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When the Word of the Day is "Tornado"

3 years ago

1148 words

Photo: Two little boys, pausing from jumping on the bed, to look at the pretty colors of the radar. I’m sure ya’ll can read that text: “Tornado warning for Worcester County…” Yeah, that’s the only part I could pay attention to.


I had one of those funny mothering days yesterday where I realized that my boys are understanding way more about the world around them than I realized. Major is picking up on the things he hears on television and on radio, which is awesome and scary at the same time. Usually, it’s advertisements aimed directly at him: “Mommy! There is place called Water Country and you can go there when it’s hot and they have water.” But he’s increasingly noticing stuff on the news: “Why is that tree on fire?” Oh Lordy…

Well, it culminated in a pretty big moment yesterday. We’d just returned from a run to Wegmans, I’d gotten the groceries in the house and put away, and the boys were settled into some sandwiches and Sesame Street. I’d left my purse and phone in the car, so I went back out to go get them. When I got there, my phone was making a horrible and screeching sound. “Extreme alert!” It had on the screen. “Tornado Warning has been issued for your area.”

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look at your phone and it’s telling you something and you sort of scowl at it? I did that. I was like, what in the hell are you even talking about? I looked up at the sky toward the western horizon and it was black. Thanks, phone!

I ran back in the house and turned on my favorite local weather man. The storm was farther off than the clouds made it appear, so I settled into my own lunch and watched the radar. They warned people in the direct path to get into a safe location, but the storm hadn’t reached us yet, so I decided to wait and watch.

That’s when the National Broadcast System interrupted my DVR’d Sesame Street.

My boys have heard the NBS buzz on many occasions. Sometimes they cover their ears. Other times they listen and laugh. When the buzzing stopped, though, Major uncovered his ears just in time to hear the message. “The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado warning for the following Massachusetts counties…”

Major: “Oh! Oh no! There is a tornado coming. A tornado!”

Minor: “A what? A torna–”

Major: “A tornado! It’s really bad! It spins and it’s big and it’s bad!”

Minor: “Oh no! There’s a tornado coming!” 

I don’t really know where my eldest learned about tornadoes. I also don’t know when he figured out that the television is more than an entertainment box, but also an information box. What I do know is that, right at that moment, I had two little boys who were pretty ready to panic.

Now, I’m not going to lie: Tornadoes scare me, too. I’m sure they scare everyone in a way, but I feel like they are rarities enough in my life that I take them pretty seriously. Besides, being a person responsible for two little people, not to mention this lovely old house, I wasn’t necessarily worried about a twister, but the other stuff that comes with storms. Like lightning damage, a fallen limb, some broken windows… etc.

Oh yeah, children.

“Look, we are ok. Everything is ok. There is no tornado here right now, that warning is just to tell us that there might be one. There is no reason to panic.”

Minor, mimicking: “There is no reason to… panic?”

Me: “Nope. No reason to panic. If it looks like the storm is getting really bad, I will pick you up and we will go to the basement. The basement is a safe space to be in the house if a tornado happens.”

Major: “And you’ll come with us?” (The basement is a scary place in the eyes of two little boys.)

Me: “Of course I will! I want to be safe, too!”

My little pep talk and the allure of Elmo’s return lulled them back into a feeling of security. They got back to watching the television and I went on watching the sky. The clouds came, the thunder boomed, the lightning struck and the wind, yeah, it did some stuff that I haven’t seen before. Trees whipped in funky directions. There were a few tense moments when I thought we were going to have to go.

Mid-western readers are probably like, you should have been in the basement! You’re right, in hindsight. But you gotta understand that our basement isn’t finished, isn’t really childproof, and certainly isn’t comfortable. Bringing them down there would have only heightened their anxiousness and it would have limited my ability to get information about the progression of the storm. So I hesitated, which wasn’t harmful this time around, but I recognize probably could have been.

As the first one passed and the second one came through, I found myself upstairs where I could get a good view of the horizon and the television at the same time. Little boys weren’t far behind. They made excuses (“I really want my pj pants”) at first, but really they wanted to stay close. I don’t blame them. They ended up under blankets on the “big bed” and really enjoyed themselves.

I think the coolest thing about all of this is that the boys never really panicked. After our pep-talk in the beginning, the boys were calm, asking questions, watching the weatherman, wondering what would happen next. Of course,  when the skies cleared and the sun came back out, the boys still told me that a tornado was on its way. “Don’t go and grill, Mama! There is a tornado outside!”

I had to explain…many times… How is it that they hear the National Weather Service as clear as a bell, but they can’t hear me??

Today? Little boys played “tornado” all morning. Little matchbox cars flying through the air. When we played outside, they ran around with their arms out, twirling around, saying they were stuck in a tornado.

I wanted to tell them that tornadoes are serious things. Then again, I think this is how they best digest the seriousness they encounter in life. Childhood, even when brushing up against the rare and scary, is a magical thing.

Two powerful storms, no damage, thank the good Lord. There was damage all over the area, but we were very fortunate. Dinner was even on time, which was a bit of a miracle. So summer continues as usual, though with much less humidity! What a plus!

I hope that you, too, enjoy a break from the stifling heat, Dear Reader. Hopefully, though, with a smoother transition than we had.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

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