But Mom Always Said. . .

© JoAnn Reno Wray

Emails often arrive during the Spring tornado season from friends who live nowhere near tornado alley saying how frightened they’d be to live here. I’ve also received notes from those who wish to view up close and personal the power of tornadoes, fascinated with such wild weather.

Most don’t realize, that in general, Okies aren’t over-excited by twisters. However, we do complain loudly and long about weathermen braying all evening interrupting favorite TV shows. Even when a tornado causes devastation, we pick up, pitch in, and help those in the storm’s path. We have a terrific siren system in place, over-eager weathermen keeping us informed, and our ‘fraidy-holes’ to hunker down in when needed.

In May 1999 when truly devastating tornadoes hit Oklahoma City and other areas, one touched down about two miles from our home in Broken Arrow right before midnight. The TV was on as we watched weather reports all evening. We loaded our large master bedroom closet  – as close to a ’fraidy hole that we came – with toilet paper, tissues, band aids, antibiotic cream, flashlights, batteries, a radio, candles, water, snacks, and prescriptions. We somehow made space for three of us –  my husband Roger, son Mike, and myself to sit if a twister blew through.

I was in bed reading, clad only in my nightgown, when warning sirens wailed their eerie cry. I shot out of bed then rooted in place, bewildered momentarily. Roger and Mike quickly hunkered down in the closet. Roger yelled, “JoAnn get in here!”

The house rocked from high winds; hail hit the windows; tree limbs cracked, fell, then hit the roof. This was serious! TV weathermen raised their voices, breathless from excitement and job stress, “If you live in south Broken Arrow, take cover now! A confirmed tornado just touched down. We estimate it’s a category three or four.”

Did I instantly head for cover? No. I ran across the room to my dresser drawer, rummaging around for a pair of clean underpants– preferably without holes, stains, or weak elastic.

From the closet Roger shouted, “Get in here now!”

Instead, I leaped into the bathroom, shut the door, and in one jumbled, powered-by-fear movement, whipped up my nightie, and jumped in my undies. I’m allergic to exercise, so running and jumping at all constitutes a miracle in my book.

Roger screamed again, “What in the world are you doing?” I galloped out, night gown flapping, and dove into the closet with Roger and Mike, who both stared at me in disbelief.

I felt like I was two planks short of sitting behind a whole door on the outhouse. Knowing how silly I’d been, I donned a wounded expression and said, “What did I do now ?”

Roger shook his head, “Are you crazy? We’re in a tornado!” Outside, winds increased to a howl as hail cracked on windows with a sharp report.

Miffed by Roger speaking to me as if I was a two-year old, I pouted and said, “All I heard in my head was my Mom saying, ‘Always put on clean underwear before you go out.’

Mike snorted, then stifled his laughter. “You were going out, that’s for sure!”

I shot him my best ‘mother-is-not-happy look’ saying, “What?”

He broke up, unable to hold back his laughter. “Mom, would a category four tornado really leave you in your night gown, let alone your underpants?”

My imagination went into high gear. Me in my round, flabby birthday suit whipping through the air while desperately trying to cling to my underpants so my dear departed momma would be happy was, as kids say, T-M-I, too much information! Like my underwear would remain clean if a tornado managed to send me airborne. We laughed to tears until the “all clear” siren sounded.

Frankly, I prefer tornadoes over earthquakes or volcanoes. At least twisters allow some warning! My non-Okie friends shudder at the mere thought of tornadoes. Not me. I’m ready. I always put on clean undies when leaving the house, and my underwear drawer is only three steps from the bed.

May the Lord keep you always safe in His everlasting arms, especially during tornadoes!

When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation. Proverbs 10: 25 NKJ

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