BIKE HELMETS MAKE TORNADO WARNINGS FUN
Before they set booty to seat on their very first tricycles, my children donned bicycle helmets. Never mind that the first time I wore a helmet I was 19 and commuting to school on a moped. (Forget that I have fallen off a bike hundreds of times and never suffered a brain injury. Times have changed. We know better now.) Good parenting demands the use of helmets for riding bicycles, scooters and caster boards, and even sliding down banisters. My children still use their helmets when they ride their bikes, but ever since we moved to Tornado Alley, the plastic and foam protectors have a whole new purpose.
My mother watches the Weather Channel. A lot. So much so that I don’t need to pay attention to the sky, our local weather guy or even the fancy weather radio. If there is severe weather in a three-state radius, my mother will call. And when she does, there is always a reckoning. “Why don’t you have a basement? John makes good money. I just don’t understand why you don’t have a basement.” As if a basement is something you can pick up at Home Depot for six easy payments. We have this discussion over and over, especially in the spring, which is tornado season in these parts.
I counter that we are plenty safe in the closet under the stairs. “You never see the stairs left when a tornado levels a house,” she says. She has a point.
Then one day, we suddenly discovered that the helmets we originally purchased to protect the children’s little skulls from skidding across the pavement do double duty as twister helmets in the unlikely event that a tornado strikes our house. The alternate use was born one sunny afternoon while the kids were riding their bikes. My mother called to ask if I knew we were under a watch. I brushed her off, telling her a watch wasn’t very serious. We only took precautions under a warning.
That day the watch eventually developed into a warning, and as the wind started to blow, I ran around the yard picking up things the kids had left out earlier. I scooped up the helmets just as I told the kids to get under the stairs. It occurred to me that an F5 tornado might pose more of a threat than the cul-de-sac asphalt. Although my children complain about wearing their helmets to ride bikes, they love to wear them in a storm.
Usually when my mother calls with dire weather warnings, it’s a false alarm. But when we really are under a tornado alert, I hope she takes some comfort knowing the children are tucked safely under the stairs, protected from all manner of flying debris by their trusty bicycle helmets.