Wow! What a week it has been. Do not get me wrong, I love the rain, so much so that I capture what I can to water my seedlings in the spring. For some reason I cannot get seeds to germinate with city water. I was assured by the Public Works Department that the city water here in Vallejo is of the best quality. To that end, I took a tour of our water treatment plant two summers ago and I will tell you that the water coming out of the tap up there is mighty tasty. Still, rainwater is a gardener’s best friend.
Recently, the paramour of a dear friend of mine had cataract surgery. Still in her 40’s, it was quite a thing to have so young. Thank goodness for Facebook as the friend after friend left song lyrics in her feed. “Turn around bright eyes.” “Jeepers Creepers, where did you get those peepers.” These under a recent photo of her with bright sparkly eyes. And my favorite, “ . . . The rain is gone.”
Like I said, I enjoy the rain. My Italian Cyprus get a big drink and the ground water level rises ensuring that my fig will produce for yet another year. But my favorite is the close-thereafter. The time right after the rain ends and the sun shines through unfiltered and happy. That is how I have felt this past week. Unfiltered and happy. (I would like to apologize to the parents of any small children that I may have been too unfiltered in front of. Yikes!) I am lucky to be working in Vallejo Heights remodeling a turn of the century cottage. Good bones, lots of wall cracking repaired and many coats of old paint painted again. The thing that has been truly inspiring is the magnificent Southward facing view of Mare Island from the master bedroom. We chose to finish that room early on so that we could leave the windows uncovered and let the sun stream in.
I am always amazed at how a warm sunny day effects my disposition for the better. I laugh a little when I remember my rain story. So, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s my parents were most definitely not helicopter parents. They would send us off to the local park, to hike in the field next to our house or just go out and ride our bikes. The one thing that they were not were chauffeurs. Although my dad did help me deliver Sunday papers with the car for a few years. It was great, because when we finished he would take me to the donut shop for a coffee and a maple bar, his favorite. (Mine now too.)
But my rain story happened a few years earlier. I was maybe 10ish, the month was December and White Front was a major retailer at the time. It was located about 2 miles from our house, or about 20 minutes by bicycle. It must have been a Saturday, since I remember being footloose with nothing to do. Monday through Friday were for school and Sunday for church, so it had to have been a Saturday. Yes definitely a Saturday. The holidays were on their way and I still had some shopping to do. Mom was off already, having her day scheduled and my older siblings were out and about leaving me to entertain myself. Always one to beat a deadline, I decided to head out. In a light drizzle, with my trusty Schwinn and a hooded jacket that came down to my waste, I made for White Front, the only place that I could think of to go shopping. Now I will admit that I actually liked riding my bike when the street are wet. There is that great sound of whooshing tires on the pavement and if the rain was heavy enough, at the bottom of our steep hill, given the right conditions, the manhole cover would pop off of the storm drain and a water tower, sometimes 3 feet tall, would show itself like Old Faithful.
I will say that I did not like riding through puddles though because all I had to wear on my feet, while riding, were canvas sneakers and they, and my socks, would get thoroughly soaked. Cold wet feet are not a favorite of mine. As it would turn out this day would not become a favorite of mine. The first part of the trip was quick, downhill all the way. No effort needed on my part, just point and ride. Once I hit the flats the peddle pumping began. The easiest ride was to take the main street, San Pablo Avenue. It was straight and flat and lead almost directly to where I needed to go. The downside was the traffic. I opted for the flats since it would be an easier ride and the side streets were festooned with hills and valleys requiring greater effort.
It was a light drizzle when I left the house, for like 5 minutes. Then the skies opened up and down came the wrath of rain upon my head, and body, and feet. My bright idea of taking the flat streets turned into a hellish ride. Great cars from the 60’s racing past me in the rain. Remember that puddle thing I mentioned earlier? While the sound of whooshing tires was amazing, the spray they left on my old blue jeans was not. But Tom, could you not have ridden on the side walk? Okay, okay, okay. Judge me if you must but I was told that sidewalks were for pedestrians and that if I took my bicycle on the sidewalk, or even a cross walk, that I must dismount and walk alongside it. I was taught to ride on the street, with the traffic and obey all of the traffic laws. So here I am, a 10 year old boy, riding his bike, in December, soaked to the bone.
I did find some small reprieve though, by being able to ride a few back streets to the store avoiding any unnecessary puddle splashing. I also remember a growing sense of relief at nearing my destination. This storm, well, to me it was the mother of all storms. I can so vividly recall just how full the street gutters were with all the runoff, and in only 10 short minutes. I remember making it to the store and parking my bike. The sense of warmth that overtook me as I walked in was like a grandmother’s loving hug on your birthday. I am laughing now as I recall the squishing squeaky sound my sneakers made as I walked across the linoleum floor. I must have been quite a sight as I recall a few adults walking up to me to ask if I was alright. “Sure, I’m fine.” Could you imagine that happening today? The sight of a drenched 10 year old boy, alone in a department store, would bring the police, raise calls of child abuse and go viral in hours. What is the statue on child abandonment these days anyways? Miss you mom and dad. No need to turn over just yet.
Eventually I drip dried and warmed to a point. I wandered through the store as long and as aimlessly as I might, praying for the storm to abate. I found some small porcelain item for my little sister, I recall, but other than that the trip was a bust. I nervously approached the checkout stand hoping against hope that the storm had subsided. I paid for my purchase and I believe that I was even given a plastic bag, a novelty at the time. My heart sank when I opened the front door and saw that the storm continued on just as heavy and relentless as my older brother’s teasing. Up went the hood of my jacket, leg over the seat, hand firmly grasping my bag of gift to the handle bars and off I set on my uphill ride. To this day I cannot remember the ride home, the sense of despair being too great for this young boy’s heart to bear. I believe that I took the side streets and felt that the extra effort helped keep me warm at least. I am also sure that I spent little time in my wet clothes and was happy for the great, fluffy white towel. My mother always laid out, to warm me when I got home. No doubt I spent the remainder of the day on the couch watching cartoons.
To this day I still feel a creeping sense of despair with the prospect of heading out in to a full on storm. I do enjoy the power and majesty of it all but am so-so happy when the rain is gone. For those of you who remember The 5th Dimension, my happy place is always in singing the verse. “Let the sun shine in. Let the sun shine in, the su-un, shine in!” (Points to those who know the name of the song.)
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often