Dan Conradt: Sometimes, a rainy day turns out perfect
It looked like a rummage sale at the Beach Boys’ house: a red Frisbee, two pairs of flippers, a face mask and snorkel, three fishing poles, a tackle box, four brightly colored beach towels, a long-handled fish net for landing the big one, two inner tubes that still smelled like rubber, three beach balls, a collection of plastic pails and shovels for building sand castles, four life vests, a nose plug, a minnow bucket without minnows, a bottle of coconut-scented suntan lotion, three pairs of sunglasses.
It was all piled in the middle of the living room floor, waiting.
If it hadn’t been for the rain, it would have been the perfect day.
The weather had been ideal for mid-September, which doesn’t count for much when it’s happening on the other side of a school room window. There weren’t many cabin weekends left, and we’d started looking forward to this one on Tuesday morning.
The ideal weather ended on Saturday afternoon, shortly after Mom and Dad finished packing the car for a weekend at the lake. Two miles out of town fat raindrops started splatting on the windshield, and Dad turned the windshield wipers on “intermittent.” At 24 miles he turned the wipers on “low.” Thirty-nine miles from home they got bumped up to “high.”
By the time we got to the cabin, Dad was talking about turning around and going home.
“I think it’s letting up!” Mom said, more optimistically than realistically. “Everyone grab something out of the trunk and we’ll run for it!”
The ground squished underfoot, and on the way to the cabin I stepped in a puddle deep enough to soak my Keds up to the ankle. I was tempted to say one of the words I heard Dad say once during a Vikings game, but I didn’t know what it meant. When Dad said it, Mom said “tsk-tsk.” I figured that if a grown man got tsk-tsk’d, using the same word probably wouldn’t end well for an 8-year-old.
So we sat on the couch, made puddles on the floor and watched the rain create an impressionist painting on the windows.
“Why don’t you boys find something to do?” Mom asked after either 20 minutes or three hours.
“There’s nothing to do!” we all said together.
I was so bored I was starting to wish that I’d brought my homework.
“I know!” Mom said. “Let’s play cards!”
Three deep sighs.
“Here!” she said, pulling a deck of cards out of the “rainy day box” we kept under the bunk bed; not every day at the beach is a day at the beach. “Old Maid! Everyone sit down at the kitchen table. You too, Dad!”
The fourth sigh was bigger than the first three, but Dad’s mood improved when he won the first game.
When he won the second game he was thinking of turning pro.
Rain drummed on the roof and cascaded down the windows. The room had absorbed the gray monotone of the clouds, and Dad turned on the floor lamp in the corner. A soft orange light cut through the gray, and made the room feel cozy and safe.
Like a warm, dry place in the midst of a storm
“Let’s have something to eat!” Mom suggested after the fourth game. “Anyone want popcorn?”
Popcorn? We haven’t even had supper yet!
Mom put a pan of Jiffy Pop on the stove, and my brothers and I gathered around and watched in fascination as the aluminum dome expanded until it nearly burst. A bag of microwave popcorn hasn’t yet been invented that can match the thrill of Jiffy Pop’s foil dome. Mom cut the dome open and tendrils of steam climbed out of the pan, filling the room with a warm popcorn smell that masked the mustiness of the closed cabin. She put the pan on a pot holder in the middle of the kitchen table.
“Anyone want root beer?”
For a moment no one spoke, and the only sounds were ice cubes cracking in glasses of root beer, five people munching popcorn, playing cards being shuffled and rain on the roof.
I tried not to, but I smiled when my brother pulled the Old Maid out of my fan of cards.
By bedtime we’d finished three pans of Jiffy Pop, six cans of Hires and three cans of Squirt and played nine games of Old Maid.
Thanks to the rain, it had been the perfect day.
I kind of hope it rains again tomorrow.