She was only six years old when she had the first of the tornado dreams. The day had been like any other summer day as lived by a six-year-old. There had been games in her morning Sunday school class, soup and cheese sandwiches for lunch,
mudpies after the noontime rain, a hot bath, paper dolls, a nap, dinner, dressing her kitten in Miss Molly Fairweather's best doll clothes, a story, and bedtime. Nothing at all happened to indicate what sleep would hold for her. So,
when the dream came, it was unexpected in its presence and in its being remembered so vividly for days to follow.
The dark purple sky over her house seemed to grow a long arm that slowly reached down into the neighborhood to begin plucking familiar objects from the earth and tossing them callously aside. She watched from her bedroom window, clutching
Miss Molly to her tightly, eyes widening with each reaping sweep, as the tornado passed her house by and swept on through the neighborhood, changing and rearranging the world around her. When it was over, she ran outside to see that not only had the neighborhood been pulled up like an unwelcome weed in a garden but that it had been replanted and replaced as well. Houses unfamiliar to her stood in stead of the old ones. People whose faces she didn't recognize began to appear in open doors and windows. And though her own house had seemed untouched from the inside, it was now red-brick where it once had been white clapboard.
She woke then, unfrightened but oddly disturbed, and for days the dream stayed with her like an invisible shadow dancing away just before her eyes could fall upon it.
Two weeks later, her father announced that they were moving to another town where a better job awaited him. And she remembered the tornado dream again.
She didn't dream of tornadoes again until she was twelve. By then she had nearly forgotten the first. Life had gone on much as it had in the previous town. Games were played and won. Friends were made and lost. She learned to read and to
write and to play "Heart and Soul" on the piano with her best friend, Sally Jane. Her kitten grew into a large calico cat and became a mother twice over. Miss Molly Fairweather lost the last of her yellow yarn hair and was living out her remaining existence in the old trunk at the foot of the canopy bed. Generally, life was good. Then the second dream came.
This time when the swirling funnel of destruction began its sweep of her world, she recognized it immediately. Again she stood at her bedroom window, not her new room, but the old one in their previous house. She fled the room and ran
through the house in search of her mother and father and the calico cat. Her mother was in the kitchen and so was the cat. Silently she snatched up the cat and signaled her mother to follow her. Together they all went to the basement to crouch under the workbench where they would be safe. Even as they crouched there, she called for her father over and over, but he never answered. When the roaring outside ceased. They left the basement and she began to search for him, but her mother refused to help. Room by room she searched. Not only could she not find him, but she could find no trace of his ever having existed. His clothes were gone from the closet. His boots weren't by the kitchen door where he always left them. There were no photographs of him on the walls. She ran to her room, slammed the door shut, and threw herself onto the bed crying.
She woke abruptly, still seeing the images of the tornado in her mind's eye. Quickly she threw back her covers and tiptoed to her parents room to make sure they were both there. Her mother and father both slept soundly in their bed. Relieved, she returned to her own bed.
One month later, her parents separated and her father moved out, leaving no trace that he had ever lived with them. Their divorce became final a few months after that. She saw her father only on weekends, regularly for nearly a year. After that, it became every other weekend. Then it was once a month. Finally she saw him only on holidays. Each time that he made excuses why he couldn't see her, she felt him slip farther from her and she remembered the tornado dream.
Her mother found a job to support them both. They moved out of the house and into a small apartment where they weren't allowed pets. The cat went to live with Grandma and Grampy. After school, she spent a lot more time there herself, waiting for her mother to get off work.
Then her mother started taking a few classes in the evenings, trying to improve her work skills so she could find a better job. She spent even more time with her grandparents, and often joined them at church. The cat grew old and fat. She grew older and changed. She got taller. Her body became that of a young woman. She began to notice that some of the boys in her classes were cute and she learned to flirt with them. There were church picnics, school dances and football games, parties with loud music and sleepovers with
girlfriends doing each other's hair. Life became a whirl of activity, but she never quite forgot the tornado dreams.
The dreams didn't forget her either. At sixteen, they came for her again. This one began with the same scenario as the others. The sky turned the color of a bruise. The sound of the wind roared past her ears as she stood at the window in that nearly forgotten bedroom. She saw it coming down the street, twisting and turning like a devil in torment. She tried to shut her eyes to it but found that she couldn't. She hurried through the house to search for her family. Grandma and her mother were at the front door shouting at someone outside. She pushed between them to see. Her grandfather was walking steadily down the street
straight into the path of the twister. She began to scream along with the other women. Before her very eyes, the tornado reached out with an arm and snatched her grandfather up into its giant maw where he disappeared forever. She pushed
her mother and grandmother back inside, slamming the door behind them, and they all waited for the roar of the winds to stop. As the sound died down, so did her dream.
Slowly she rose to consciousness to find the morning sun streaming through her bedroom window, warm on her face. She didn't believe in the honest beauty of the day for a moment. For weeks afterward, whenever she wasn't in school, she
trailed her grandfather everywhere. When she was at home with her mother, she called her grandparents frequently. She noticed her mother casting worried frowns at her, but didn't need to wonder why. The mirror told her. Dark circles
settled in beneath her eyes. Sleep refused to offer her any rest. Her grades began to slip. Her mother called the doctor and arranged a checkup for her even though she insisted she was fine. Not five minutes after they arrived home from
her doctor's visit, the telephone rang. Her grandfather had suffered a sudden stroke. He was gone.
She hardly had the strength left to grieve for him. Because the tornado dream had forewarned her, she had been slowly grieving for weeks already. She missed him terribly, but during his last days with them, she had spent more time with
him than she would have if she hadn't had the dream.
Realizing this, the tornado dreams suddenly ceased to be her enemies. They became, instead, harbingers of things to come. She knew she would now be prepared for tragedy and that she could look forward to blessings as well. As she grew older, she had them more often and she learned to interpret them. She paid great attention to the details revealed by each one. It was a tornado dream that showed her who her husband would be. A tornado dream accompanied the births of each of her four children. A tornado dream warned her of the impending loss of her grandmother, a dear friend, and even her mother many years later. She
never became comfortable with them, but she learned to use them as though they were winds by which she could set her sails.
It was a tornado dream that told her that her own life would soon end. She was old now. Her darling husband of fifty years had passed before her some six years ago. The children all had children of their own and lives that had no room for her any more. She had fallen and broken a hip a few months before, so she was banished to a nursing home where her children didn't have to think about her. And though the hip healed nicely, they didn't come to bring her home.
The dream began differently for the first time in her long life. The sky was clear and blue, as blue as she 'd ever seen it. The funnel, a white cloud this time instead of the usual menacing gray, dropped down out of that beautiful sky. For the very first time in her life, she could see within the center of that storm a familiar face. She had never him seen before, but she knew exactly who he was. And when he reached down through that funnel as though to take her hand,
she didnít hesitate to reach up and accept it. The winds of change had brought her full circle in life and the last dream that she stepped into was no dream at all, but a greater realityóa place where dreams didnít exist. They werenít
needed any more, for this was the place of face-to-face. There was no more need for change.