“Fleeting winds and skipping stones, rolling hills line endless roads. Wonder, we do indeed, how this world came to be.” Mom’s laughter rang out, echoing through the open air. “Your turn, Rain!”
“For cloudless skies and hummingbirds and crashing waves tell more than words, happy we are indeed, to revel in their laughter, a soulful melody,” I trilled.
“That’s exactly right, my darling. Don’t you forget it,” Mom hummed over her shoulder, standing on the tips of her toes with arms extended high above her to reach the laundry line that billowed in the wind, dresses and socks dangling haphazardly from it — a beautiful mess.
I was preoccupied that day, worrying a wooden clothing pin between my chapped lips and weaving in and out of the clothing line, captivated by the rhythmic sway of the wind that made Mom’s dress ripple and come to life. I giggled to myself as I watched her chocolate brown hair whip rebelliously across her shoulders and into her face.
The wild grass tickled the soles of my feet as I frisked and frolicked, bristling beneath them as I came to a standstill and gazed into the open meadow. It was a vast field of green adorned by wildflowers for as far as the eye could see, the mountains at the edge of the horizon seemingly out of reach. Gazing back at my family’s makeshift trailer, I marveled at the contrast and took comfort in its familiarity as best as I could at nine years old. But the feeling didn’t last.
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake the frightful chill that pierced my bones and spread like rattlesnake poison. It happened on every stormy day. The slight ringing in my ears and the faint tingling in my toes and fingertips would irk me as charcoal clouds marred the sky and silenced the chirping of the birds, the whole world seeming to hold its breath for the overbearing claps of thunder that would inevitably ring through the sky in isolation, loud and ominous.
Always the sensitive soul, Mom took instant notice and called out to the rapidly receding light within me. “Rainy, baby, what’s the matter? Why so sad, my bumble bee?” she cooed.
It was her words and gentle compassion that triggered my emotional reserve. Soon my face was a raging storm of its own. “Mamma, I h-h-hate the rain. It makes me so sad. A-And it m-makes me hate my name,” I wept.
“Oh, now there, Rainy. That’s no way to go about life,” Mom lulled, hurrying to kneel before me, dragging me into her lap and rocking me back and forth like the rocking chair I never had. Running her fingers through my hair, she whispered,“The rain is only as sad as you make it. The day is only as dark as you take it. Your name is only a shame if you forsake it.” I felt her smile against my forehead as she gave me a quick kiss.
Nonetheless, I quivered in her arms, hiccupping with every effort to regain the unwavering poise she’d taught me. “But what does that even mean?”
“Oh, it would be far too easy if I told you, now wouldn’t it?” she teased, the solemn undertone nearly undetectable. But it was there, and I knew it. “I’ll give you a hint: Some things are better felt than understood. Sometimes feelings know better than you and me and anyone else, so don’t think… ”
Covering my hand with hers, she searched my eyes expectantly, silently willing me to read her mind: “Feel.”
At some point during our conversation, we ended up on our backs, elbows burrowed in the grass, legs crossed at the ankles, and hands clasped together over our stomachs. The cold, green-littered patch of dirt beneath us suddenly served as bed and pillow, and we, the searching souls that we’d forever be, stared longingly at the sky.
With Mom by my side, I urged myself not to wish the storm away and searched desperately to understand the gloom that I’d nearly allowed to darken my day. But all too soon, my agitation got the best of me: “What if it rains before we’re ready?”
“Then it rains, honey. All we can do is let it, but we’ll still laugh and sing and dance anyway.”
“In the rain?” I asked.
Mom laughed earnestly. “Well, sure! Life’s not worth living if it’s as perfect and predictable as we think we want it to be, Rainy. Oh, how boring that would be. Can you imagine?” she prompted, the nature of her question rhetorical but inquisitive, carried away too soon by the wind.
Then Mom grew silent. Curious, I tilted my neck to the left just enough to see that her eyes were closed, her breathing steady. It was in those quiet moments that I marveled at Mom’s soft heart and iron strength. All the same, I felt equally perplexed by her ability to abandon one task for another and then leave both unfinished.
The half-hung laundry behind us suddenly appeared lonely, dangling aimlessly on its own, vulnerable to a particularly fierce wind or torrential downpour. But it stood its ground.
Mimicking Mom, I closed my eyes, feeling my trepidation begin to fade. Side by side, we reveled in the silence until I finally broke it: “Why do you like the rain?”
Just when I was certain she wouldn’t answer, mom opened her eyes. “Oh, Rain!” she sighed, using her elbows to sit up and reposition herself until her arms were wrapped around her knees. I think she glanced down at me then, probably wondering if I’d ever understand. I did. “You were born in the rain, you know? Oh, it was a blessing. The week had been unbearably hot. We were so afraid that you wouldn’t be able to stand the heat. Then you came with the rain, and the rain came with you.” Mom smiled nostalgically. “You’re still so young, Rainy, but one day you’ll discover that beauty is only a myth until you seek it out on your own.”
“But how?” I demanded.
In that moment, thunder reverberated and lightning flitted across the sky. It began to rain.
Mom got to her feet and pulled me to stand beside her. And just like that, we danced. For hours, we laughed and sang and danced together in the pouring rain.