Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Princess and the Tornado

Do you want to believe in fairy tales? Years ago a book was published that was titled The Cinderella Complex; it explained how women secretly want to be rescued from a life of drudgery and fear by a prandsome hince; I mean, a handsome prince  (My tribute to Archie Campbell and Hee Haw). I can understand that.  Instead of scrubbing out the hearth and washing the dirty tea cups, I will be swept away by a tall, virile, athletic heir to the throne who worships me and provides everything I could possibly need with his extraordinary wealth.  I will be the center of his life.

Who wouldn't want that?  Oh, well.  There is no escaping the need to get those dirty dishes washed up because I have no servants to do that or to do the laundry or to dust the dresser.  And there is no princely fellow pulling up in the driveway, just a working man who is wondering what I've fixed for supper, after which he'll go outside and mow the grass. 

The wedding of William Wales and Catharine Middleton last week delivered the Cinderella complex on the doorsteps of millions of women.  If it can't happen for us, we thought, at least this wedding proves that it is possible.  It is not just a fairy tale.  As my daughter pointed out to me as she described watching the wedding, when Wills and Kate stepped through the door to the church, bells pealed, just like in the Disney film, Cinderella.  Oh.

I think the world was ready to put on a pretty dress and have a good time.  Earlier in the week I vacillated about getting up at 4:00 a.m. to watch the wedding as it happened.  I did that when Charles married Diana in 1981, but I'm older and less excitable, and the early morning sleep seemed to be winning out over the wedding fol-de-rol.  As it turned out, I needn't have spent so much time worrying about it.

Forever I will associate the gallantry and romance of a royal wedding with one of the most devastating disasters to occur in our region, a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe.  I was not able to watch the wedding from London early Friday morning because in the wee hours of Thursday morning, a ruinous tornado sliced through small towns and farms near our home. 

From late Wednesday night through Friday evening, we had no cable, internet service, or telephone.  Only a short time earlier we had seen our electricity come back on and started receiving cell phone service again.  People were killed in the tornado.  Homes, businesses, churches, and schools were destroyed.  When I saw the area for the first time Saturday morning, the only image I could relate it to were photos taken during World War II of bombed out German cities.  The tornado struck at night, after the tornado watch had expired.  The landscape will never be the same again, and lives of those who lived through it will forever be re-shaped by the terror of that night.

The miracle is that so many people survived. 

The tornado and the wedding are somehow twisted together in my mind.  Absolute bliss in London, cheering crowds, pealing church bells, and the clop of horse hooves.  Sheared off tree trunks, houses with only walls left standing, sections of metal roofing wrapped around power poles, and trailer trucks bent in half.  The memory becomes both real life and the fairy tale, the desolation and the exuberance.

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