I miss rain.
When I was seven, we lived on West Ansley in south San Antonio. Three Dennis families, lived side by side, with six acres among us. It was my last innocent summer in many ways.
In just a few months Blackie, my devoted Cocker Spaniel would be dead. Nineteen days later, I would see President John F. Kennedy. The next day he would be dead too.
From age eight on, all of my summers (with the ONLY exception being 2020) were filled working: gas stations, hauling junk (it’s called recycling now), mowing, hauling hay, roofing, foundation repairs, car lot, pest control, Monorail train driver, construction laborer, reporter, private investigator…).
But this summer of 1963, was a good one. One evening, channel 5 KENS television weatherman Bill Schomette told us it was going to rain the next day. I asked my parents if it rains, could “I go watch it in the shed?”
They agreed so before I went to bed that night, I prepared by making a peanut butter sandwich to take. After all, this would be my first solo journey away from home. Well, technically it was still home, but I had to trek a full acre of our back field to make it to the small horse shed.
I was so determined to be alone, I didn’t even want Blackie to join me.
Weatherman Shomette was brilliant. He was right on target. When we heard thunder and saw dark clouds rolling in from the southeast, Mom grabbed my trusty outer space lunchbox and placed a bag of Fritos corn chips and a Thermos full of cherry KoolAide next to my sandwich in it.
“If it starts raining real bad, you must stay in the shed” she said. “Wait it out. I don’t want you out and exposed if it starts lightning.”
I walked out the door–protected by my Bilbrey Lumber Company Little League baseball cap–carrying my lunchbox and wondering what “exposed” meant. It sounded scary.
It turned out I was a good 60 yards away from the shed when all hell broke loose. An explosive crack of lightning and rapid rain welcomed me to a real world definition of “exposed.”
I ran for my life as the storm turned to torrential. Thankfully, I was greeted with a lawn chair that I learned later my father set out for me earlier.
The experience was riveting. I imagined myself an astronaut, isolated and brave. The raindrops pounded the tin roof.
I made earplugs from some of the paper napkins my mother had in the lunch box. Somehow those paper plugs helped with the bravery, but soon the rain was so hard I could barely see 30 feet away. Certainly my house seemed to have disappeared. It seemed to me Blackie was in there safely tucked in and might as well just have been miles away.
I never cried. But I came close. The umbilical cord of safety had certainly been cut. I thought about what Dorothy Gale said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
Then I remembered the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. Just like them, I had a brain, heart, and courage.
It was a good 45 minutes before the rain slowed enough for me to recognize the house again. Mom had turned the back patio light on. It appeared to be a beacon, a lighthouse like pirates–or sailors in search of Moby Dick–must have seen.
As the rain lightened, I enjoyed my space rations and most of my KoolAide. A gambit of emotions and thoughts prevailed. When the weather finally calmed down enough, I decided to leave my lunchbox safely in the lawn chair and journey back home.
What a journey that was. It became a trudging expedition of sludge and mud. I lost one tennis shoe in the thick oozing black slush. But I marched on.
Momma must have been watching as I fell a few times because she came out with an umbrella, turned on the waterhose and met me at the edge of the backyard. The grass never felt so good. But she made me strip down to my underwear while she hosed off me, my clothes and my one shoe.
Dorothy was right. There is no place like home. After a warm shower I spent most of the evening with Blackie by my side. When Dad came home from work, he rubbed the top of my head a few times and laughed as Mom told him about my brave feats.
I’ve been through many rain events, since then–hurricanes, floods, and more–but even now there is a soothing reminder that it is okay to experience those feelings of a seven year old.
Emotions are necessary to move forward. We must let whatever we’re feeling flow freely so we can make it to the sunshine of what comes next.
Sometimes, our emotions are more like a torrential downpour, flooding and overflowing within us, begging for a space to reside.
Today, I remember the sunshine of my mother’s laughter as the clouds rolled away, and know it will always return when the rains pour back again.
But what I learned most from that summer, and many seasons later, is that sometimes, sunshine is within us. Sometimes it is found in another person.
I love the premise that remembering the warmth in our loved ones can protect us from the storms ahead.
“For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” John 16:33