Mother of the Bride
By Susan Harvey
Dread describes my feelings on the day of my daughter’s wedding rehearsal seventeen years ago. I admit, dread is an unusual feeling for the mother of the bride, but this night I would see my former Hubby for the first time since our divorce. I would also meet the New Wife. I’d heard she was thin and rich. Already I hated her. My family envisioned a tempest when the three of us met, but no one expected the tornado we experienced in Virginia that August afternoon.
On that particular Friday, only two minor details needed attention while we waited for friends and family to arrive. I headed for the mall to pick up a gift for the wedding director. My daughters went to Wal-Mart to purchase last-minute toiletries for the honeymoon.
The midday sky was dark. Rain was imminent and would be welcome to cool the balmy temperatures. My well-used leather sandals flip-flopped on my feet. If I walked fast, I had to curl my toes slightly with each step to keep the shoes tight against my feet. These were my favorite sandals, so I overlooked the minor inconvenience of toe curling.
I entered the mall and reluctantly passed a shoe store without stopping to check the sale prices. The purchase and gift-wrapping should take no more than an hour; no time for new shoes today. In a large department store china department, I selected crystal candlesticks and headed for the gift-wrapping department, pleased I would be home in less than the allotted hour.
As I approached the mall entrance, my eyes focused on the funnel cloud. There was no mistaking the tornado heading directly towards us. Suddenly, the mall lost power and went dark. Disbelief, then panic, consumed me.
“Get away from the doors,” I shouted to the bystanders. “It’s a tornado. The wind will break the glass.” People didn’t seem to care. They stood and watched the debris swirl in the parking lot.
I turned away from the doors and screamed for others to do the same. I ran back to the main atrium of the mall, shouting at everyone I passed to get away from the glass windows. I lost my sandals, one at a time. In my haste, I forgot about toe curling. People spilled out of the darkened stores and cleared a wide swath for me, the screaming maniac running through the mall. Trust me; there’s no faster way to get people out of your way! Clerks pulled chain-link gates three-quarters closed and then stood in the remaining space waiting to find out what was happening.
Everyone stared at me, but no one listened. I decided to save myself by taking refuge in a shoe store. The clerk said I couldn’t enter the store without shoes; they were required in the mall. By this time, I was hysterical.
“A tornado is coming,” I screamed waving my arms towards the roof. “It’ll break the glass roof and suck everyone out. Listen to me. I’m from Texas. I know what I’m talking about.” This bit of information seemed to have an effect on the clerk. She took a few steps to one side and put up her hands to form a barrier between us. “Okay, lady. Whatever you say.”
I rushed into the store in search of a place to take cover. The benches would work, but I needed something soft to protect my head. Ah – tapestry handbags filled with crushed paper. I threw several under the bench all the while shouting at the clerk to do the same. She watched from a safe distance – a safe distance from me.
A security guard appeared and the clerk summed up the scene – a barefoot, hysterical woman proclaiming death to all within sixty seconds when a tornado would hit the mall and suck everyone through the atrium roof. Meanwhile, I tried to squeeze my entire body under a bench. Unfortunately, my size eighteen body was too large to fit, so I crouched on the floor with only my head, surrounded by tapestry handbags, under the bench. I waited for the crash of glass and the sound of a speeding freight train.
Three minutes passed, then five. No crash. No train. Nothing. I stood up, plumped each bag, and returned it to its display perch. I smoothed my rumpled clothes and ran my fingers through my disheveled hair. Then I collected my purse and the gift.
“Perhaps I was wrong,” I said, and calmly walked past the clerk, who checked to make sure I wasn’t wearing new shoes. I collected my sandals, one in the hallway leading to the restrooms and the other near the pay phones. I pulled the gift from its bag and shook it – no sound of broken glass. I fluffed the bow and carefully put it back into the bag, walked past confused people gathered in the parking lot, and got into my car.
As I drove away, the Emergency Broadcasting System blared from the radio. Eight tornadoes were in progress in the area and had struck several businesses. A line of emergency vehicles zigzagged through the parking lot, around downed trees and power lines like a flashing red snake slithering toward Wal-Mart, less than a hundred yards from the mall entrance where I had spotted the funnel cloud.
Yes! Now everyone in the mall would know I was right about the tornado. By the time I remembered that my daughters were in Wal-Mart, I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic going nowhere. Seven miles and four hours later, I arrived home. My daughters were safe, and all out-of-town guests had checked into their hotel rooms. Relief swept over me until I remembered I still had to face them – ex-Hubby and New Wife – at the wedding rehearsal in less than two hours. There’s nothing like spending an afternoon up close and personal with a tornado to put things in perspective. Meeting a thin, rich Wife-in-Law would be a piece of cake. And on that night, I even ignored the calories!
About this writer
- Susan Harvey is a humor writer who teaches college English. She lives in Murrells Inlet, and in her spare time enjoys cooking and reading mysteries.