My Rainbow Umbrella
A young girl's tragic tale of loss and her rainbow umbrella
The last time it rained this heavy was the day grandpa died a year ago. On that day, like today, the heavy rain was falling sideways. Today, it was very hard to stay dry even under the covered walkway, and my favorite rainbow-colored umbrella was almost broken and soaked through. I held what was left of my umbrella directly in front of me, instead of above me, because the galvanized roof of the school bus zone was doing some of the work at keeping us dry from above; but, the freezing raindrops stung my exposed ankles like shards of glass. I shivered and zipped my hoodie all the way to my chin and tugged on the strings to tighten the fleece hood around my face. I couldn’t explain why, but I felt this storm carried a sense of warning and I just couldn’t shake my anxiety. The butterflies in my stomach were starting to make me feel queasy and I squeezed my midsection tightly with my free hand.
I used to love playing in the rain and listening to the natural music it made on my bedroom roof; but, today, I just wanted it to stop. It had started the night before, soaked us through on the way to school, and pounded mercilessly on our vulnerable bodies as we waited at school for mom to get us. I couldn’t wait to get home, change into my PJs and curl up in front of my laptop or by the fireplace with a bowl of popcorn…maybe snuggled next to mom or dad, or both.
Because Adam had been in detention again, I chose to stay after-school to get in an extra hour of band practice. It was important that I focused on my future tuba college scholarship, even though it wouldn’t be something I needed for another three years. Now, I was regretting that choice of staying late. School had been out for over two hours and Mom should have already been here to pick us up.
We were the only ones left in the school yard. So, I kept searching hard into the thick gray sheet of rain; looking for any sign that mom was turning into the parking lot…any minute now. Still, no Mom.
“Can you call her again?” I shouted at Adam through the loud noise of the rain hitting the metal rooftop. He sat huddled in a dry corner of the shelter and didn’t even bother to look up at me to acknowledge that I had spoken to him. This was one of those times I really wished I had my own cell phone…and, that I was an only child. But, Mom and Dad held firmly to the rule of no cell phones before 16. Adam is 16, but I’m still 13 years old…one of the youngest kids in the 9th grade.
“Already did…four times.”
“Well, did you reach her?”
“Got her voice mail.” He leaned his head back against the wall. Why was he acting like this rain and our game of waiting wasn’t bothering him?
“Call her again! She should have been here already. Or, call Dad!” I was annoyed at him, because he should have done so already when he didn’t get a hold of Mom after the second or third try.
I glared at him as he pulled his cell out of his pocket and pressed a single speed dial button.
“Dad?” The look on Adams face grabbed my attention. I could only hear his side of the conversation, but I knew even then that something was terribly wrong. “Why Mrs. Morgan? Dad, why Mrs. Morgan? Where’s mom?” He opened his mouth to say something else, but it appeared that their conversation had ended suddenly.
“Adam?” My desperate plea went unanswered. He only stared at the cell in his hand as if it had suddenly morphed into something appalling.
“Uhm…Dad said to wait for Mrs. Morgan.”
“Mrs. Morgan? Why?” Mrs. Morgan was our next-door neighbor. But, why was she picking us up instead of Mom. I hated the sudden feeling of dread that washed over me. My chest felt tight. I didn’t even notice that the wind had pulled my umbrella inside out and the underside was now getting soaked. The rain was blasting my face, but I couldn’t move. “Adam, what aren’t you saying?”
“I don’t know! Okay?!” He sounded angry; suddenly standing and looking past my shoulders. “She’s here!”
I turned, instinctively expecting to see… “Mom?”
“No, Mrs. Morgan’s here.”
Mrs. Morgan’s gray Corolla splashed water onto the sidewalk, as she came to a sudden stop in a huge puddle. She ran out of the car without even using an umbrella.
“Kids, come with me quickly. There’s been an accident.” I stared at her rain-soaked face and hair, not quite understanding what she was saying to me but knowing instinctively that it involved mom. For long seconds, it seemed as if the giant raindrops had stopped miraculously mid-fall without hitting the ground. It was as if the angry sounds of the monsoon suddenly ended. One minute, the world had been alive with a thundering chorus of wind and rain. Now, everything was unexplainably silent.
Then, my umbrella whipped out of my hand, jarring me back to my current situation. And, as if in freeze-framed slow motion, I turned and stared at it tumbling across the flooded parking lot. It blew up into the sky, rotating like a propeller in the wind before it landed under some nearby Oak trees as if it had been looking for its own shelter from the pelting rain.
I don’t know how long I stood staring at the tumbling carousel of rainbow colors. But even as I felt Mrs. Morgan gingerly guiding me into the back seat of her car, I couldn’t take my eyes off my umbrella rocking back and forth on the small patch of sheltered grass and fallen leaves.
I don’t remember much about the car ride to the hospital. But, I’ll never forget how cold I felt standing in the Emergency waiting room, even with my dad’s warm overcoat draped over my shoulders. I was shivering uncontrollably in my dad’s embrace when the doctor found us a few minutes later. “I’m so sorry, Sir. We did everything we could…but your wife…she didn’t make it.”
Months later, when I’m asked to talk about that day, apart from the bone-biting cold that still plagues my memories and nightmares, I could only remember in detail that runaway rainbow umbrella.