Monday, March 17, 2008

Mariah my ass.

I hate wind. Hate it! I DON'T CARE FOR WIND, PEOPLE. And oh the wind last night. It woke me. Then it kept me in the grips of its creepiness off and on for hours.

There are a few tall scrawny palms nearish by. The wind hits them first. Way high up the trees rustle like insidious pom-pons. That's how you know it's coming. Then it hits my house. The screens shake, then the 83 year-old windows shudder in their sashes. Then the temporary paper blinds scrape against the sills; 83 year-old windows don't keep out the wind.

Every few minutes I make note that I'm holding my breath and lying there rigid. I breathe. And I fall in and out of sleep and have weird dreams. And I get up and unplug my computer and tell the dog, no it's not time to get up yet. And I think about digging out my earplugs from the drawer a foot from my head, but that might mean turning on the light, or at least lifting my arm and besides, when I do I only find one and then the dog wants to know what's going on and it's just not worth more effort. No, actually it really would have been worth it, but I wasn't in my right mind.

I'm not particularly afraid of anything specific about the wind; I'm uneasy. Only way to describe it. And it's just the sound of the wind with which I have a problem. And I even know why. You would think knowing why would somehow make it all better. Doesn't.

March 20, 1976, 7:18 pm. My brother and father and I watched a tornado travel across our backyard. It wasn't really our backyard. It was in a field beyond our backyard, but I assure you, it looked like our backyard. It was so close, in fact, that it wasn't a funnel, just a perfect white cylinder whose top we could not see. It wasn't white, I found out later. It was pink. It was full of fiberglass from the roofs it had been tearing off. I think it was very nearly dark out, or it was just so dark because of the storm clouds. It had stopped raining. It had stopped anything. It was quiet and green. The tornado warning had ended at 7:00. The three of us were opening a can of sardines. I know. It doesn't take three people to open a can of sardines. Not even two. I was only six, though, so I was hardly a person. As my dad rolled the lid back he said, as fathers are wont, make sure their eyes are closed. Then something happened. Let's say it was the sound of several locomotives or a swarm of bees, as they say in song and story. I have no memory of any sound. But something made us look up. And there was the tornado, methodically traveling left to right across the window's view. My 11 year-old brother, who was terrified of tornadoes, said, "Dad, is that a tornado?" My dad said, "Yes." And they went back to the sardines. Camera tightens in on me, standing just behind them, eyes huge. Then they whip their heads back up, the lights go out, and my dad shouts, "Hit the floor!" He may not have said that, because it sounds ridiculous. But that's what I remember. He probably said something like everybody get down on the floor.

We crawled into the long hallway at the center of the house. There's no basement, so this was our only choice. We met the rest of the family there. I sat next to my mom. Our Newfoundland paced and whimpered and I kept trying to wrangle her in because I didn't want her to leave the hallway. We may have had pillows over our heads, taken from the nearby bedrooms. I don't remember any sound. I'm sure there was nothing but sound. I do remember thinking that I just might die. I thought it rather calmly. And it's the only time in my life that I've ever honestly thought I might possibly momentarily die.

I just know that if I ever heard a tornado again in person, I could get over my wind problem. I know it made the stereotypical sound because my mom heard it and ran to the window (yes, you're not supposed to do that) to watch. Hell, she was 35. Younger than I am now. I'm sure she thought it was cool. I think it's cool. To hear a bunch of trains and just know it's a tornado? That's kind of cool. I can say that because nothing happened to our house and none of us was hurt. A girl died a few blocks away and my best friend's house imploded, but that didn't happen to us. Our tornado experience had all the thrill and horror without any lasting effects. Except of course that I seize up in a strong wind.

I recently Googled our tornado and found this site. It made me feel special. For your information (when looking at the map), my childhood home is a dash north of West Maple Road between Orchard Lake and Middlebelt roads. You'll note that the pink arrow of the tornado's path goes right through our backyard. Sorta. It's nice to have things confirmed in print. Pink print.

So yeah. Wind. Don't care for it. And this pesky Santa Anna Wind gives me migraines, damn it. No tornadoes though. But earthquakes make an ungodly sound. Seriously. You can't win. (on rereading this I noted that I'd originally typed, "You can't wind." Nice.)

Glad I don't live on The Prairie,



pamila said...

This is the best thing I've read from you ever. Seriously, I got chills.


joanna said...

Not to be morbid, but what about the girl down the road who died? How old was she? Was she alone? I'm becoming a little obsessed with her.

Wow - this is so outside my frame of reference and experience, having grown up and lived most of my adult life in the Pacific Northwest, nowhere near tornadoes, ever. It would never occur to me to be frightened by wind - but it obviously makes sense that it would raise your hackles.

Have a restful night, my friend

Jo said...

I'm all for being morbid, and I've always been obsessed with that girl. "One death was attributed to the tornado. A fifteen year-old girl riding in a car with three other passengers was killed when the tornado picked the car up near the corner of Maple and Orchard Lake, and hurled it to the north side of Maple Road, crushing the roof and smashing the windows. The other three passengers survived." That's what the site I referenced says. In my brain she looks like Marsha Brady. I don't know if that's true or not. I feel like I saw her picture in the paper.