Tornado Season & What Really Matters

I live in the Midwestern United States.  We are known for corn fields, pig farms, a low-ish cost of living, friendly folks and tornadoes.  The tragic and unfortunate events in Oklahoma lately underscore the season. 

I hate tornadoes.  While certain folks might hear the tornado siren and run for the basement, flashlight in hand (me)…  others hear that same siren and jump into a vehicle that they will then use to CHASE said tornado in hopes of… okay, I honestly have no idea why they do it, but they do.  At any rate, I guarantee you that I’ll never be one to willingly put myself in a tornado’s path.
Sidebar: I do really like the movie Twister, but only if I’m watching it at home in maybe December.
Tom (my almost five year old) is learning about weather in a very high-level kind of way at pre-school.  Mostly they talk about the seasons and rainbows and how precipitation impacts plant growth – that sort of thing.  It was almost all he knew about weather until recently.  We are very careful that our boys don’t watch the news.  There is just too much stuff that they are too young to see and/or understand.  This has especially applied when it comes to violent crime and weather disasters.  So even though we had kept the lid on the true horrors of the tornado season, he got the info another way.  One of his little friends ended up telling him about tornadoes at school, and Tom became worried.  Really worried.  After that, every crack of thunder, every rain shower, every bleep of radar coming from the tv or radio – became a panicky moment for Tom. 
I found a bunch of books for children that had been written about tornadoes and we spent an evening reading all the bits that I thought might help him better understand and hopefully put him at ease.  We listened to the weather radio and I explained how important it was to be prepared and to act quickly in the event of a real tornado.  It seemed to help.  He drew a picture to show what he’d learned.  We even created a ‘nest’ of sorts under our basement stairs which all four of us can fit into.  He tried it out and was satisfied that we could shelter there if needed.  We added a gallon of drinking water, some flashlights and a first aid kit for good measure.  This calmed Tom down a lot.
Then, we went on vacation. 
Every year, we drive (about 500 miles southeast) to my Grandma’s house.  She lives on a sweet, simple little farm with my bachelor uncle.  They raise cows and plant row crops.  They have big gardens and put up a large percentage of their own food.  Going there for a few days every year is the perfect get-away for me.  My usual life is busy and crazy and cram-packed with stuff.  Going to Grandma’s is like a breath of fresh air.  Life (for those few days) slows down and brings me a renewal of sorts which helps me focus on the ones I love and the things that matter.
Tom on vacation
This year, after a lovely visit with the family on the farm, we headed back home – stopping for a few days in St Louis on our way back to break up the trip.  We had a lot of fun there – children’s museum, science center, planetarium, shopping, exploring parks etc. 

Huck and I at Grandma's house

On one particular night I was giving a bath to the boys at the hotel.  Hubby was watching the weather on TV as some bad storms were brewing in the area.  He was watching the weather alerts carefully just in case we needed to seek shelter.  As I was washing Tom’s and Huck’s hair and they were splashing each other and playing with plastic dinosaurs, I remarked to Hubby that there must be a party across the hall - as people outside our room were being unusually loud.
It wasn’t much later - we were all snug in our PJs - when the sirens began to wail.  I grabbed Tom’s hand and told him we were going to the hallway.  Tom - clutching his fuzzy bunny “Charlie” tightly, nervously accompanied me to the door.  Hubby had Huck in his arms and they were right behind us.  Our room was on the ground floor and we knew our best bet for safety would be the hallway directly in front of our room.
Evidently, that had also been the first thought of every other hotel occupant that night, as when we tumbled/rushed through our door; we saw that the entire hallway was lined with maybe a hundred folks also seeking shelter – and most of them staring at us.  Clearly they had been there a while and none (or at least very few) of them were wearing their pajamas.  It turned out we were in a different county than we’d thought we were, and we had been under a tornado warning for some time without realizing it.  The ‘party’ I’d heard outside our hotel room had in fact been a bunch of nervous folks hunkering down in hopes that the storm would blow over.
Huck was oblivious to any danger.  He’s not quite two and was excited to be doing something different.  He giggled and played peek-a-boo with his Daddy and sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ to anyone who would listen.  Meanwhile, I tried to console Tom.  He was beside himself with worry and was clutching onto both me and Charlie the stuffed rabbit for dear life.  “I don’t like this at all!” he kept telling me over and over.  I didn’t like it either.  We prayed together and that seemed to help him.  After a while, the hotel staff sent someone to tell us the warning had expired and we could go back to our rooms.
We did exactly that, very thankful that ours was only a scare and nothing serious.  After all the excitement, the boys both required more bedtime stories than usual and some extra snuggles – both of which we were happy to provide.  Eventually we all settled down and slept.  We were lucky and blessed.  That same night, a cluster of storms had hit Oklahoma for the second time in less than two weeks – leaving many dead and many others without homes.
Tornadoes are horrible, tragic and fearsome things.  They scare me more than I even want to admit, not because of the damage they can cause to things and places, but because of what they can do to people.  They remind me to hold my loved ones close and not let any little grievance get in the way of how much they mean to me.  They remind me that things are replaceable and unimportant in the long run… it’s what can’t be replaced that really matters. 
They remind me that life is fragile – no matter what part of the world we live in.
“When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?"

-Max Lucado


  1. That photo is amazing, such power. We're lucky that we don't have extreme weather here (just a lot of cloud and rain). I wouldn't fancy experiencing it firsthand. Glad you are safe.

  2. Wow, great story Christy, what an adventure, so happy all turned out well for you and your family! I loved the Max Lucado quote, it is oh so true. Thanks for sharing it all.



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