Riding Out the Storms


In our part of the world, tornadoes are so common that we have an underground storm shelter. It is a small concrete bunker of sorts, sparsely furnished with a few folding chairs, a gallon of fresh water and an old radio, all lit by a single bare lightbulb. It is clean and even a bit cozy and has brought our family close, and I do mean close, together when the need to enter it arises.

We have had the shelter for about five years and have had to use it maybe five or six times, all thankfully false alarms but all necessary in the moment…and always in the middle of the night.

The storm alarm sounds and we awake to our separate tasks – my wife gathers the bag of little items we might need while I go to each of the children’s rooms to awaken them and gather them up (along with stuffed animals and iPods, books, glasses, robes and rain boots). We meet at the end of the long hallway that leads to the nearest back door to the shelter. We gather under umbrellas and turn on flashlights and slosh our way through puddles of rain and finally enter that very simple place of safety.

It means the world to have it; it settles our fears and quells our anxieties. We sit and we wait and talk and listen and wait. And because it’s a very small space, we sit close beside each other while we wait and talk and listen and wait.

We ride out the storm together.

And that right there makes me think: No wonder they say that there is no place like home.

We ride out the storms…together.

‘The Stormy Day’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and spaghetti with salsa; but he did not like stormy weather. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico was pedaling as fast as he could. What had started as the most perfectly sunny day of the year was now nearing complete washout status, which was bad enough for a kid who just wanted to ride his bike, jump ramps and sail over potholes that sat like craters in the dirt road that led from his home to the ancient barns on the other side of the field. Now, impossibly large drops of rain hit like bombshells on his helmet and the noisy sounds of a storm brewed somewhere in the otherwise blue skies overhead.

BF Bike 2

What worried him was how far the front door of his family’s house seemed from where he was on the dirt road. If he didn’t make it home before the storm hit, he was certain that he was doomed.

Baby Frederico had always been afraid of storms, in particular the sounds of thunder that boomed and sometimes shook the walls of the house and the flashes of lightning that stole into its rooms and worried his imagination. If the family’s radio was on, it would crackle and hiss and an alert would sound that a storm was brewing. The noise of it all was more than enough to worry him.

Another clap of thunder rattled through the air as Baby Frederico slid his bike across the lawn in front of the house and dropped it square in the middle of his mama’s favorite flowerbed.

As he raced up the steps, he could feel his heart beating and head sweating. His Papá was just opening the front door to call him in and the two slammed into each other.

“Whoa mi hijo, are you alright?” said Papá.

“Yes. I mean, sorry. I…” Baby Frederico couldn’t bring himself to say it, but his eyes told his father exactly what was wrong. He was scared and his dad knew it.

“Stay out here with me for a bit” said Papa. “That way we can keep an eye on this noisy storm together.”

Baby Frederico was reluctant, but since the storm had not yet fully exploded over the house he agreed to sit. They chose the porch swing, one of their favorite places to read and think and wonder together. By now, the wind had picked up and the old swing began to sway out of control. Baby Frederico laughed as it reminded him of a wild bull at the rodeo.

“Weather like this always gets me thinking about how I used to be scared of storms,” said his father. “Then, one day, I noticed something unique about them. Have you ever heard a really good piece of music and, because you loved it, you listened to it over and over again?”

“Yes, of course.” Baby Frederico loved music and enjoyed all kinds. He knew his favorites by heart.

“Well,” his father continued. “Storms remind me of music. The more you listen to them, the more you can pick out the different instruments, the different rhythms, the song. Listen with me to (dramatic pause) la tormenta…”

Baby Frederico took a deep breath, just like his dad always did in these moments, and listened. What happened next was the biggest surprise of all…

The rain was heavier now and the tin roof above them met it with the sounds of a thousand drummers beating the life out of their snares, the thunder crashed with the sounds of a million cymbals meeting each other for the very first time, and the wind rushed around them as though all the world’s violinists were playing an entire song in unison. It was stunning – a free concert in Baby Frederico’s own front yard.

And Baby Frederico noticed something else, he wasn’t so scared anymore.

He looked at his father, “Papá, let’s sit here awhile. I’m beginning to like this song.”