The first sign of potential trouble came in the form of my mother’s voice on the phone.  On the eve of our departure for OBX she asked me if I had checked the weather for our drive.  I knew it was supposed to rain up here in Philly but was unaware of the band of gnarly storms lined up and pointed directly at our beach house, scheduled to arrive at precisely the same time we were.  These storms were packing 75 mile hour winds, hail the size of golf balls and a few tornadoes.  We, on the other hand, were backing 75 pound suitcases, Frisbees the size of, uh, Frisbees and ingredients to make a few Hurricanes.  In a face-to-face show down, Mom was betting on the storm.  Good bet, Ma.

As far as weather worriers go, I find myself often sandwiched between my two greatest influences.  My mom is the ultimate Mother Nature. She knows when bad weather is coming and plans for it.  It is every mother’s god-given right to warn her children of pending meteorological doom and my mom rarely fails to disappoint.  And truth be told, I tend to follow her path more often than not.  I am Mother Nature Jr.

Contrast this approach to that of my husband – let’s call him Storm Chaser –who also fancies himself to be quite the weather man  – but only so he can secure the best vantage point to face nature’s fury head on.  I admire this bravado and hope someday to change my Mother Nature ways.  So when I heard about the pending weather in OBX, I was torn between staying home in Pennsylvania or packing the video camera to capture the storm on film.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to choose.  We were caravanning with three other families and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to suggest that we might all wake up in the Land of Oz Sunday morning.  If the others had any inkling that there might be trouble, they didn’t let on either.  Not when we left.  Not when we were stopped at the Bay Bridge Tunnel because there were wind restrictions and we weren’t allowed to cross with our roof top compartments and bike racks.  Not when the black clouds formed ominously overhead as we high tailed it as best we could in mini-vans now stuffed to the gills with Tulles, bikes and kids.

In our car, however, I was channeling my inner Mother Nature rather well, enjoying a light-hearted conversation with my husband about the pending disaster.  (Note:  When I’m concerned about something, I like to ask Dave questions because when he tells me not to worry, I know I will have someone to blame when things go horribly wrong.  That is strangely comforting to me.)

Mother Nature Jr:  What if the tornado suddenly appears right here on the road?  What do we do?
Storm Chaser:  We drive the other way.
Mother Nature Jr:  What if it’s too fast for us?
Storm Chaser:  We get out of the car and lie flat in a ditch.
Mother Nature Jr:  What if there are no ditches?
Storm Chaser:  There are always ditches.

Sure enough, I looked to the side of the road and there was a long ditch running parallel the length of the highway.

Mother Nature Jr:  Wow.  Are those specifically tornado ditches?
Storm Chaser:  (eyes rolling) No, they’re for drainage but they also work for tornadoes.

I spent the last 90 minutes of the car ride in morbid fantasy mode about protecting my family in a drainage ditch on the side of the road in nowhere North Carolina.  I imagined what it would feel like.  I wondered if Dave would protect us.  I worried about Chase who was in another van and whether he would get to the ditch in time.  By the time we arrived at the house Mother Nature Jr. was fully prepared for pending doom and in need of a few glasses of wine.

Fortunately, I was not alone.  We unpacked, fixed dinner and broke out the drinks, all the while trying to appear semi-responsible by monitoring the television and the iPhones for that Emergency Broadcast System announcement that up until now had ever only “been a test”.  I tried to embrace my inner Storm Chaser with reasonable success.

The red band of storms passed over OBX.  The thunder and lightening came. Mom texted me.  We enjoyed a movie with kids and drank our wine.  Some of the Storm Chaser husbands watched the weather from the deck.  Not once did we take shelter or truly consider it, although there was a brief debate about where to go in the house in the event that the roof blows off.  (It was confirmed that door jams were for earthquakes, not tornadoes.)   Somehow the group dynamic created a sense of calm rather than panic.  There was no way this storm was going to ruin our vacation.  We willed it away.  It was over before bedtime and we all went to sleep. High five.

The next morning we heard that a tornado touched down a few miles away.

So maybe we should have spent some time that evening in the garage after all.  Or not.  Because nothing would have happened and we would have been looking at each other waiting for someone to suggest that we were being silly.  So I guess our false sense of security served us well that evening.  We fooled Mother Nature on several fronts … and got away with it.  And for our victory, she gave us a beautiful Sunday sunrise and a great rest of the week.

The Morning After

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