The weather report issued a tornado watch today. I laughed it off and went along with my day. Then they upgraded the tornado watch to a tornado warning and I did take notice. I still went about my day as if a tornado wasn’t coming. I soothed Scarlet from her sleep. I changed the sheets on the beds. I washed the dishes. But my eyes were glued to the windows. And I was doing it with a faster heartbeat than normal, a slightly queasier stomach than normal. Scarlet heard thunder and breathed, “Wow..” I told her it was “thunder” and she repeated me several times. I talked to her as if everything were normal. We brightly talked about the rain and the mail truck. Forced cheer. It was hard for me. I had been through a tornado once before but I wasn’t the strong adult in that situation who had to keep things under control. I was a petrified seven-year-old.
I know I’ve talked about this here before. When I was little, I used to watch “The Wizard of Oz” a lot. I always ran behind the couch at the wicked witch parts. I was around three-years-old and it was a wicked witch. It’s pretty expected to be afraid of a wicked witch. During this time of my life, my father passed away suddenly of a heart attack. In the years that followed, I became irrationally phobic of tornadoes and lions. And I mean irrational. I didn’t like wind chimes because even small breezes could turn into tornadoes in my head. Once I heard my brother screaming in the street because my other brother was hitting him but I knew, I just knew, it was because a lion was attacking him. On the streets on Flanders, NJ.
In all honesty though, a lion did escape from a zoo and terrorize some Jersey towns around that time. It was hours from my house, though.
Once when visiting my grandparents in Westfield, NJ, a tornado really did hit. We ran to the basement after witnessing the umbrella stand blow away. I was more afraid that day than I’d ever been in my life. It’s one thing to be phobic of tornadoes in Kansas and probably face that fear more than you’d ever want to. It’s another thing to be phobic of tornadoes in Jersey, where they rarely form. And when they do, they’re aren’t so devastating. This was real and when it was over we went upstairs, surveyed the minimal damage, and got on with our day. I was never phobic of tornadoes after that day.
But I was a little freaked out today. The phobia had originated from a time of great change in my life mixed with regular viewing of a pretty scary movie, especially if you’re four. I watched that movie probably the day my father died. I watched it through my mom remarrying and us moving to a new home in a new town with a new family. I totally understand why I grew phobic of (cowardly) lions and twisters.
The Tin Man needed a new heart. So did my father. Dorothy needed a place to call home. So did I.
It makes me hug Scarlet a little more tightly today and think deeply about the people in the south who experience terror worse than this on a pretty regular basis. It also makes me think about the movies I may let her watch and how they may affect her whole future life! Whether it’s positive or negative, I transferred many fears about change and loss into fears about weather and animals. She may do the same one day.