We learned many lessons through the tornado experience, some more life-changing than others. On that night, we drove for three hours with our three kids and David’s two friends just trying to get across town to get the kids to safety. Three hours … five kids … bathroom breaks were a given. But in Joplin, there were no longer any bathrooms. So we’d pull over in a somewhat discreet place – girls on one side of the van, boys on the other – and the kids learned survival rule number one: Sometimes you just have to go outside. This made a lasting and unexpected impression on our three-year-old, Molly.
It’s also the reason why I can never return to Harrisonville, Missouri.
It all started with a quick phone call from my husband, Keith, when we were caravanning home after picking up the children from my parent’s house. He had the girls in one car and I had David in the other. It was a simple enough message, “Molly says she has to go potty right now. I’m pulling over in Harrisonville and I’ll fill up while you run her in.” Piece of cake.
We pull over at the gas station we always use on trips to or from my parent’s house. It’s clean; the people are nice; we like it. I go and get Molly and she says, “Daddy says I go outside.” Keith explained to me that he’d told her if we didn’t make it to the gas station he’d pull the car over and she’d just have to go outside. I reassured Molly that we’d made it in time and she can go inside. I picked her up and walked her quickly into the bathroom and she kept telling me, “But Daddy said! He said I’m going outside.”
We got to the bathroom and I, recognizing the urgency of the situation, kept my don’t-touch-anything speech brief, constructed the toilet paper seat cover and set her little self down on the toilet.
She looked at me and said, “I’m not going on the potty. I’m going outside. Daddy said.” And then she clenched down and held it. You’d think when you have to go that badly you can only do this for a second or two. Not Molly. That little girl has the will of an ox, a stubborn ox in a bad mood.
Finally we got up, washed hands and left the bathroom. I took her out to where Keith was filling up the cars and started to tell him we had a little problem and that it was mostly his fault.
The next thing we knew we looked down and in front of all of God’s creation, the nice grand-moms in the white convertible, the traffic on the busy street to the side of us, and the four rows of other cars filling up …
Molly had pulled her pants down and squatted down right in front of the pump. She was going potty outside. Her daddy told her.
Keith leapt into action, grabbed Molly under her knees and held her in a granny-style bowling position. (For those of you without children or those of you with children but more class, this position will keep her shoes clean.)
I leapt into action … and hid. I ran around the other side of my mom-van, opened the side door and, like an ostrich in the sand, put my head inside the van. That’s right, I left Molly and Keith and I hid. I’m not proud.
Once Molly was done, Keith, very careful not to make eye contact with the convertible grannies, growled at me that we need to leave right now. Of course we did.
Never to return again.