Nineteen years ago tonight a tornado roared through central Fort Worth. It came from the northwest, and I know it did some damage in the Rivercrest area, then moved on to devastate the Linwood neighborhood and cause widespread damage downtown. Then it, or storms spawned by it, roared onto Arlington where there was also severe damage. I’m sure everyone has their story of that evening. For me, it’s memorable because of the tornado and because it reminds me how long I’ve had the wonderful tradition of dinner with my friend Betty.
I don’t know if back then we had settled on Wednesday nights, as we do now, but we had gone to Pappadeaux, one of our favorites. There were storms forecast, but who pays attention to that? As we enjoyed our dinner, we watched the sky go from gun-metal gray to that ghastly green which foretells real trouble.
I remember once being away from home when my children were little, and the sky turned green. My ex and I called the nanny, and I said, “You do know what to do in case of a bad storm?” I asked. “Oh, yes, ma’am,” she reassured me—followed by “What?” We lived at the time in a house with a basement, and I told her to take the children and go to the basement. Nothing happened that time, but nineteen years ago we weren’t so lucky.
Betty and I decided it was the better part of wisdom not to go out in that scary weather, and so we sat and watched a horrific storm—sideways rain, high winds, all the things you dread. I still marvel that in that restaurant with all its windows we were not told to hide under the tables or something, but I suppose they wanted to avoid panic. We ordered a second glass of wine and watched. After a bit, the sun came out, and the sky turned blue again. We finished our wine and left, still not knowing what had happened.
When I walked in the house, the phone was ringing. I answered to hear Jordan say, “I’m all right.” Well, why wouldn’t she be? Only later did it dawn on me that she assumed, as kids will, that her mom was okay and at home and frantic with worry. She never asked, “Are you okay?”
Gradually I learned that the tornado had gone less than half a mile from where we sat sipping that second glass of wine. Ever after, Betty’s husband, Don, would say, “I can’t believe the two of you just sat there and ordered more wine.” But what would he have had us do? I think rushing out in the storm would have been the worst kind of foolishness.
The anniversary is also important because it reminds me how long Betty and I have made a ritual of our weekly suppers. And it wasn’t even a new tradition then. I’d say we’d been going to supper—or sometimes happy hour—for three or four years. Today our friend Jean has had a change in her family situation, and we include her so now we’re a regular threesome. But longstanding friendships are one of the things I appreciate in life, so tonight I look back on a long tradition of dinners with Betty. We’ve had some adventures and tried some wacky places, but we also have our favorites, and I am so grateful for the friendship—and for the near-escape of tragedy nineteen years ago.
Tonight Betty, Jean, and I had supper at La Madeleine on Camp Bowie, carrying on the tradition. The weather was calm and lovely, and tornados were far from our minds. Christian reminded me when we got home.
Here’s to a spring full of warm rains and gentle breezes and free of severe storms.