I love thunderstorms. The crackle of lightning and deep, booming thunder put me at ease. I love watching the darkness settle in during the midst of the day, and the rhythmic pounding of the rain on the rooftop. A summer thunderstorm soothes my soul.
Alas, my children do not feel the same way about summer storms. Somehow, they have been duped into thinking storms are scary. Perhaps the fault lies with the wifie, who is ready to head for the basement at the drop of the hat (to be fair, she has been in a car with a tornado on her heels). Perhaps it is passed down from my mom, who has survival stations set up around the house in case a tornado comes (I exaggerate, but only a little). Or perhaps its the hillbilly side of the family, who see death lurking behind every door (that storm will kill you; that mole is surely cancer; that toothache could lead to death). They are surrounded by people who hate storms, so it stands to reason that they would also be scared.
The conflict arises when I am in charge of them during a storm. Yesterday was one such occurrence. As the afternoon wore on, clouds darkened the windows of ye Southwick place. A distant clap of thunder sent the girls over the edge.
“But daddy, what will happen to all of our stuffed animals?” Riley asked, a troubled look on her face.
“Everything is gonna be ok, girls. Its just a thunderstorm.”
“But the Disney Channel warning said it would be SEVERE!” Reagan explained to her idiot father. “That means DEATH by tornado!”
“No, no, no – its a thunderstorm warning! Not a tornado warning. There are no tornados headed this way!”
“If lightning strikes the house, then it will blow up and burn, Daddy! We need to save our animals!” Reagan clearly has little patience for a dunce like me.
“Reagan,” Riley chimed in. “There is NO NEED to worry about lightning. Our house is what we call “grounded” – we’re safer here than outside. Duh!” Whoa! She knows a lil’ bit of science. Good stuff, right there.
“But daddy, what about Wampa?” With tears welling in her eyes, Reagan was clearly distraught over her worn out Stars Wars toy.
“Fine, fine.” I finally caved, as I usually do. You can go up and grab your most important toys. But get right back down here.”
“But daddy, what if we DIE???”
“Well, at least we’ll all go to heaven together, girls!”
“THAT DOESN’T HELP!!!”
“NEITHER DOES STANDING HERE TALKING TO ME! GO GET YOUR TOYS!”
They dashed around the sofa and up the stairs.
I sat there, watching the storm arrive through the window. The deep grey cloud crept over the treetops and settled like a dark blanket over our little yellow house. The lightning flashes became regular, and the thunder rumbled just on its heels. The rains pounded the roof with a steady thrum. Ah… I love these storms.
Suddenly, I realized the girls had never returned from upstairs.
I jumped up and ran to the stairs. “Are you guys ok?”
A laundry basket full of stuffed animals crashed down onto the landing directly in front of my face.
“Daddy, there’s a lot of stuff up here!” Reagan called down.
“What are you doing? I told you to get Pinkie (Riley’s nasty baby doll) and Wampa!”
“Daddy, you told us we could get our toys. And we’re gonna save them all!” Riley explained matter of factly.
Reagan appeared on the landing, laden with stuffed horses. “Daddy, I’ve got at least three more trips before we are safe.”
“Girls, girls, girls! You were supposed to get your most important toys and get back down here. This isn’t a tornado! You don’t need every toy in the house!”
“But you have your precious iPad downstairs with you! Why can’t we have what’s most important!?!?!”
“Just get down there!!!”
“But daddy, where’s Pinkie?!?!” Riley is crying.
“I will go find Pinkie! You get in the living room!”
I went upstairs, tiptoeing around the 50 or so animals scattered on the landing. In Riley’s room, I encountered her upside down tent, which she had filled with every toy she has in her possession. She had attached a rope to it and had been pulling it towards the stairs. Unreal.
I found Pinkie and went downstairs to be with the girls. They asked me to sit between them on the couch. We sat there and watched the storm roll by. Each rumble of thunder caused them to burrow deeply into my sides, and I kept an arm around them the whole time.
When the last of the thunder rolled away, the girls looked up at me and Riley sweetly said, “we should thank Jesus for sparing our lives.”
I chuckled a bit – who am I to stop the prayers of a sweet young child.
Riley went first:
“Thank you Lord for keeping us safe during the storm. And thank you for daddy saving Pinkie. We love you, Jesus. Amen.”
“Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping us safe during the storm, which was like a wild animal let out of its cage at the zoo. Amen.”
Dear Jesus, thank you for my girls, and for keeping them safe during the storm. Thank you so much for giving them to me. Amen.”