While the skies were unleashing unpredictable violence all over North Texas this week, my children ducked and covered at school, and our dog and I huddled in a hallway near our laundry room.
Ideally the dog and I would have been inside the laundry room, where there are no windows or mirrors. But the shelves in there are filled with stuff that would hurt if jostled onto our heads.
Even more ideally, we would have been in a bathtub, with a mattress on top of us and a half gallon of ice cream in my lap.
That’s how my late Gramma took cover during tornado warnings. She was somewhat of a twister expert, growing up in Alabama and raising her children in West Texas.
By the time I was hanging out with her, she and Grandpa lived in Central Texas. Those were her retirement years, when the day was structured around meals, word games, soap operas (The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, Another World), poetry writing, local newscasts and Wheel of Fortune.
The television was almost always on, and she never missed a weather alert. Tornado warnings sent her into action.
First, she would put on her best undergarments. If the house tumbled down around her and she had to be rescued by young, handsome paramedics, she wanted to be wearing a bra (retirement meant she often went without one around the house) and especially nice underwear beneath her nightgown and robe.
She’d drag a twin mattress from the guest bedroom and prop it up in the hallway, near the bathroom.
Next, she’d head to the kitchen for whatever ice cream was in the freezer. She hoped for rocky road or butter pecan. If the very worst happened, she wanted her final meal to be her favorite ice cream.
At last, with all the important pieces in place, she would climb into the tub, pull the mattress overhead and dig into the ice cream.
Years later, Gramma’s severe weather rituals amuse me. And comfort me.
As I sat on cold tile Tuesday and listened to frantic weather reports from an out-of-sight television, thinking of her antics made me laugh. She posthumously took the edge off a stressful afternoon.
And I took comfort in rediscovering some of her instructions for life.
Be comfortable when you can. If you want to walk around your house in a muumuu, with nothing underneath or atop, go right ahead. There’s no shame in a pajama day.
But if company’s coming or you’re driving into town, you need to make an effort. That includes, but is not limited to, socially expected undergarments.
Be safe. Gramma could be kooky, but she wasn’t reckless. If a meteorologist told her to take cover, she would. She wouldn’t attempt to chase the storm in her Grand Prix or stand on the back patio in hopes of snapping a photo of a funnel cloud.
She’d lived long enough and endured enough extremes to respect the power of natural forces.
Enjoy small pleasures. Don’t let your freezer run out of ice cream. Or your pantry run out of cookies.
Whatever little treat brings you joy, keep it handy. Because you never know which meal is your last meal. And, if you’re fortunate enough to weather the storm unscathed, you should celebrate.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.