Last night, we got a severe thunderstorm warning, and the trees went from merely shifting in the wind to thrashing. We had heard the reports of golf-ball-sized hail, and my husband and I had already pushed aside all the potting soil and plastic buckets and garden gloves to make room in the garage for the second car to come inside (using a two-car garage for two cars—what a novel idea).
Then, the tornado watch went to tornado warning—a twister had touched down in our area, and the weatherman said to take cover.
I live in the mountains, where you’re not “supposed” to get tornadoes, but I grew up in the Midwest—farm fields and flat land. My hometown was a village of under 4,000 where a noon siren (which we called the “noon whistle") also blared as a tornado warning. You didn’t have to own a television or radio to know a twister was swirling toward the town. If it was not noon, and you heard that siren, you knew to take cover.
I didn’t grow up in a house with a basement, but the house next to ours had one, and whenever a warning came, we descended into the dank and dark space. I should clarify: my mother, my sister, and I descended. My father sat in our porch (despite our begging him to join us) and watched the sky, always sure nothing would happen.
I still don’t live in a house with a basement. And my father still loves to watch a storm. Last night, because my parents were visiting for the weekend, they were here to help strategize. Well, first I had to get my father from our front porch, where he was seated comfortably watching the skies startled with light.
“You have to come in,” I said. Fortunately, I have more sway now than I did when I was 10.
He came inside, but as we began to ready the most interior part of our house—a first-floor hallway that is surrounded by rooms—my father sat down in our sunroom instead to watch the stormy show. I didn’t press my luck further: Inside was at least better than outside.
“Tell us if it gets still out there,” I said to my father. At least he could be our lookout.
Into the hallway, the rest of us dragged some pillows and two dog mats (and the dogs). My husband got us some helmets, in case it got bad.
I don’t remember ever being scared as a kid, even when I should have, even when the nearby town of Xenia got flattened by twisters. Having my loved ones with me always made me feel safe, in a way that it shouldn’t have, but did anyway. Last night, I could have been a kid all over again: I did my homework while I waited it out on the floor. My mother and husband came in and out of the hallway. And my father stared at the western sky, in awe of the turbulent landscape. He was sure that the darkness would roll right over us, and sure our luck had not run out, even if it should have.