Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unicorns, light sabers, magic purses...

I know that all our hearts have gone out to the community in Moore, Oklahoma this recently, particular so because of the loss of children. As a mother myself, each of those 9 deaths struck me particularly hard.

When I drove to pick up my daughter from school last Tuesday afternoon, I had been listening to coverage of the tornado on NPR. I fetched her from her class, we walked back to the car, and I strapped her into her booster seat. Then, somewhat distracted, I walked around to the driver's side, sat down, and started the car. Before I could react, the first voices out of the radio said loudly, "more news on the Oklahoma tornado tragedy. The death toll stands at 24 people, including 9 children."

I hit the knob quickly to turn the radio off as my 5-year-old daughter cried from the backseat, "9 children?! Dead?!"

Oh..... shoot.

Long story short: we had a good talk about it, and I was thankfully able to reassure her that we do not have tornadoes in Portland, Oregon. However, when living in Atlanta, we lived under that threat every spring and fall. When she was only 8 months old, I huddled with her, trembling, under a mess of pillows and blankets in a closet under the stairs while following the path of a tornado on a weather radio, 1 mile away, headed in our direction. I can truly say I have never felt more powerless and frightened in my life.

That tornado dissipated before it reached us, but there have always been close calls, all my life, living in the midwest and south. However, tornados can occur almost anywhere in the continental United States. Compared to the rest of the world, we are tornado central.

A map of tornado activity in the US from 1980-2010

Living in Portland, OR, there is a far lower chance of being caught in the midst of a tornado (though we do get extremely high winds from time to time). I was granted at least the former to explain to my daughter.

And the rest? Like any child, she played with the day's events, and that night's play revolved around tornados. She begged to watch The Wizard of Oz again for the tornado part, and she played with her stuffed animals (toys with eyes, she used to call them) as if they were hiding from tornados.

After her bath, our routine is for me to carry her "like a baby" down the hall wrapped in a towel and pretending not to fit through the bedroom door as she stretches her legs out straight. Then we have to search for tools to widen the door. Imaginary swords, saws, light sabers, etc. That night's tool of destruction was a tornado. One that she controlled by letting it escape from a pink leopard-print magic purse, and then captured again with same purse. The destruction was confined to the bedroom door, which we passed through easily afterwards. The tornado was tucked away for later use.

And I was reminded again of the resilience of children, of the magic of play, when the scary things of the world can be controlled by the power of a pink leopard-print magic purse.

Excuse me while I cry again for those nine children in Oklahoma whose magic was shattered last week.

If you would like to donate to the families of Moore, Oklahoma, check out Charity Navigator to choose the charity that best suits your values.

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