When I was little, I wasn’t scared of tornadoes.
My Dad always said, “If God’s going to go to all the trouble of sending a tornado after you…” and I actually don’t remember the exact words of what came after that, but the idea was, just give up. If God wants you to die in a tornado and you survive that tornado, he’ll send another tornado. Or a car wreck. Or a brown recluse spider.
I found that profoundly comforting when I was a child and beyond, but I’m sure my Dad’s calm helped, too. (Note to self: try not to freak out ENTIRELY as you’re fleeing your own home, your child in tow, to your parents’ basement across town. When I said, “Get in the car right now!” I’m pretty sure I had the same intonation & volume as “You can’t handle the truth!”)
Back in the 70s, there were watches and warnings pretty much all the time, it seemed, from March through September. We ignored watches entirely, and only grew concerned about warnings if the sky turned green.
Dad and I used to stand in our garage and watch sheets of rain come across the open field northeast of our house. He was probably smoking a pipe. I was probably petting Wooly and Daisy (the best dogs ever in the history of the world).
I now note several problems with Dad’s tornado wisdom.
1. Even if my belief in God had not changed, OH MY GOD. Really? I’m a good Baptist girl and God might just, out of pretty much fucking nowhere, send a tornado to kill me? And I can’t get away no matter what?
2. My belief in God has changed. I have a kind of wacked-out sort of X-Files Mulder/Scully hybrid of beliefs. As in:
a. I want to believe.
b. Maybe God could steer tornadoes in a pinch, but tends not to.
3. The basically impossibly huge question of how a loving God could allow horrible things to happen. (I’m not going to solve that here. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)
When I lived in the second of a series of three trailers I called home as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University, I began to have a recurring nightmare about tornadoes. In it, I would wake up in the middle of a horrible storm, feel the trailer begin to shake, watch the walls suck inward, watch the roof blow away, and then try to hold onto my bed to keep from getting sucked into the sky. Then I would wake up.
I suspect this had to do with being in miscellaneous precarious emotional situations in those years. And also living in a trailer. “God’s bowling alleys,” my brother always called trailer parks.
(So, o.k. What is it with men in my family and tornadoes?)
But during one actual tornado warning, I stayed in Trailer #1 and announced to God, “I’ll just die here with my cats, thank you.” Very green sky. Large branches flying by the window. Trailer rocking in real life, not the dream world. (Oh, that girl. I could just smack my 21-year-old self!)
I think, over the years, I’ve just grown less and less fatalistic. Certainly less suicidal! It is also possible my frontal lobe has developed some.
And then having a husband I love and I son I am OVER THE MOON ABOUT makes storms really stressful.
We’ve had a wacky weather week in Wisconsin. More storms coming.
Is it possible, in what I now called the land of “Zen Baptist” on my faith journey, to take wise precautions and yet be at peace about whatever comes?
Sure hope so.
Because what comforted me as a child, comforts me not at all right now.
Here’s what fun about social media. Someone named Kevin posted this on Channel 3000’s Facebook page. The comments are hilarious. Including: “it’s sunny in beloit” and a whole thread of “don’t take pictures while you’re driving” and “it’s not a tornado.”
So. Probably not a tornado. (No one actually said it was.) And also not my picture. But gracious. I wouldn’t mind some boring weather.
Two weeks after my first husband and I moved into a trailer in Cheraw, SC, down the street from his job, a tornado blew the one right beside us completely over onto its side. The local radio station was blasting Blondie’s “Raptured” at 3:15 AM while we were attempting to find a weather report. In the meantime, our trailer was rocking and swaying off of its foundation at 45 degree angles. I have often joked that it was either that tornado or the 13 Jack and Cokes I had the subsequent weekend that resulted in my son being born that following November…LOL…That was January of 1981.
We also survived the SC tornadoes of March 1984 which pretty much wiped McColl, SC off of the map for a while. One of the local shopping centers in Bennettsville was totally destroyed. My husband had people telling him at work that houses at Lakeside in Bennettsville where totally gone. His family lived two streets over from Lakeshore Drive so he came home early and we attempted to make the trek from Cheraw, SC to Bennettsville, usually a 30 minute drive. That day it took us over three hours to make it.
When we were driving by what was left of the shopping center, piles of insulation, twisted metal, and broken glass shards remained where merely the day before CVS, Ace Hardware, and a Roses Dept. store stood. All I could do was sob as we realized how bad it really was. The Willie Nelson and Julio Iglasias song “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” was playing on the local radio station. I still get goose pimples to this day whenever I hear that song.
My in laws were fine and so were my parents who were without elctricity for over a week. One of my best friends, Stephenie McDuffie, her husband Robbie, and son Timmy lived in the apartment complex right across from the shopping center. They had to move out of their apartment. Stephenie was eight months pregnant at the time and her doctor was on standby in case she delivered her baby early. This was March 28th. Brad formally entered the world on April 20th.
March 30, 1984, two days after the SC tornadoes, my now ex husband was arrested for simple possession of marijuana down at the boat ramp on the Pee Dee River in Cheraw. He didn’t bother to inform me. My next door neighbor at the time whose husband was a police officer in Cheraw, did. Thus began the demise of my life as I currently knew it. Within two years I was single and raising my son alone.
You’ve got some intense tornado stories! (And I’ve said this before–but you really should start blogging–you’ve got a lot of stories that need telling.)
Hi.. I lived in the trailer that got blown over on its side in Cheraw.SC 1981. We all survived A very frightening way to wake up. I will never forget the sound of the tornado as it was approaching us and thinking its going to hit us just as my bedroom window busted open. Next thng I knew, I was standing upright with my baby in my arm and a baby bottle in the other. , and searching for my other daughter who had come to our bed that night. She was under the mattress, sleeping.. My son and brother were in the next room shouting out to see if we were ok. My husband and brother got out by a window, and called 911.. It had been windy all day, and I had been feeling like something bad was about to happen. My brother came over that night and stayed the night.I later joked to him that he just couldn’t miss out on anything.the tall pines in front of our home were snapped in two, and the next trailer the tornado hit was blown all to pieces. Lucky to be alive.
Wow! Glad everyone was ok–what an amazing story!