Perfect storm (n): 1. A particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse meteorological factors. 2. A particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors.
As I write this, we still don’t know how the so-called Frankenstorm is going to play out. But I’ve been feeling the change of wind this entire week, feeling tides rise high then flow overhead, watching the leaves fall and the skies turn dark and ominous.
This week has been crazy-busy in our house, and in most of your houses too, I expect. After all, the little ones are gearing up for Halloween, painting their faces and spreading cobwebs across the mums in the garden, anticipating parties and tricks or treats. I’ve helped my youngest child put together her costume this year, the polka dot dress and wig of blonde curls that will transform her into that epitome of innocence, Shirley Temple.
And then, of course, the week is ending with the weather dominating the news. I spent the better part of this afternoon navigating the aisles of Walmart, scrambling to find the right combination of canned goods, flashlight batteries and toilet paper that will allow my family to ride the storm out. My husband prepared a list that covered everything from peanut butter to dog food, and I did my best to find each item—more challenging than usual, considering my neighbors were stockpiling for armageddon.
As I stood by the dairy case contemplating a variety of lunchbox products, I was joined by one of my co-workers. “Getting ready for the storm?” he asked.
I explained that my husband had put “Lunchables” on the list, but hadn’t specified which type our child liked. “Well, you may not have to worry about that,” he told me. “A couple of schools have already cancelled.”
I considered this, then tossed a couple of extra cheesy pizzas in the cart, just to be sure. After all, this storm may pass us by. Next week could be business as usual.
Business as usual. In the back of my mind, the thought nagged at me. Because, let’s face it, life hasn’t been business as usual for a week now. Not since a little girl in Clayton took off on her white BMX bike last Saturday and never returned home.
By Sunday, the small town of Clayton was alive with volunteers and candlelight vigils, with trained dogs on the ground and helicopters sounding overhead. People searched. They passed out fliers and cried. Most of all, they prayed, and they held on to hope even as one night, then another, fell.
On Monday, as I drove my 9-year-old to school, I told her about Autumn Pasquale. I told her how the little girl was missing, and that we didn’t know what happened to her, and that I wanted her to be especially careful. I didn’t want to frighten her, but I didn’t want to shelter her either. There is, after all, a meanness in this world, and keeping our eyes shut won’t keep it away from our children, not the ones on white bikes or the ones with Shirley Temple curls. Before she left the car, we prayed for Autumn and for the world, for protection and for peace.
And the next morning, in another prayer, my husband told me that Autumn was gone. I think we all carry the hurt that morning, the pain that happens when our fears become our reality, the overwhelming sadness of finding that sometimes it just stays dark. As the week’s drama played out, the questions just grew. And I chose to hold onto my faith, to keep my eyes on Jesus. Because as much as we don’t like it, the truth is there are some questions that we will never have the answer to, not on this side of heaven. And one of those questions is the simple, sad “Why?”
So I stocked up on crackers and cranberry juice this Saturday, and pretended that I could provide my family a way to ride out this storm. But the winds blow overhead, sounding a lot like helicopters, and the only real preparation I have is in my prayers.