Heavy weather

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The babies were coming, and as the arrival of our daughter and grandsons drew nearer, I was fidgety about having everything just so.

Carpet cleaned, beds made, kitchen floor washed, windows washed, and untouchables up high – well, it all seemed important because so much of the life of a small boy is spent near or on the floor.

But washing windows? Why? Who looks at the bottom half of a wall of glass when there are two little boys wiping their apple juicy hands on it?

I had more serious decisions to make.

You may recall that we had some rough weather with a lot of wind and rain earlier in April, and tornados or rumors of same. No one in our family was really thinking about storm warnings. As on most nights, the goal is to get the darling dynamos quiet and settled down for bed before morning arrives.

Sensitive to the fact that 3- and 5-year-olds seem to do better with well-known beds and pillows and blankets, Jean bought a small pup-tent several weeks before traveling, to make nitey-nite at Grandma and Grandpa’s house a little more familiar. Krinkly nylon notwithstanding, it reduced outside stimulation somewhat.

It was not a great success. There was laughter, shrieks of hilarity, the occasional loud accusation of toy pilfering, but after an hour or so the noise subsided. It was a long hour.

The grown folks were tired and headed for their own nests and, at last, the house was quiet. Quiet enough to hear the warble and quasi-air horn the weather radio blats to get your attention.

Knowing the geography of the surrounding counties, we could picture it each time the weather guy moved it up a notch. This one was dead set to pass Carrollton, then slip through between north Fayette County and southern Fulton.

We’d doze off and the alarm was repeated, gradually upgraded from a watch to a warning, and aiming for the north edge of Tyrone. We’re savvy weatherniks and know that when a watch becomes a warning, you’re supposed to take shelter in the basement, if you have one, or on the lowest floor of your home in an inside bathroom, laundry room, or closet. There, padded with bedspreads or pillows, you’re to wait until the noise has stopped.

They don’t mince words: If the wording of the alarm now includes the word “warning,” you are to take cover. You are no longer just to “watch.”

By the third severe weather report, now with those baritone county sirens added, Dave wanted to turn the radio off. I prevailed this time, and he grumbled himself back to sleep, but I lay there thinking and listening.

If the next transmission goes to “warning” and is heading for southern Peachtree City, would we shake the adults awake and grab sleeping children wrapped in blankets, haul them downstairs and hunker in the corner of a closet? I simply couldn’t imagine the chaos that would loose. Two little boys being dragged from their tent, their mom and grandparents trying to sound reassuring, their big brother Isaac, a deep sleeper, functioning on a semiconscious level.

Now (still in my imagination) we’ve hushed the little guys and we’re bracing for the crash of trees and glass – and all is silent. Imagine, we’re waiting for the worst, and the worst is only frightened children and a grandma wondering if she made the right call.

The storm misses us. We’re trying to soothe the boys back to sleep. It isn’t happening. We’re all rattled, and now the weather broadcasts are for Clayton County.

In reality, nothing happened, but it’s still on my mind. To wake the boys or lie there with fingers crossed, waiting?

I fell asleep still tossing that coin, waiting for the next warning.

It never came.

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