It’s raining outside. Not a heavy downpour, but a cold, wet, chill-you-to-the-bone kind of rain. I haven’t decided if I’m happy about it or not. After weeks of snow followed by inches of ice, I’m happy to have any precipitation that is not solid. And the truck did need a good rinsing to remove all the salt. But last week tempted us with the sun and warmth of spring, and I’ll admit, I was instantly spoiled.
I’ll also admit I’ve had a love/hate relationship with rain my entire life. My earliest thoughts of rain go back to those days in early elementary school. Rain meant dressing in my yellow rain slicker (the inside of the hood clearly marked with my name in black marker lest I confuse it with the dozen or so identical slickers hanging in the classroom closet) and my big goulashes. It always took me a while to load on all of this gear and one by one close the fold-over snaps. If it rained too hard it mean Mom would load us into the station wagon and drive us there. The atmosphere of the classroom was always different on a rainy day. It always looked so dark outside when viewed from within the classroom. It made me tired and slow. Lord help the teacher if there was thunder, because everyone’s attention was then focused solely on the windows. For some reason, I remember the rainy days and not the sunny ones.
I can remember one summer around 1969 or ’70 when I got to join my sister and her friends as they played outside in the pouring rain. There was no lightening to make it dangerous, just a good old fashioned gulley-washer of a shower. My gray ISU tee-shirt from my older, collegiate sister lay black and plastered against my body, and my hair dripped over my face. We got permission from Mom to head out past the dead end and take an excursion to Sally Sundae's ice cream shop on busy Arlington, where we treated ourselves to a frozen treat. I suspect I had a slushy. What surprises me is that I don’t remember being cold, even with an out layer of wet clothes and a pile of lime-flavored ice in my belly.
I’ve always loved the white noise that rain provides. For many years we owned a trailer at Raccoon Lake where we spent every weekend and spring vacation. There is nothing like the sound of rain on a metal roof to lull you to sleep. Crawl a little deeper under the blanket and just listen to the pitter-patter of the raindrops. That same scenario could be turned into quite a tense night if you threw in some lightening and wind. A little trailer surrounded by huge trees in a storm gets your attention pretty quickly. Those same trees liked to play with us during the day time. You could sit outside under the trees in a light to moderate shower and never get wet, their canopy was so thick. You could hear the rain, and you could see it hitting the nearby lake, but there you sat nice and dry. But they had a sense of humor, too. A half hour after the rain ended and the sun broke through, a light breeze might blow through, shake the leaves and dump all the stored water down on you in great big drops. It usually felt good, and it would always make us laugh.
Rain to an adult is totally different than rain to a child. Now I look out and think how I can’t mow the lawn or plant the garden. My wife laments the fact that she just spent half a day washing the windows, only to see them again splattered and dirty. We have to think about things like sump pumps and flood insurance. The basement at my childhood home once flooded. The water literally sprouted from the walls and shot into buckets a couple feet away. Eventually it covered the floor, so furniture went up on blocks. I would carry up buckets of water and toss them out the back door, never realizing that they were just soaking back into the ground, ready to leak in again. Dad blocked the basement drain with his bowling ball because the water was backing up in the sewers. Eventually, the rain stopped and the water went away. I got a few wet books out of the adventure, but no real damage. Like I said, rain is not nearly as fun when you are an adult.
That's why I want to go back to when a long walk in the rain was a summer adventure. When puddles called me to jump in them or ride through them on my bike. When flooded yards were a place to wade and not worry about basement damage. I want to fall asleep with the rain gently striking a metal roof, and I want to pull the old yellow blanket up just a little further and just drift off.