.  I began to put things together. I had long ago suspected I was in WWII in my most recent previous lifetime.

Where else would I have had the knowledge of the sound of bombs being dropped or surroundings being shelled, with planes buzzing overhead? Experiencing the stirring of my nerves with explosions equal to M-80’s in my wooded neighborhood enraged me.



Cross the Brook  

 With the brook’s banks swollen with dark, murky undulating, roaring currents, sometimes for days, we stayed away. 

When we could cross the brook, we would be found there in all seasons.  There was an abundance of different kinds of berries and Mother showed us all the good spots.  I concluded because I’d never caught poison ivy in all that berry hunting, that I wasn’t allergic to it.

So, when I was bragging, I felt compelled to dramatically demonstrate to everyone I was an exception who was not allergic to poison ivy by rolling in it to prove it.  
I had you going, didn’t I? I was not affected by it, nor have I ever shown signs of being allergic to it. 

Some might say, “Don’t hex it.”  

It’s kind of late for that as I sit here in my 76th going on 77th year of life. 

Strangely enough, when picking berries, we didn’t eat very many.  We each focused on filling our two small tin peanut butter pails.  

When Nike and I got back to the kitchen, Mother clapped and smiled saying, “You did it. I don’t see any berry juice on your faces. Well, let’s see what we’ve got here.” 

We became excited when she grabbed the metal colander and began rinsing a couple of handfuls of juicy blackcaps.  We were soon seated at the dining room table with a big bowl of berries covered with milk and sugar.  What was left over went into a precious pie.

When we weren’t berrying, we were chopping huge ferns to build a big fern house constructed of sticks lashed in some places with wild grapevines, covered with ferns.  I still love the sight of ferns, I have a whole backyard full of them now. 






The brook shaped us, united us, and filled our days with enjoyment. It becomes the setting which sculpts the characters and provides a plethora of plots.

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