I come home and her mom and brother are both sleeping. I find her in the bedroom, alone on a rainy Friday with curtains half-drawn and her bedside lamp casting quiet yellow light. Wearing a pink play apron; completely absorbed in a make-believe world. She doesn’t notice me.
She takes the news about the museum better than I expected, happily accepting the substitute of a walk in the rain to her grandmother’s house for hot chocolate and sunny-side-up eggs. To be honest I’m winging it at this point, just wanting to get out of the house so other two can sleep.
The rain is steady, but she’s unfazed and I have this gigantic blue-and-white umbrella I stole-borrowed from my first and last corporate job years ago. I think of changing shoes but … then I don’t.
Outside she tries to find a way to hold my hand and her umbrella at the same time.
I try to find a way to hold her hand and her umbrella at the same time. It’s not really possible.
We love each other and want to hold hands, but umbrellas are keeping us apart.
Those are vines, I tell her, through raindrops. They are little now but will grow big over summer, when you’ll be four and a half. But what are they called? she asks. The plants?
Vines I say. Just vines growing on the side of a retaining wall.
She stands in a puddle in pink boots and eroded dirt swirls across the sidewalk. I’m concerned about my suede shoes getting soaked around the toes despite attempts to better position the umbrellas. Two teenaged girls are walking home from school across the street, umbrellaless and barefoot, and it makes me feel very not-young and un-spontaneous.
So I make a conscious effort to not care about my suede shoes getting wet and ruined. Instead I do a poorly executed puddle jump, but even jumping now makes me feel old and heavy.
I’m distracted by a million different things, most involving dollar signs or e-mail attachments. But I’m able to recognize the beautiful serendipity of a random afternoon walk in the rain with my daughter. This was meant to be a special ‘date’ complete with a museum trip and thirteen other stops I can’t remember, but I was replacing a light switch. And it took forty-five minutes longer than I expected.
We take cover in a bus shelter. I slump against one wall and she runs back and forth. The rain falls harder and a bus approaches but I waive it off, embarrassed. She’ll happily stay here for hours, I realize, playing house or running a pretend ice-cream parlor. This is the miracle of childhood, and if there’s any shred of my youth left I should grab hold of it in my white-knuckled fists.
Why should I not want to stay here for hours living in our shared imagination? For the bills that need paying? For my spam-clogged, habit-forming inbox? Because there’s laundry to fold?
Holy shit that is depressing! Someone go find the 15-year-old me and tell him in just one lifetime’s doubling his world will dim to a boring, perfunctory shade of gray. And that when stray shafts of light manage to cut through the fog, his first impulse will be to push them away and return to his hamster wheel.
She wants to leave the bus shelter now. “This is boring,” she says.
She’s right. It was kind of boring. We flap open our umbrellas again, spraying droplets of water against the glass walls of the shelter.
We hold hands and walk off, crossing the street in search of adventure.