We visited Irma last May. She was very hospitable.
Like most Italian ladies she made sure we were well fed and cared for while in her home. She’s always been that way. I remember as a little girl loving to visit Irma because she’d let my siblings and I have anything we asked for. Knowing this we asked for a lot. When her sons asked for the same things, she would say, “No”. She always made us feel special!
Irma is the second white-haired lady on the left, tucked between my mother and my cousin, Robert.
My only Italian Aunt that I really know, my Aunt Irma has always had the ability to make me and all those around her, laugh.
She is both a tough and gracious lady. Accepting the most tragic circumstances in her life with a strength that can only come from faith. In spite of all that she’s been through she remains her joyful and somewhat sarcastic self. She is one of my favorites.
Imagine my disappointment when “Irma” came to visit Florida and people were boarding up their houses and running as far away from her as they could get. It was hurtful to me. She was labeled a monster. Who would want their name associated with something like that?
According to “Why We Name the Storms,” an online site, “Some of the first recorded hurricanes were named after the saint’s day on which the storm occurred. Before the end of the 19th century, an Australian meteorologist began giving hurricanes female names, and the practice eventually took hold amongst the Army and Navy in World War II.” It was made official policy in 1953.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Time magazine tells us that a woman, ironically, named Roxcy Bolton, wrote a letter to the National Hurricane Center in Miami asking them to “cease and desist” from using female names to describe hurricanes. She even visited the National Hurricane Center and told weather experts that storms should also be called “himicanes”.
Though we still call them “hurricanes”, I’m sure Roxcy was very pleased when, in 1979, the agency finally changed its course and came up with Hurricane Bob. It’s interesting to note that a 2014 study found hurricanes named after women have consistently been deadlier than the ones named after men. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I don’t think a hurricane named “Bob” would scare me quite as much as a hurricane named “Carla”.
In October of 1995, the month and year of my 36th birthday, there was a Hurricane Roxanne. She was erratic, to say the least. A Category 3 storm, with winds at 111 – 129 mph. She bounced around the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico for two full weeks. She obviously couldn’t make up her mind, starting out as a tropical storm, then upgrading to a hurricane, weakening again to a tropical storm, then back to a hurricane before finally giving up her life just offshore of Vera Cruz. She was a mess.
Aside from the name, I can relate to this storm in more ways than I care to mention, so I’m okay with sharing my name with her. Anyone who knows me would agree that we are somewhat alike. Hurricane Irma and my Irma, not so much.
While I’m on the subject, I have a confession to make.
This may sound weird but remember I am from New Jersey. I like hurricanes. It’s true! Of course, nobody likes the devastation and I have been praying for those without power or in worse circumstances. I have to admit though, experiencing a hurricane is kind of cool. In New Jersey, I loved blizzards. They were kind of cozy to me. I think of hurricanes the same way, kind of ‘rainy’ blizzards.
We do the same kind of preparations, making sure we have plenty of food and water, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. But the best part of hurricanes and blizzards are the people. Hurricanes and their northern winter counterparts, somehow bring out the best in people. Maybe it’s because we’re all in the same mess together. Maybe it’s God’s grace. Any way you look at it, people pull together in tragedy and make it a triumph of the human spirit. It really is a very big deal!