Funny Suspense

Twenty-eight years ago, my life was swept up into a tornado. The winds came on almost without warning, blowing around everything in my predictable world. I knew it was coming. I had seen the forecast. But I had no idea how dramatic its impact would be.

It was weeks away from the birth of my first child, but I thought I had it all under control. The baby’s room, painted a serene shade of yellow to accommodate any gender, was in perfect order. Stacks of newborn diapers and freshly washed baby clothes and blankets sat neatly folded on the dresser. We had researched all the newest gadgets, and my husband was already a pro at clicking the car seat into the car and opening and closing our top-rated designer stroller. Our family and friends were counting the days until they could come and meet the newest member of our family.

I felt the winds of change start to blow as I said goodbye to my co-workers, leaving my office for the last time with a carload of baby gear and well wishes. The days that followed were spent preparing for the delivery, each day spinning me faster toward an unknown future. It was too late to run, or do anything to change the trajectory. 

Then the big day arrived. My son was born and the tornado that had been looming crashed into my cozy life, pulling me and my husband into its vortex. We twisted and twirled our way up, running too quickly to see what was happening on the outside. It was exciting and scary, joyful and chaotic, as we entered a ride that seemed to have no beginning and no end.

We were sucked in further with each passing day. We whirled and bumped our way through the first month, a total blur of cuddles and diapers and sleepless nights, and then the first year.  Sometimes it felt as if we were holding on, adjusting to the rapid changes in our lives. At other times we were spinning way too fast. Everything in our midst was spinning along with us, shifting and changing at a dizzying pace. At times, running us ragged. We would catch momentary glimpses of the world we left behind. Sometimes we could reach out and touch it. Other times it was nowhere to be seen.

After a while, we adjusted to the constant turmoil, but with the birth of my daughter two years later, the tornado picked up speed, and the spinning chaos increased. We loved our little family but were constantly running in circles trying to maintain it – to keep things from spinning out of control. Occasionally, my husband would swirl past me, but then disappear again, off on his own journey -- usually at the first sound of a crying baby.

As the years passed, we careened toward a big house with its jumbo mortgage, a utility vehicle with three rows, and a revolving door of school plays, dance recitals and music lessons. Our kids were the axis of the tornado, with us and every decision in our lives revolving around them. We raced through their childhood, and just barely made it through the twists and turns of adolescence. Then as our children reached their mid-teens, we sensed them trying to spin off on their own. It was gratifying yet unsettling, as they kept crashing back into us, rejoining the safety of the familiar before flying off again.

Then, after years of preparations that didn’t even begin to make me feel ready, my son went off to college. The tornado slowed a bit. I could almost see the world around me, but not quite. His leaving was just a dry run. Two years later, my daughter left for college and the tornado sputtered and finally lost energy, dropping me into my large and now empty house. I felt calm and quiet for the first time in years, as the spinning stopped. The tornado had run out of gas, but it appears we all landed safely. I missed the constant turmoil, yet at the same time I felt drawn to the peacefulness of this clean, empty space. There was a distant sense of familiarity about my surroundings. 

I took a good look around me, and there was a man in the house, my husband. He was sitting in a chair, clutching the armrest and eyeing his surroundings cautiously. He looked wind-blown and disheveled, and I imagined that’s how I looked too. I didn’t really know this man, and it occurred to me that I could simply turn away from him, revel in the peacefulness and the stillness by myself. But the house already felt way too quiet, and he seemed as bewildered and confused as I did. Maybe we could figure out how to co-exist in this large space that seemed to echo with the sound of voices that were no longer there. We knew each other before the tornado arrived, but that felt like another lifetime.

I turned to him, unsure what to say. It has been years since we had really talked, and I searched my memory for something. “Hi,” I said, my voice sounding small in the large space. 

He turned and looked at me for the first time, assessing my presence in this new reality. “Hi.” He scratched his head before adding, “Are you hungry?”

I looked at my watch, and my stomach growled. “Yeah, I am. What should we do for dinner tonight?” The words felt foreign as they echoed in the empty room. 

He considered my question. “We can try that new Italian place downtown.”

My answer came from someplace deep inside me, from some alternate reality. “Okay, want to head out a little early? Then we can try to catch a movie afterwards.”

Wait, I thought. A movie? When was the last time I watched one of those on a big screen?  Do I need to be home for anything? Do I have the time for this? And then I remembered, and my body relaxed.

“Sure,” the man said, his voice lighter.

And so, we began picking up the pieces, the remnants of the storm, and gradually returning to something vaguely resembling the life we had before. We were tired from our journey, and just a little bit bruised. But despite the tumult of the past 20 years, it had been a good run. 

Eight years have now passed since we dropped from the tornado, and on occasion the winds pick up again, and I feel the fear and exhilaration that come with an impending storm. The kids roll in with friends and boyfriends and sometimes a load of laundry, and the house is alive again, humming and spinning in joyful chaos, but it never lasts long enough. They return to their apartments and jobs, and their independent lives.

I feel unsettled each time they leave, never quite able to re-adjust to the stillness. But for the most part, I’m glad to have my feet planted firmly on the ground knowing that, for better or for worse, the storm has run its course.   

February 01, 2024 04:09

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D'Spencer Luyao
22:05 Feb 08, 2024

I love how you delivered this metaphor! I also love how quick the pacing feels, because I feel like it reflects how the narrator feels. It really feels like a storm, and then the aftermath. Well done!


Karen Hope
05:02 Feb 09, 2024

Thank you! It was a fun piece to write.


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Trudy Jas
19:08 Feb 01, 2024

Fave line' He looked bewildered, a little windblown. Perfect! Great analogy with the tornado. Life often gets in the way of living, soesn't it?


Karen Hope
14:47 Feb 02, 2024

Thank you! The tornado turned into a fun metaphor. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and liked the bewildered and windblown husband.


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