Skip to page content
Return to Top


Debby Mountjoy


We moved around a lot when I was growing up. I would just start getting used to a place when it was time to pack our bags and move on. In 1961, when I was six years old, we happened to end up in Houston, Texas. That was the same year Hurricane Carla visited the Texas Coast. Carla was a category four hurricane and still ranks in the top 10 worst storms to hit a populated area. The rain, wind, and destruction went on for a couple of days, but I only remember one night.
After preparing my favorite dinner, my mother got ready to go to work. She had prepared spaghetti and garlic bread. I ate my spaghetti tow or three strands at a time. I would start out slowly, and then get little faster as I sucked the strands though a tiny hole in my mouth. The result was small plops of sauce landing on various parts of my face. I think my sister taught me this wonderful trick. Mom gently wiped my face and starting putting her coat on. I went into a full panic. My sister and Dad were staying, but I was dangerously close to tears at the thought of my Mom leaving. She worked for the American Red Cross and was called in to help. I though she should stay home and protect me. When she hugged me, I tried to absorb the Mom smell and never forget it. It was a combination of Chanel #5, cigarette smoke, and Prell shampoo. She promised to be home soon and the she was gone.
Trying to be a big girl, I did not start to cry. I dramatically positioned myself and my stuffed monkey on the couch and watched Gunsmoke. About an hour later, the lights went out in the house. The earlier panic returned. My Dad told me to go to bed and if I would go to sleep, everything would be ok in the morning. I loved my Dad, but I did not believe him. My mom and dad were both alcoholics, but at that time, I didn’t know my Mother was a drinker, just my Dad. He wasn’t mean or abusive, just a drunk. He came in and out of our lives and even at six years old, I knew I could not depend on him. I went to bed.
It was so dark. The wind made terrible sounds outside my window. My bedroom door was open and I could see the red glow of my father’s cigarette. I know that I was terrified, but did not call out to my Dad. I kept thinking that my Mother was outside in the storm and she was never coming back. I don’t know why I did not seek out my sister or crawl in bed with her. She was eight years older than me and was my caretaker and best friend. I guess I was still trying to be a big girl. I cried myself to sleep after what seemed to me an eternity.
When I woke up the next morning, the sun was shining and I could smell bacon frying. The hurricane was gone. I ran into the kitchen and saw my Dad at the stove. He told me Mom was ok, would be home soon, but I had my doubts. I ran outside to wait for her and that when I saw the most amazing sights of my life. As far as I could see, my six year old brain registered a gazillion frogs. I started laughing and chasing my new found friends. I wanted to catch one and keep it as a pet. The gooey green frogs kept slipping from my fingers as I kept slipping into the muddy pond that had been our front yard. I was covered in mud, giggling as only a six year old can when my Mother turned into the driveway. She got out of the car, gently wiped my face and all was right in the world.