Saturday, April 23, 2011

Going to the Cellar

Tonight I had just put Glory to bed and was getting ready to turn in myself when I heard a loud banging at my door. It was my dad. He had come to my house to get me and the kids. Tornadoes were coming, he said. My dad is always very concerned with the weather and with good reason. He takes after my Grandad who was always going bonkers over the weather.

Before I go any further I should make it perfectly clear that I really appreciate this concern and especially my dad's willingness to come get us and always make sure we are safe. Lord knows I don't have a clue when the weather is about to get bad. That being said...

As I got in my dad's pick up tonight and heard the National Weather Service buzz going off on his radio, I was instantly taken back to my childhood. My Grandad had a weather radio that sat on the table beside his bed and went off every 5 seconds, it seemed. It was on 24/7.

I loved to spend the night with my grandparents so this was a very familiar sound to me. As soon as it started buzzing, my granddad's feet hit the ground. He had to wake us all up, which he liked to do by flinging on all the lights in the house and throwing huge, smelly raincoats on our beds. He would pace the halls yelling, "We've gotta get out to the cellar fast! IT"S COME A BAD ONE!"

It freaked me out SO bad. His sense of urgency combined with the weather radio and the thunder was not an ideal wake-up call for a seriously anxious youngster (anywhere from 5-8 yrs old at this time)

The worst part was the walk out to the cellar. Imagine it--I've just been told that the weather is so dangerous that we need to take shelter underground to make sure we don't die and now I'm being told to go out into this weather. It was probably about 30 yards from the house to cellar but it seemed like 10 miles. The wind would be blowing, rain definitely coming down, sometimes hail  hitting my head and lightening all around. I often wondered if the walk from the porch to the cellar might have actually put me in WAY more danger than I would have been inside the home. Looking back on it now, I think I was a pretty smart kid.

My grandmother shared my logic. I can see her so clearly standing in the kitchen, puffing on a cigarette, telling my grandad there was no way she was going out there--"If I die, I die." And then she would go back to washing dishes. I thought she was so cool.

The cellar in a word: awesome. There was always an inch or two of murky water in the bottom.  There was a shelf in there where my grandmother would keep her canned vegetables. The reject lawn chairs that were barely standing... My grandad would stand on the steps the whole time pulling the cellar door down and  yelling about how bad it was and assuring us it was a good thing we were in there. Then he would say something about how dumb Grandmama was for staying behind. Still thought she was way cool.

It was during this time I would start worrying about the pets. Once, I guess my dad was in there because I remember asking him what was happening to the dogs and he said "Oh, they're fine. After tornadoes you always see dogs and cats walking around even when houses are blown down." Really, dad? Nice try... But I still kind of believe that. Tonight I pictured our house in a pile of wood on the ground but our chickens were strutting all around the rubble, unscathed.

A storm never passes through that I don't think about the times we spent in the cellar. It really was a significant part of my growing up. As scary as it seemed at the time, I think a small part of me enjoyed the excitement of it all. Especially from the warmth and comfort of the bed after the storm had passed and knowing the cellar-goers were all still alive. And Grandmama was still puffing away.


  1. Love this story! Thanks for sharing it...

  2. Oh, Keelie, we have the same memories! We had to drive down to the neighbor's house, which was across the street from where Di and Rick live. Our Dad was the one that made us go also. We would usually beat Lou and Clarence into the storm cellar. The smell is the sense that I remember most about the cellar.Thanks for such good memories.

  3. great story! Your lucky to have those memories!tfs!