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Saturday, April 05, 2008

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K. Pittman's Trapped in the Closet, Chapter 1

"What does it mean when it gets quiet, Mom?"

"I don't know," I whispered. Up to that second, I'd been playing a rousing game of "let's pretend," as in let's pretend Daddy and I woke the three of you up in the middle of the night and piled you all in the hastily emptied under-stairs closet just for kicks. Thank god my three year-old hadn't woken up during the transfer from our bed to a pillow on the closet floor, and my seven year-old had gone back to sleep propped up on a box that we hadn't time to move. But my nine-year-old son was fully awake, his anxious eyes wide in the beam of the flashlight he held to his bare chest. I knew it was pounding like mine.

Now he had the spotlight on me and I'd lost my line. I was praying silently for the right words to come when Patrick dove in. In the eleven years I've lived in tornado alley, I've never known him to take cover with us. His own father was terrified of storms, and would evacuate the family from their home at the first clap of thunder. All those sleepy nights spent under an overpass in the family's 1969 Chevy Impala had made him blase about the storm warnings that terrify me. "When I see it or hear it, I'll take cover," has always been his policy.

He'd been with a friend that evening, and came home to the condo around 9:30, wet from the downpour that had started a few minutes before. He had barely shut the door when the sirens started, our cue to fire up our usual routine of me emptying a closet and him going skeptically back and forth between the tv and the front porch, a choreography approximating the mating dance of a manic badger and a grouchy bear. Yet another variation on the marriage of the unstoppable force and the immovable object.

"tornado sirens. shutting down. emptying a closet," I texted some friends, including Belinda who was at the Johnson & Johnson event for bloggers in New Jersey, while her husband and daughter were at home in a little town just to the northeast of us, and Kristen, at the same conference, with her loved ones just a few minutes down the road from Belinda's house.

The bear was studying the radar image on tv. "Okay," he said, to my surprise. "Let's get them down here." I took the stairs two at a time. Three sleeping children, four arms, and 50mph winds at our heels.

No, I didn't pause in the middle of the action to snap a photo of the kids for the blog! Patrick snapped these with his camera phone in the long lull between the two major storm systems that hit that night. We were amazed (and grateful) that the baby slept through it all.



Blogger Geoff Meeker said...

This must mean that your power is back, which is a major blessing, with three kids to entertain (not to mention a freezer full of food).

The biggest blessing, of course, is that everyone's okay and your house - your wonderful new house - is unscathed.

Is this closet in the basement? If you don't have a basement, well, I'm with Patrick's father - where's the nearest overpass!!

Looking forward to Chapter 2! (And isn't that thoughtful of Mother Nature to give you such dramatic writing material!)

11:16 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

And we thought our Salsa Party was full of excitement last night!

So happy you all are safe!!!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Geoff, no power yet! We are at a temporary temporary location. Sigh.

11:31 AM  
Blogger said...

I, too, grew up in a Tornado Alley in the Midwest. We had a fruit cellar in the basement with foot-thick cement walls. I'll never forget the sound of the canning jars clanking together.

And, tornadoes really do sound like freight trains. When I was little, I wondered what they sounded like before there were freight trains...

I'm glad you and yours are okay!

12:34 PM  
Blogger jennifer h said...

This brings back so many memories (I grew up in southwest Missouri). I'd say your husband dove into the closet at just the right moment.

Glad you're all safe.

Every time I hear about these things, I think I should buy things like batter-powered radios and all that. We're moving back to Indiana in a couple of months, so I suppose I should. Ugh.

Any idea when you can return home?

1:30 PM  
Blogger island sweet said...

i wonder can you ever get used to it? thinking of you. xxx

6:26 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

So glad you were safe. Our babies slept through it too.

Of course, when it's perfectly nice out and we don't have to get them out of bed to go hide in the shower, they're awake.

Go figure.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Glad everyone is OK. You have us at the edge of our seats with the story, though. Maybe it is time for a summer trip to safe Newfoundland...

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad you're ok. I grew up in Tornado Alley in Middle Tennessee. Long sleepless nights in the basement and fear of storms are as natural to me as breathing. I was relieved to be out of town during the recent Tornados in Memphis.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Oh GOD this terrified me. Living nowhere near Tornado Alley, I have often wondered how you folks cope with day-to-day living and storm warnings and all the rest without losing your minds entirely.

So glad you're all OK, and the new house is intact.

7:08 AM  

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