We had decided to leave our friend’s house in what we thought was a lull between the storm waves. I loaded up the kids for the 7 minute drive home. About two minutes away from their house the wind kicked up and it sounded like things were starting to get bad. I immediately regretted my decision to leave.
But as we came to the stop sign, a truck drove by and I thought, “Whew, we’re not the only ones crazy enough to be on the roads.” I turned to follow the truck and then dark got darker. I couldn’t see the truck. I could hear things falling to the ground and I was panicked. Then Brent called. I turned into a driveway to go back to our friend’s house. I told him it was freaky and got off the phone. Then I invited the kids to pray with me. And we prayed hard!
Once I was turned around I was horrified. The clear road I had just driven down was littered with rather large branches and other debris. I could only see as far as my headlights lit the way so I couldn’t see any houses. But the entire two minute drive back to their house felt like forever as I thought any moment was our last and that poor Brent would be…yeah, it was awful.
When I got to our friend’s house I turned down their long driveway. I had to weave around huge tree trunks that had been blown down. I wasn’t even sure I was going to see their house. It was absolutely terrifying. But, the trees that would have fallen on all the cars in the driveway, they were still standing. Not a single car was hit. The house was not hit. Wind had damaged the house, but nothing fell on it. I knew I was witnessing a miracle. They sent someone to help me get the kids inside. We were so panicked we were nearly unfunctional.
We spent close to an hour in the bathroom, 3 adults and 8 children, while the men folk assessed damages. We had time finally to explain to my children what a tornado was and what it did to anything in its path. They had missed the previous explanation because we were, you know, narrowly avoiding that path. Seriously we drove right at it, then turned around and followed it. A miracle, I tell you.
These are the kinds of experiences that take time to process. Lots and lots of time. Also, lots of talking, rehashing, sorting out, learning vocabulary and facts. This happened in March and still, it comes up. Elli makes connections to tornadoes most frequently of us all. At first I had no clue what she was talking about. She always said “tomatoes” and when I tried to clarify it was always “tomatoes, the swirly kind that kill people.” “Ah, tornadoes.” I clarify. “Yeah, tomatoes.”
It came up again this week. We were listening to Vienna Trien and the Jumping Monkeys. I am really enjoying their CD and so is Elli. Her favorite song is Tickle Monster. One song is called Spinning Around and I asked Elli if this was her song because she loves to spin so much. She agreed and started going on and on about spinning around. Which then reminded her that “tornaToes” also spin around and around. “And remember that time, Mom, when we were in the bathroom for an hour and the swirly tornado knocked all the trees down? Yeah, me too. I remember that.”
And then it happens again. The flashbacks. Not just memories and images, but the emotions. My heart races; I pray all over again. This time my simple, intense prayer is one of gratitude that we were spared that day when my very unwise choice placed our little family in death’s path. And we are all still processing and assimilating this experience into our personal history.
To lighten the mood, here’s something for your listening pleasure. The song that inspired this post: