punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Memories of a rainy day...

I have never bought an umbrella. I was a manager for several retail stores for nine years, and I accumulated various umbrellas people left in my store. At one point, we had 5 in the house. But, of course, I have a kid, and he pretty much lost all of them in a matter of a year or so. And I never gave it much thought because I got them for free, and I always had one somewhere, and even if I couldn't find one, for the last few years, I was never in a place where rain was much of an issue.

That has changed.

Last week, I got soaked from the Metro up to work, which is a scant 2 blocks if that. Most the the walk I can walk under some cover, but about 30% of it is open to the sky, and I got drenched. I was soaking wet, cold, and looked terrible. I am happy to say I didn't get sick (unless that's what caused the sinus headache but I doubt it). Of course, you never think about an umbrella when it's not raining. sort of like that song, "There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza."

But being in the rain reminded me of another story from my wild and weird childhood...

When I was a kid, I used to have, for lack of a better term, "abnormal powers." One of them was this incredible luck that all the time I walked to and from school, I only got rained on about 7-9 times in 7 years. This was okay with me because the only umbrella my mother had for me was this bright yellow monstrosity with a huge yellow duck on it, and the bottom of the handle was a large wooden yellow ball. This was so that the umbrella was better balanced for smaller kids, but it just made the whole umbrella unwieldily, and when I was a preteen, the circumference was too small for my height. Tall people need wider umbrellas. So I usually pointed it forwards against the wind to compensate.

One day I do remember it raining on me, and a LOT of rain, I might add, the winds shifted suddenly while I was on an overpass, and the umbrella flew out of my hands and into a swollen creek. I should have let it go, but I had this universe where upsetting my parents was so traumatic, I would risk life and limb to avoid it.

See, just a few days earlier, I had an argument with my mom about some of the things she outfitted me with for school. Throughout the years, I had managed to convince my mother to let me wear jeans instead of corduroys (4th grade), sneakers instead of leather dress shoes (5th grade), use a backpack instead of a bowling bag (6th grade), and now in 7th I felt I wanted one of those cool new umbrellas (at the time) that was really short, but with the click of a button, extended and opened itself. I think they were called "Totes" or something. My mother told me they were cheap and gave me a smarmy look, stating she "really knew I wanted it just because it opened itself," as if that feature really had no useful purpose, but was a fad for spoiled kids, "like sugared cereal and cap guns" (I was not allowed to have those, either). I hated it when she did that. My core "hatred" of patronization stems from her constant looks like I was terminally 8 with my hand caught in the cookie jar. So when my umbrella got blown away, I realized she'd think I did it on purpose. So I slid down the embankment, and waded up to my thighs in swollen brown creek water to fetch my yellow umbrella, which had snagged on a dam of branches and other debris under the bridge. Normally, this creek was barely ankle deep, if that, but now I was in real danger of getting swept away down stream, although that didn't even occur to me until I thought about this again at age 22.

So now I am holding onto a large branch, reaching with my other hand to grab the edge of the yellow nylon sail with my fingertips, which had blown inside out by now. Then, a huge wave of water came downstream (from what I have no idea), soaked my clothes up to my back, and I had to get a better footing when my umbrella broke free. The last I saw it, it was sinking in deeper area downstream, the oversized wooden ball not buoyant enough against the weight of soggy nylon and a twisted metal skeleton mixed with river sand.

I was mad at first, because I lost the umbrella which I hated anyway, and so I wouldn't get to enjoy its escape in any way. That's when I became aware that people were shouting at me. Like, kids AND adults. See, apparently, someone told them that they saw a kid fall into the stream and was drowning. I was certainly doing nothing of the sort! I was indignant, going, "No no no..." I went in on purpose, I explained, and now I was going to get out, despite the fact that the water had risen to my stomach, and the current was way to strong to go back up the way I came. I realized that only way to get out was to go downstream, and beach myself down the bank.

Which I did. Like it was no big deal. But when I disappeared under the overpass, you'd think I was eaten by a sharks with frickin' laser beams to hear them scream. But I quickly half-floated, half-skipped to where the water was only knee-deep, and I walked out and got back on the main road on the other side, sans umbrella, wishing all the gawking people would go away and leave me alone. I saw several cars had stopped, and people were looking over the bridge at me. A few adults offered to drive me home, but since I didn't know them, I ignored them because, well, you don't talk to strangers, right? That must have seemed rude. But I was "that Larson boy," so, heh... there you are. I went home soaking wet, but I think my mother was drunk at the time, since I don't recall her mentioning it. I guess I stripped off my clothes, put them in the dryer, and went to bed, played with Micronauts, or something.

For several weeks I could get away with not having the umbrella because it didn't rain, or it was so light, an umbrella wasn't really necessary. But then my mother eventually asked about it, and I told her what had happened, and she said, "Oh... you know, someone asked if that was my son who fell into the river, and I said I had no idea what they were talking about, and they said, 'Hmmmmm...' like I was covering something up." She didn't say, "Oh God, you dumbass, you could have killed yourself for the sake of a lousy umbrella!" but I didn't get punished, either. And on top of all that, I got one of those new Totes umbrellas, and it was awesome.

Until it broke in high school, but by then, I just bought myself a new one because I had a job.

Sure wish I had an umbrella now!
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