At Home With Vivian: It’s raining

It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring,
He went to bed and he bumped his head
So, he couldn’t get up in the morning!

I can still hear my mother singing this ditty whenever it rained hard. As a teenager, I sang it with my swimming students to encourage them to splash and get their faces wet. It’s a good song, although I’ve often wondered if the old man ever got up again.

I’ve enjoyed the rain this week. There’s something primordially comforting about sitting safely in a warm house, in a comfy chair, with a good book, and listening to the patter of rain on the window panes.

My mother loved the rain. I remember coming into the living room when I was a youngster on rainy days to find her gazing out the window with a wistful smile. Mama’s body was in the house, but her mind was far off somewhere else.

My older sister Brenda says Mama had always loved the rain because of childhood memories. Whenever Mama reminisced about her childhood in Port Chicago, she inevitably mentioned falling asleep to the sound of the rain pelting the tin roof of the chicken coop right outside her bedroom window. Brenda visited our grandparents’ home when she was young and remembered seeing that chicken coop in the backyard.

“Mama loved the rain, but you’re the reason Mama was grateful for the rain!” Brenda laughed, then explained.

Our parents were volunteer leaders with the 4-H club in the 1950s. Every year they went to the Las Posadas 4-H camp in St. Helena with the campers from Contra Costa County. My mother was a few months pregnant with me in the summer of 1952 when she, my dad, and Youth Farm Advisor John Carnell were walking back to camp through a thick grove of trees on the trail to the old cemetery. Because the trail was narrow, they were walking single file with my mother in the rear.

I had heard this story because my mother told it often. She even showed me, years later, the spot where she had fallen. Mama would say, “I stepped on loose pebbles and my leg just twisted under me.” She went down quietly and didn’t make a sound because the sharp pain took her breath away. The men kept walking. About fifty yards away, they realized she was not with them.

My mother was in a leg cast for months. Being in a leg cast while pregnant was bad enough, but Mama had also caught poison oak. Brenda recalled that Mama would sit on the front porch and pray for the refreshing rain to come because she was miserable. Mama was grateful for the cool air. Amusingly, I became known as “the broken leg,” by any and all who knew my mother during that time.

While on the phone to Brenda, it occurred to me that I did not know what our family did on rainy days back in the 1940s before I was born. Brenda remembers playing with her dolls quietly on the floor in the corner of the living room while our oldest sister Karen draped herself over a chair with a book in her hands. Our parents liked to be in the kitchen. Daddy loved to bake and even won a prize at the State fair for his pound cake. Mama’s hands would be crocheting at lightning speed while she sat by the kitchen window watching the rain. They didn’t have a television. I thought their rainy days sounded very warm and cozy, but Brenda said that rain can also bring about a sort of melancholy feeling.

Happily, I like to bake on rainy days. Pies for Thanksgiving, cookies for Christmas. My Martinez home has a wonderful kitchen with a high ceiling and lots of counter and table space. It is brightly lit by three big sky lights, one large window over the sink, and another window over the work table. I have plenty of room to play. I’m fortunate to have a kitchen that reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen in Colfax. Her kitchen was bright and airy, too.

I don’t remember my grandmother ever baking but evidently she was known for her chicken and dumplings, which I also make from time to time. When I have a batch of cookies in the oven and hear the rain pitter-pattering on the windows, I can’t help but hum cheerfully along with the carols on the radio.

I love the rain, but when the wind shows up too, that is another matter. If I’m snug as a bug in a rug inside my house, well, let the wind blow! But if I’m out on the road, I pray for the wind to stall long enough for me to get home. I remember driving over Willow Pass Road to Concord in the 1970s and having my car change lanes without my permission. Do you remember driving across the Benicia Bridge? The wind gusts, even today, can sure catch you by surprise. I remember seeing many a camper overturned by the wind on Highway 680 toward Fairfield.

Last Saturday was a delightfully windy and rainy day. As I pulled out of the driveway to go to a holiday brunch with my bunko group, I admired the blow-up Christmas decoration on our front lawn. It is a six-foot tall snow globe, with three snowmen singing inside. Little Styrofoam pellets blow around inside, giving the illusion of snow. Ever since we bought it about ten years ago, it has made me happy. Children walking past our house to go to the playground stop to watch our globe. I enjoy seeing their little faces light up.

I won at bunko that day so I got a little prize. We had our ornament exchange and I really liked the ornament I got. The food was good, the company pleasant. It was raining and I was warm and cozy enjoying good friends. It was a lovely afternoon for me.

While I was gone, my daughter Marion and husband Jeff were at home in Martinez doing minor repairs around the house. The wind was whipping up something fierce outside. The two balanced a wobbly lamp, reversed the refrigerator door hinges, and worked on a non-functioning ice maker. Suddenly they heard a loud crack like a bolt of thunder. Marion looked out the front room window just in time to see our giant blow-up snow globe flying through the air like the house in Wizard of Oz! She ran out of the front door and chased it down the street with her dad hot in pursuit. They caught it halfway down the hill. Alas, like Humpty-Dumpty, the snow globe cannot be put together again. Sometime between the anchor screws pulling out of the lawn and the snowmen making their Great Escape, the globe was punctured beyond repair. Hopefully, there will be another great after Christmas sale to look forward to!

It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The snow globe is rolling,
The snowmen fled and bumped their heads
So, they couldn’t get up in the morning!

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