Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Thunderstorms

It's raining again. I love the sounds of the city in the rain: the slip slap of wipers, the swoosh of tires on wet pavement, the tapping of drops blown by the wind against my high-rise windows. I relish the sounds—plus the sight of taillights and neon dragging their long, rippling reflections through the blacktop of the avenues—but I confess I've become a curmudgeon about getting wet. I love the rain most when I'm warm and dry inside. When did that happen? I hadn't realized. I'm sure it was my son in his big rubber boots and his slick jacket; my son who, despite loving the thing, never wants to take his umbrella out when it's raining—I'm sure it was his enthusiasm for puddles and his wanting to stick his tongue out to catch the drops that made me see how old I've become, if not in years necessarily then sometimes in attitude. Who is this person, cursing the feel of cold water seeping through an ill-sealed sole? Who is this person carrying an umbrella? I used to not even own an umbrella. I remember when I was a teenager, in school up in Michigan. Spring meant water, coming down from a cloud-filled sky or else dripping from rooftops and snowbanks and making mud everywhere. It was the big thaw we'd been waiting for, the promise that got us through those interminable Februarys. I remember that when it had warmed up enough to have a true spring rain—the kind that refreshes and invigorates rather than punishes—it was cause for celebration. And I remember some dramatic thunderstorms. Was the impulse to stay inside and listen from a distance? Hell, no. I remember running outside with friends, with one girlfriend in particular, and we'd find a patch of soggy new grass strip off our shoes if we'd worn them at all, which often we didn't. We'd feel the soft blades between our toes, and we'd dance in circles, spin around. The harder it rained the better, the bigger the boom of thunder, the more we knew we were alive, and the lightening made everything glow. We'd dance in the rain, no shoes and not even a coat. We'd be in flimsy shirts, not caring at all what color they were or what they revealed. The sop and suck of mud and wet cotton clothing was sought and sustained, not at all the discomfort I'd be apt to call it now. Our hair would hang in wet ropes, would lash us in the face and stick to our foreheads as we moved through a sky of water. It was joy, and I wonder: What is it that keeps me indoors now? What really holds me back from the love of lightening and thunder, the sizzle of electricity in the air? What if I left the umbrellas at home, stopped seeking the shelter of scaffolding on the sidewalks? And wouldn't it be better if, the next time it rains, I take my son to the park to slip down a soggy slide, to spin in circles on the small patch of grass allotted to us urban dwellers? I could learn to play again like that, couldn't I?

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