Today at the Daily Post, they’ve asked us to describe our perfect, rainy afternoon. This is the true story (with a few tiny embellishments) of a favorite rainy day from my childhood.
It was mid-summer, when the expanse of warm days behind you seems almost as endless and uncountable as that which lays before. I was lost in the goodness of it all – my skin was that perfect toasty brown that all wild children turn after spending entire weeks out-of-doors, catching interesting bugs and making rainbows with a carefully-positioned garden hose.
I had spent the morning doing much of the usual – looking for toads, pretending I was brave enough to climb trees, eating the little purple flowers that grew along side of the house, and talking with my cat, Amos. As the afternoon rolled in, so did the storm clouds. There were just a few at first, showing up just as Mama (later to become “Mum”) called me in for a sloppy peanut butter & jelly sandwich and a glass of overly-chocolate milk, just the way I liked it. Mama was excited, because she’d checked out an old favorite movie from the library, and told me that if I was good, we might watch it in the afternoon.
By the time lunch was over, the sky had turned a violent shade of purple. The house wasn’t air conditioned, and it was hot and still inside. One window in the living room was open just a crack, and a firm, cool breeze pushed its way in, offering us a chance at hope. Mama made a game out of it, and together we raced to open all of the doors and windows. She had me help slide screens in to keep the mosquitoes from coming inside while still allowing in that sweet, cool storm air. We giggled as we tried to capture nature.
I remember that it smelled like heaven – a mix of fresh grass, rich soil, and just a hint of the sea from miles away. As I stood beside Mama, diligently pushing curtains out of the way, her signature scent of Ivory soap, sunblock, and sweat washed over me, and I realized for the first time that she was alive, with a capital “A.” I was stunned, and stood dumbly for a second as I fumbled with this heavy thought. Raindrops started to splatter down outside.
“Oh no! The laundry!” Mama exclaimed, sprinting past me and up the stairs to the second story. She came back down with a laundry basket perched against each hip, and ran past me, crying, “Hurry, baby duck! Before it rains!”
Slowly, still mulling over my new concept, I followed her out into the front yard. The clothes lines were on the other side of the lawn, and Mama was catching the jeans and towels as they flapped in the wind like mediocre pennants. As I stared across the yard at my living mother, I noticed that our yard had changed. In the dark, weird storm light, the grass was a violent shade of yellow green. It was the most exciting color I had ever seen, and for years after that day, I tried to combine Crayola shades to recreate it, without much luck.
I didn’t make it across the yard to help Mama. I stood ankle deep in the electric green grass, letting the dirt squish in between my toes, feeling the first decent drops of rain kiss my sweaty skin. I watched the woman who had given birth to me as she yanked clothes off of the line, clothespins snapping in half and flying every which-a-way as she tried to salvage her morning’s work. I marveled at the purple sky, the way the breeze felt both cold and hot, the different sized drops of rain, my angry Amos cat getting comfortable in her little cubbyhole on the porch. I committed the afternoon to memory, and haven’t seen another so perfect (yet).
Later that day, Mama kept her promise, and we watched that movie she was so excited about. It was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” It was also perfect, and probably the reason it feels like sacrilege to have a rainy afternoon without watching a horror flick…or calling my Mum.