I know I grew up in Minnesota, which is fully a tornado state, complete with monthly siren tests that sound like air raids. The childhood religious camp meetings that I remember always involved a race down to the dormitory basement, mothers herding and carrying their brood, all of us fleeing to safety in the cramped quarters of the now-blanketed underground hallway. For me, this was great fun. All your friends squished together in a hallway under blankets with snacks — best night ever. Most notable was the year that our family van was smashed by a tree limb, struck off the tree by the very tornado that shot up our adrenaline in the first place. Luckily we could still drive the old girl home since we didn't have enough shekkels to fix it for a while. This was our battle scar, the ornament of our survival, and we drove her to death, noting the story with a shrug as people commented on the dented side, scraped paint job.
Fast forward to now, and you'll find me hiding out in the basement long before the tornado siren goes off. I get a breeze in my hair from the 90 MPH Kansas winds flowing through questionable seals in my antique windows, and that's all it takes. Well, first there's quivering. Then I typically check three different websites to work myself into a good panic. I especially like the live radar updates for this, all that color floating around so dangerously, eek. Next I light a few candles, unplug the laptop and sit in the living room. It's important to walk downstairs for this, because the top floor is naturally the first to go and you'd like to have a fair shot at reaching the basement. Then I turn off the air conditioning because the sound of the air intake may mask the train-like thundering of impending doom. Or so I've read, and I'd like to have every minute possible to herd my dogs, who apparently have no innate sense of danger, to the tunnel of safety.
I am writing this right now to distract myself from the lurking possibility of death. Trees are practically breaking in half right in the front yard, and the branches dig into the screens at the side windows. Could this house creak any louder? It also serves to distract me from the fact that I'm supposed to be driving to Lawrence right now to get my weekly produce box. What was in it? I wonder, just to keep myself mentally busy. Probably more of that hole-filled arugula. Sometimes organic produce isn't all it's cracked up to be. Fewer hidden bugs and more leaf to my lettuce would be appreciated. Yes, the sidetracking move is working! Don't think about it, I think about it. Maybe it'll be just like last time. Reading by flashlight in the basement, I wasn't around to watch the sky clear, but I heard the wind stop screaming and it made me brave enough to raise my head.
Do any real Kansans feel this way? I keep hoping one of these days, I'll stop panting at radar maps and keep breathing like real people do. It feels impossible.