The weird thing about panicking is that it makes perfect sense. At first. Like, when a friend turns to you at dance class and comments on how the elementary schools will keep the kids in the safe zone during pick-up if the tornado touches down nearby.
Honestly, is there a better time for sound to stop? For your heart to pound so fast that your lungs determine there’s no room for breath? It wasn’t even a warning, it was a watch, and we’re in Virginia. So I shouldn’t have even given it a second thought. Okay, maybe a second. But definitely not a third. And forth. And fifth. Because we don’t get real tornados in Virginia. But my brain, which could normally be counted on to forget important information, picked that moment to point out that no one expected we’d lose power for a week because of that big hurricane years ago. It’s Virginia. We don’t get real hurricanes. And no one thought we’d get slammed by feet of snow two years in a row. It’s Virginia. We don’t get real snow. And don’t even get me started about the earthquake. Newborn compared to worldly standards, sure, but it’s Virginia…
As I drove TWO home from dance I kept peeking up at the sky. It was a deep gray with bright white clouds moving faster than my car. Pretty much the wrong color for a tornado, but maybe there was one was hiding in there. I called my Calm & Cool Best Friend, casually asking if she’d heard anything about the schools closing early. She laughed, and in a calm and cool manner assured me that everything was fine and promised she’d call if she heard something. I laughed. She was right. I relaxed.
Over the years I’ve been super blessed to make a number of wonderful best friends. It’s neat how that happens. How in elementary school you go from lots of friends, to smaller groups, to two or one very best friends. And as you grow older, you’re able to have lots of best friends again. Friends who know the different sides to your messes and love you anyway. Childhood best friends, school best friends, college best friends, best friends in the church community, best friends through your kids. Bad movie best friends. Calm and cool best friends.
And then there are the Perfect Timing Best Friends. The ones who don’t know that you’re about to panic again and yet somehow show up at your house with french-fries just as a huge gust of wind blows open your storm door. My Perfect Timing Best Friend had no idea that natural disasters were my #1 big fear. She had no idea that her presence was grounding me. That she was the only reason I hadn’t flipped. Why would she? Natural disasters don’t happen around here enough for my freak out tendencies to make themselves known. But by the time I was stuffing my face with fries, I knew it would be okay. I didn’t have to share my inner turmoil. I could choose not to panic. I’d be seeing ONE in 45 minutes. No need to disrupt the classroom. Worry the kids. Be the freak out mom.
My Perfect Timing Best Friend turned to me and asked, “This tornado thing is nothing to worry about, right?”
I put down the fries. “You shouldn’t ask me that,” I whispered. Silence. When I finally looked up, she was staring at me, eyes wide. Minutes later we were driving in a downpour to get our kids. My poor friend. She had no idea what she signed on for when she decided she liked me.
Soaked, we entered the school. One of the secretaries had the door propped open, assuring us it was okay to get our kids. I walked to my daughter’s class. Her teacher smiled at me and pointed me toward the art room. My heart was a wreck by the time I got there. The art teacher looked at me. I was a stringy, wet mess.
“Are you here because of the weather? Is it that bad out there?”
“I’m just…” I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. But her eyes finished the sentence. …one of the freak out moms.
But it’s a good thing I picked my daughter up when I did. The weather was intense. And I mean INTENSE. As intense as a mister in the produce aisle. The worst part about giving in to panic (other than the actual panicking part) is how exposed and stupid you feel when it passes. It’s like looking behind you and realizing that you just trailed dog poop on someone else’s brand new carpet. I kept staring out the window, hoping for at least a bolt of lightning. Something. But no. The only time thunder rolled through our house was when I argued with ONE over her homework assignment, which she probably would’ve done at school if I’d left her there. I felt so stupid I almost threw up.
That was when my Perfect Timing Best Friend texted: “You & I are quite the pair. So sorry to have instigated the rescue mission…for a drizzle…”
I laughed, but still felt queasy. Her son was in Kindergarten. He’d only been at school for three weeks. It was acceptable for a kindergarten mom to do something like this. And then my phone rang. It was my Calm & Cool Best Friend. I dropped my head in disgrace. I almost didn’t answer.
“Did you wind up picking her up early?” she asked.
“Yes,” I moaned, overcome by the need to dump my shame all over her. “And it’s not even raining out. I feel like such an idiot.”
“I know!” she laughed. “I picked mine up, too.”
“You did?” I immediately felt better. Her daughter was also in second grade.
“Yeah…I expected there would be parents and kids steaming out of the building. But no, it was just us…”
I took a deep breath, the embarrassment subsiding. This wasn’t my first public panic. It wouldn’t be my last. But in the meantime, here’s to exposing inner fears and shame so that friends can be your friends anyway.
I can only hope my daughters make the same kind of friends in their elementary school as I have.
©2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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