When I was a preschooler, my mother said umbrellas kept high-wire performers from falling. Would carrying an umbrella atop a swing set morph me into a lovely lady wearing a sparkling bathing suit? Then, perhaps, the world would see the magic me.
But the umbrella didn’t turn into a parachute. I fell like a rock.
Nevertheless, umbrellas continued to enthrall me. Why wouldn’t my mother buy them?
I understand now.
First, what five kids can do to a helpless umbrella staggers the imagination. When my mother gave in and bought one, all umbrellas in the store bowed in a moment of silence. During initial roughhousing, someone raised the newcomer inside the station wagon, resulting in broken ribs.
Sometimes, a lucky umbrella survived and took refuge in the front closet, buried among mittens, hats and boots. If not so fortunate, it found itself in a fencing match with a broom, both wielded by little brothers.
Occasionally, a foolhardy umbrella permitted itself to be discovered. It faced more fencing matches at the bus stop and a school bus ride among 40 passengers intent on poking each others’ eyes out. However, after occupying a dusty corner of the lost-and-found, it eventually vanished into the Alternate Universe where half of all children’s possessions abide, never to be seen again.
As a preteen, I decided to purchase my own umbrella. Because awkward Jo March in Little Women found true love under the umbrella, I thought I might, too. But umbrellas cost three whole dollars. When a friend from Indianapolis offered to buy me one for only one dollar, I requested red with polka dots. Instead, she bought one covered with old-lady pink and yellow flowers. Mom made me smile, thank her, and pay her $1.25.
Still, it possessed a magic of its own. On rainy Saturday mornings, I ventured into our slumbering village, rendezvousing with imaginary loves who shared my umbrella and the rain’s gentle, percussive music.
When did the magic disappear? During college in Bloomington, Indiana, which boasts more rainfall than your average Amazon jungle. I often left my umbrellas in classrooms. Skipping lost-and-found, they entered the Alternate Universe, leaving me to empty my tiny bank account to buy another. I also shared elevators with 30,000 other umbrella-wielding students. My love affair with umbrellas might have ended forever — except that a special young man raised his below my dorm window to signal his approach. We have shared umbrellas for 45 years now. …
This chilly March day, as I again walk a college campus, umbrellas bloom like spring flowers, sheltering laughing, shivering students on their way to class.
Do they feel the magic, too?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like rainy walks under an umbrella?