When I was a young child, I used to dream about a white tornado. Most times, it was a scary dream: I grew up in the Midwest, which has seen its share of disaster caused by funnel clouds. However, being a child with an optimistic imagination that often turned fire-breathing dragons into puppy-like creatures, I sometimes saw the tornado of my dreams as a hero: sweeping into the basement and straightening up my toys so I wouldn’t get in trouble.
It takes a historian, not an analyst, to figure out where my dreams came from: Ajax had a commercial for its ammonia-based, liquid cleaner beginning in the early 1960s that featured people taking the top off a the bottle, which released a white tornado to carry through the Ajax theme of “stronger than dirt.”
I see the year 2018 as my modern white tornado tackling some grit. My family has experienced great upheaval starting with sickness and injury, then losing a friend to tragedy, seeing a beloved parent lose his ability to function, experiencing the fear of having another parent almost lose her home. The year swept in, destroyed much in its path and created chaos.
As a writer, the greatest change is that my co-author, my mom, is moving a thousand-plus miles away. As a mother, the hardest change is that my daughter is doing the same thing. I’m going from being part of the sandwich generation to dealing with a solitude I haven’t felt since I was in my thirties, single and living each day for myself without worrying much about the family who lived so far away.
My mind is reaching for the positives in this white tornado: my mom will be with my other sisters, well-cared for and in a better living situation. My daughter will get the life experience I think she really needs to grow into her own. I will get some quality time with my husband that we both want and more time to write my own stories. But I’m not a child so it’s not as easy to let go of the dragon. The path the tornado took has left much residue behind: I see it in the sadness on the faces of my husband and sister-in-law; in the stress I see in both my mom and my daughter’s eyes. I feel it my heart when I think about how I’ll live without the wisdom of my ma, the daily laughter of my baby girl, the good-hearted joking of my father-in-law.
I can only hope that when we put the lid back on the bottle of 2018 and tuck it away on the shelf, the world might look like a cleaner, fresher place.–Genilee Swope Parente