In the Midwest of the United States we are spared things like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, dramatic earthquakes, and even dangerous insects. But hoooo boy do we know about thunderstorms. As I’m typing there is a huge storm raging outside with lots of thunder and lightning. We just spent the last hour in the basement because we heard the tornado sirens go off. It’s nice to be upstairs again.
My children are easily spooked by crisis. Their lives are pretty
easy going, so when something dramatic happens they take it very
seriously. There was an Amber alert all over the television a couple of
weeks ago and Aden kept finding me wherever I was in the house and
breathlessly telling me about the two children who were missing. I told
her it didn’t really concern us since we were just at home and not
likely to spot them here, but the concept of kidnapping injected into
her afternoon cartoon deeply affected her. After the third time the
Amber alert popped up, Aden came and found me again, clutching her pink
bunny, tears in her eyes. I asked what was wrong and she said, “I’m
scared of kidnappers.”
I sat her down and told her that there are indeed scary strangers out
there who take children, and that’s why I need to know where she is and
why we review not going off with people she doesn’t know without
telling me, even if they seem nice. But then I told her those cases are
extremely rare, and I asked, “Do you know who most often kidnaps
children?” She shook her head. “One of their parents.”
got wide and then she laughed because that sounded so odd. I explained
that sometimes things get messy between moms and dads who don’t live
together, and sometimes those moms or dads take their children at a time
they are not supposed to and people get frightened. I went over the
rules one more time about dealing with strangers, and told her the
secret word we have in case we do send someone she doesn’t know to pick
her up somewhere so she’ll know that person really is safe to go with,
and reminded her that she may run and kick and scream if a kidnapper
ever did try to grab her.
I added, “But statistically the most likely
person to kidnap you is daddy, and he’d just bring you here.” We both
agreed that would be awesome, so she really didn’t need to spend time
being scared. That night on the news they reported that the children
from the Amber alert were fine. They’d been taken by their dad and
returned to their mom. Aden felt better.
Anyway, today my kids were getting really freaked out by the weather alerts on the television. Neighborhood Recess
got cut short because of lightning, and my kids were worried all
through dinner about tornadoes. When the sirens went off at about 7:00
they all looked panicked. That’s where the real test of being the
grown-up comes in–being the one to guide them calmly through the fear if
possible. I grabbed a book, my laptop, a phone, a stack of games and
some marshmallows. It’s hard to think of any situation as a crisis when
there are marshmallows available.
Our basement gets pretty wet when it rains. Not knee-deep flood
water kind of wet, but water trickles in from all edges of the house
toward the drain in the center of the floor. The kids took turns
jumping over the dozens of little rivers running all over while I set up
a card table and chairs in the driest area. We watched a bit of a
Buster Keaton movie on YouTube. We called to check in on a neighbor.
But the kids were still concerned about the tornado warning and all the
thunder we could hear from overhead, so I pulled out the big guns. I
invented Basement Cards.
I’d grabbed Operation, Boggle and a bag of what I thought were Uno
cards before heading into the basement. Aden didn’t want to hear the
buzzing of the Operation game right then, so I opened the bag of cards
only to discover it was a weird mish-mash of things. In addition to the
Uno cards there were parts of several different regular decks, bits
from two Old Maid decks, instruction cards from various games, Pokemon
and Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, an aquatic themed Crazy Eights deck, and one
card from the game Cadoo.
I dealt them all out, told everyone to make a
neat stack, and then just made things up. Quinn laughed so hard he
kept slipping off his chair. Aden looked annoyed at the randomness of
it all until I announced she was winning, and then she was all into it.
Mona’s squeals drowned out any thunder. I ordered people to trade
cards, pick cards, put cards on their heads…. By the end it was kind of
like Slap Jack or War where I was having everyone put cards in the
middle at the same time and then I would tell them who’d won that round
by deciding Quinn got all the cards because his pig card beat the ace of
clubs, the rules to cribbage and Autoworker Alan. They were all sad to
leave the basement by the time the tornado warning was over. (Quinn
ran up to me a couple of minutes ago while I was typing to say, “I love
I asked Mona to run up the stairs first and tell me if the house was
still there. She ran up excitedly and started yelling, “Yes! It’s all
still here! Hooray!” and then went off to play with legos. Aden was
still scared of the lightning. I asked her why, and she said, “Because
we have so many big trees.” I said, “Do you know why they are so big?”
She shook her head. “Because they’ve never been struck by lightning.”
That made her feel better. I also pointed out that the abandoned smoke
stack on the next block by the old tannery was the tallest thing around
and no lightning would be attracted to our house while that was
available to strike.
I didn’t tell her about the NPR program I once listened to about
lightening that made it sound as if it would practically come hunt you
down in your bed while you slept. Those nightmares are for another
day. I have a terrible time sleeping with Ian gone, so at least if my
kids sleep I feel good about that. I remember during the first
deployment lying in bed, pregnant, listening to a terrible storm, and
wondering how I would know if it was bad enough to wake up the girls and
drag them into the basement. I kept thinking about how everyone who
has ever heard a tornado says it sounds just like a train, and then it
hit me that I live down the street from railroad tracks. How would I
possibly be able to tell the difference between a tornado and a real
train? Then I really couldn’t sleep.
Anyway, I hope the rain lets up soon so I can go move the car to the
right side of the street for overnight parking without getting
completely drenched. Not that I think the overnight parking checkers
will be out in force tonight with so many people stranded in all the
flooding all over town, but with my luck lately I’d be the one person
they’d find to ticket.
I left the card table set up in the basement just in case I hear
sirens in the night and need to move the kids to safety and another
round of Basement Cards. If I get too bored lying awake in the dark I
may go down there and invent Solitaire Basement Cards, but that doesn’t
sound like as much fun without the kids laughing their heads off.
days like today it’s hard to imagine the rain will ever end. Just like
July seems to be stretching on forever. Thunderstorms are more fun with
Ian home, even with Basement Cards to distract us. I wonder if he’s
awake right now, wherever in Iraq he is. I wish I knew.