The closest I’ve ever been to a tornado was in the summer of 1973 — in Ontario, California.
My then husband and I lived with our toddler daughter in a small two bedroom home one block east of Euclid Avenue — a 7-mile long boulevard leading toward the San Gabriel mountains. Once noted for its exceptional beauty, the avenue had double rows of 100 year-old pepper trees lining its broad, grassy center divide.
Until that day.
The neighborhood we lived in was a hodgepodge of grand but aging wood frame houses and tiny stucco boxes. Our neighbors ranged from a dotty elderly widow (next door) whose family had made a good deal of money in the heyday of the orange groves, to a young professional couple withthree children (across the street), to several families at the end of the block barely scraping a living out of their jobs at the Sunkist plant, or from welfare and food stamps.
It was a relatively quiet and safe street, only two blocks long, though occasionally its peace would be broken by hot rodders streaking down it at full speed, screeching to a halt at the Euclid Avenue stop sign.
It was a good place, or so it seemed, for a couple without a lot of money to raise a small child.
We had no back yard to speak of, since the space was taken up by a second small house that provided us a small supplement to the income from my husband’s first real job since graduation [not counting his two years in the Air Force or the insurance sales job he got in San Jose, where we moved after he got out of the Air Force on a conscientious objector’s discharge a week before his Vietnam court date].
But the front yard was huge, with an ugly but quite useful chain link fence around it, protected from the heat of the midday sun by two enormous mulberry trees so thick with leaves that we had a hard time keeping the grass growing for lack of light. Our toddler loved to play there, zooming up and down the long front walk on her tricycle, digging in her…