We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog today for an update from the National Weather Service. There is a tornado WARNING in effect for the area directly above your head.
Well, maybe not directly, but that’s just what it feels like when you’re in the middle of a storm and suddenly herded into the basement. In my case, the basement in question was beneath the Cathedral and I was surrounded by about a thousand middle school students.
OK, so it only sounds like a thousand in a basement hallway after we’ve been sitting on the hard linoleum floor for 45 minutes.
But yes — this morning Tras and I were innocently attending Mass, which incidentally was the day that the middle schoolers at the parish school also had Mass. Blissfully singing along, we were — when abruptly the piano trailed off and Father announced, “There’s a tornado warning — let’s all head to the basement!”
When a Man of God speaks, you listen.
So we all trailed downstairs, speaking only in hushed, are-we-gonna-die tones. The children were instructed to sit in the hallway along the wall and, being a good Catholic school veteran myself (although my experience was directly with Catholic School Nuns) I did obediently sit along the wall with them. I yanked Tras down to the floor with me; he, being a newly minted Catholic, wasn’t quite as responsive to instructions from Catholic-school teachers.
It wasn’t our first foray into the basement this tornado season. Last Friday, the first Tornado Warning was issued for our county — a situation about which we were blissfully unaware until I received a telephone call from my mother.
This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten a Tornado Warning from Mom. About 15 years ago, the phone rang around 11 o’clock at night. I was already in bed, exhausted from spending the day at the Oaks, which is (for the non-Kentuckians among us) the race for fillies the day before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Oaks has become a tradition in Louisville as a more sedate day at the races than the Derby, which brings out millionaires and mouthbreathers alike for a day of partying at the Downs. Still, I’d spent a day dressed up and drinking mint julips; I was whipped.
Then, the phone. It was my mother’s voice, and when you hear your mother’s voice when you’ve been awakened from a deep sleep, it sounds something like the Voice of God. In this case, the Voice said, “Get in the bathtub, Ellen. There’s a tornado headed right for your house!”
The bathtub instruction was added because, at the time, I was living in a house without a basement. But no matter, The Voice had instructed me to get to the bathroom, and get I did. Springing from bed and grabbing baby Claire (now 16) from her crib, I launched myself toward the bathroom. I don’t think I became fully conscious until I was almost in the tub itself.
Back to Last Friday
So anyway, Friday evening Mom again calls, this time with less panic-inducing instructions, which were to turn on the TV and listen to what they were saying. We were again under a tornado warning. Still the dutiful daughter, I complied, and we all sat around listening to the weatherman tell us about the incomprehensible radar information appearing on the screen, which was indicative of tornadic activity.
Now, I’ve heard the word “tornado” and experienced “tornado” first-hand since I was a small fry; I did, after all, live through the Super Outbreak that occurred throughout the midwest and southeast in April 1974. But in all that time, I’ve never heard it referred to as “tornadic activity,” and the term strikes me as frighteningly hilarious and ridiculously verbose.
Indeed, why have a tornado when you can have “tornadic activity”? Tornadic, tornadic, tornadic. My son Christopher remarked with a completely straight face, “I can honestly say I have never heard that word until today.” Me neither, son.
So when Tornadic Activity Weatherman announced Friday evening that the hot-zone for the aforementioned tornadics was between the two very roads which bound my subdivision, I herded my offspring, plus one visiting friend, down to the basement for some quality time with the basketball hoop, toy cars and swing.
No such luck this morning, when all I had to entertain me was Tras, the iPhone and some random middle-schoolers. As Tras and I updated the moving weather map on our Weather Bug apps, the girls sitting next to me wanted to know if I liked to shop. (What is it, tattooed on my forehead or something? Sheesh.)
They also asked if I had any cool apps — a rather non-so-subtle hint that they’d just love to get their textie little fingers on my phone, I’m sure — so I showed them the face melter.
They are cute girls, as you can see, even before I melted their faces. They quickly became bored with making polite chit-chat with somebody’s mom they didn’t really know, and went back to drawing on the paper the teachers provided. After a bit, they trooped reluctantly upstairs for school; we rejoined Father in the church after an hour-long gap in morning Mass. Soon we were back outdoors, which still seemed to contain most of Lexington.
Looking at the weather systems brewing west of here, I have a feeling this isn’t the end of the week’s tornadic activity. But maybe if I just say it repeatedly, I’ll scare all tornadic everything away. It’s scared me enough already.