The Tornado

We don’t have a dog. That fact, in and of itself, isn’t interesting, but I was sitting on a dog pillow. We got the dog pillow from my mom, who also doesn’t have a dog. Its origin is unknown to me, but the dog pillow has lived a dog-free life in two dog-free homes – first hers, now mine.

We do not, however, live in a creature free home. We live with creatures who slobber, disobey, destroy books and the occasional shoe, and sometimes don’t make it to their designated potty area.

We have three sons.

We also have two cats and, up until a day before the dog pillow night, a parakeet who died inexplicably.

When the tornado sirens sounded, and our phones started shrieking with emergency notifications, I rushed the boys to the basement bathroom while my husband ran upstairs to get the two cats. He came down a few seconds later, enduring only a few cat scratches in the process, and we closed the bathroom door. I quickly realized that if I had to be trapped in a tiny bathroom for an unknown amount of time, especially after receiving a “TAKE COVER. YOU ARE IN A LIFE-THREATENING SITUATION” phone alert, I wanted to be slightly more prepared. I said, “Everyone stay calm. I’ll be right back.”

It’s hard for anyone to stay calm when the person screaming STAY CALM is actually red-faced, frantic, slightly squeaky, and in life-saving mode.

Even the cats look traumatized by my countenance.

I ran through the house quickly trying to grab things that sent the message “We’re not going to die, I’m almost certain.”

I grabbed one coloring book, one box of crayons, one cup of water, and the Dog Bed of Unknown Origin. I rushed back to the bathroom to more alerts warning me to “TAKE COVER. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION POSSIBLE.”

At least I had thought to get a glass of water. When homes are destroyed, you don’t have access to clean water, you know. The good news is I had one whole Tervis Tumbler full of water for five people and two cats.

My husband, who happened to come home from work early that day, was met at the door by a wife screaming things about a massive storm coming, and They’re saying it’ll cause multiple tornadoes, and Do you think my parents’ basement is safer than ours, and Maybe we should just load up the boys and drive to Arkansas or somewhere far away because there’satornadocomingandwedon’twanttodie. To really bring my message home I held up the phone to his wide eyes and said LOOK AT ALL THE RED, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP.

He remained annoyingly calm and assured me Our house is safe, and Yes, Hunny, I do see all the red, and Let’s get your car in the garage in case there’s hail.

I huffed off and did what any self-respecting, emotionally mature, 32-year-old woman would do after an infuriating conversation with her husband: I called my mother.

She was no help either. Well, Sweetie, I’m certainly not going to tell you to stay home if you feel you need to leave, but I can tell you that we’re staying here, and you’re welcome to come ride it out in our basement if you feel safer at our house. I’ve got to run. I have stew on the stove.

I wasn’t sure what kind of sick, twisted world I was finding myself in where MASSIVE TORNADOES WERE COMING that could KILL US ALL and everyone was so calm.

But at least the damn car and stew would be safe.

Apparently my storm-induced frenetic behavior is a genetic gift. I grew up listening to stories of my grandmother hiding with her children under a massive desk during bad thunderstorms singing hymns.

Since my husband and mother were engaging in the deranged behavior of calm normalcy, I mustered all of the energy I could from my rightly-paranoid, very southern, deceased grandmother (who for the record, did not die in a storm) and prepared for the inevitable: destruction of life and home.

Any southern woman knows that in times of crisis the most effective coping mechanisms are to clean and cook.

Within an hour, my house was spotless, sparkling clean (even the toilets) and dinner was in the oven.

We ate dinner early and worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Every five minutes or so I asked my husband to check the radar, and every time he patiently reached for his phone I hissed Nevermind, you’re taking too long, I’ll just do it myselffff.

Miraculously, and to my great surprise, the Life-threatening Radar Red (trademark pending) was shrinking.

I told you, hunny. Nothing to worry about.

I shot him a look that said “TAKE COVER, ANGRY WIFE AHEAD” so he quickly started loading the dinner dishes into the dishwasher.

And then, sirens.

I gave him my very best, “I told you so but I’m not going to be too hard on you because our lives are now officially in danger, and I don’t want to be too mean” face and told the boys to go quickly to the basement.

So there we sat on the dog pillow, all of us huddled in a small bathroom, phones beeping, for 30 minutes until the warning was over, and we could leave the bathroom.

In a shocking turn of events, my anxiety-ridden mind betrayed me, and we were never in any real danger.

For hours, my social media feeds were full of friends reporting on their tornado warning coping techniques. To my great surprise, no one had plans involving frenzied cleaning.

I have so much to teach people.

Some huddled in basement bathrooms with their kids, using pots as makeshift helmets. They keep a bag packed with spare clothes, shoes, and money and grab their IDs when the alarms sound. Actual emergency plans apparently include less panic and crayons and more bottled water and foresight.

Several other friends talked about standing on their porches watching the tornado pass their homes in some sort of thrill-seeking (read: INSANE) spectator sport.

My mom said her stew was delicious.

I drove my hail-damage-free car to a doctor’s appointment this week. I think you might struggle with anxiety. With insight like that, it’s no wonder medical school costs so much.

Speaking of medical school, does barometric pressure kill parakeets?