I curled up in a ball on my side and drew the covers up to my chin. The cold air wasn’t here yet, but I could sense its imminent arrival on the coattails of the wind that whistled through the screens and rattled the siding of my house. So much for the unseasonably warm weather we’d been having.
My 8-year-old daughter opened my bedroom door and tiptoed to my side. “I’m scared of the storm,” she whispered.
“It’s ok, sweetie. It’s no storm – just wind. See?” I tapped the WeatherBug app on the phone at my bedside and summoned the radar screen. My children are the grandchildren of farmers. They know how to read a weather map. Satisfied that a storm wasn’t coming and armed with the advice to turn her radio on low to combat the noise of the wind, she returned to her bed.
A cold front was coming, no doubt. I felt the coolness through the cracked window. A person always needs a little fresh air when they sleep, regardless of the season. I learned that from my farming grandfather. The wind outside howled, and now even the dog showed signs of nervousness at the sound. He shifted restlessly at the foot of the bed, snuggling closer to my legs for warmth or reassurance – or both. Little did he know that I needed it too.
A short time later, somewhere in that no-man’s land between sleep and wakefulness, my mind conjured up memories that were spurred by sound of the wind.
I remembered all the times that I fled the mobile home I shared many years ago with my husband and newborn baby girl. I hated that house. Seeking protection from elements like tornadoes and high winds (that in the South have the locations of such homes programmed into their internal Garmins) felt like carrying a clover leaf for an umbrella. It just wasn’t up to the task. My he-man husband always refused to leave the house for trifles such as tornado warnings, meaning that I was forced out into the storm alone, carrying a diaper bag and a crying baby through the wind and rain.
I later ended up fleeing that house for good, not because of tornado warnings, but because of a stormy marriage that threatened me even more than an F5 tornado. My daughter and I landed in a tiny duplex apartment in a nearby town. The neighbors on the other side of the duplex were a married couple whom I found friendly in the light of day, but who drank heavily and argued loudly at night. I used to lie in bed at night, praying that if one of them pulled a gun, it wouldn’t be fired through my bedroom wall. Strange things happened in that house. Sometimes, particularly on stormy nights, I would feel the mattress of my bed move, as though someone was leaning or sitting on it. I would roll over, expecting to see my preschool daughter ready to tell me about a bad dream or that she needed a drink of water. No one was ever there. One night filled with heavy rain and gusty winds, I walked out of my bedroom to go to the bathroom, only to discover that the front door of my house was standing wide open. I never knew what would blow in on the wind around that little duplex.
Fear of the wind haunted me even after I moved on. I woke one night in my sturdy 1950’s-built brick manse in Landrum with my heart pounding. I felt threatened. Was someone in the house? I became aware of my ornery calico cat sleeping peacefully beside me. No, no one was in the house. She was the first to slink off to a hiding place when a strange person (anyone except me or my daughter) stepped into the house. I lay there with a pounding heart when I heard again the sound that had wakened me: a strong gust of wind and the rumble of distant thunder. A storm was coming. Years of living in that flimsy mobile home followed by two years in a wind-haunted duplex conditioned me to fear storms.
And now on this night, the wind continued its loud symphony of sounds outside my window. I rolled over and the barrage of wind memories continued. This time it was the memory of a dream. In the dream I was living again in that horrible mobile home. (It seems that many of my bad dreams put me back in that house.) A terrible windstorm blew in so fast and so furious that I didn’t have time to flee to safety. There was no inner room or safe place to hide in that single-wide tin can, so I huddled on the couch with my baby girl in my lap and prayed and cried as the winds rocked the house. Finally it stopped. A few moments later, my mother and my sister-in-law knocked on my front door. I was a wreck, a fact they couldn’t help but notice yet failed to understand. “Didn’t you hear that storm?” I responded to their questioning looks. “Didn’t you feel those wind gusts? I thought the house would blow over! Can’t you see all the limbs down in the yard? Look – the old oak tree was literally split in two!” They were happily oblivious to any storm that had passed through. I could not understand how they had missed such a horrible storm or how they failed to see the debris it left behind.
As always, dreams are truth-tellers. Wind has always been a symbol of upheaval and vulnerability for me. I was afraid of being harmed in that flimsy mobile home and the man I had believed would protect me and my child failed me. The two years in the tiny wind-haunted duplex were years of personal storms: a stormy job, stormy divorce proceedings, the stormy end to a relationship I cherished, stormy communications with my parents. I felt so alone during those storms. Even years later when the storms were behind me, just the sound of wind and thunder could wake me in fear or brew a truth-telling wind dream.
Then there was the wind on this night. It blew in memories that had been secured in storage for years. But that’s not all it blew in. There were also snippets of an old song – words that sounded to my ears so secular, yet so holy. I realized later that it was probably the voice of Garth Brooks crooning on my daughter’s radio, but my mind felt like the words were sent to me from the One who loves me most:
The storms are raging on a rolling sea,
Down the highway of regret.
The winds of change are blowing wild and free,
But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.
There ain’t nothing that I wouldn’t do;
Go to the ends of the earth for you.
Make you happy, make your dreams come true,
To make you feel my love.
And with those words echoing in my mind I finally slept in peace, even as outside my window the wind blew on.