The rain performed its last few notes against the covered patio awning.
The hollow aluminum echoing like a drum. A late afternoon symphony, ending with a splattering of random and inconsistent rain drops. The music of the rain would have been perfect had it not been for a loud, repetitive thunking sound coming from the gutter.
Thunk - Thunk - Thunk - Thunk
I sat alone underneath our aluminum porch, staring at the wet backyard and listening to the final drops of rain. I don’t mean to imply that I was sad to be there by myself. I grew up as an only child even though I had two sisters. As odd as it was for kids my age, I rather liked being alone. I daydreamed and allowed my wandering mind to imagine what my life will become. Our back porch during a rain was the perfect conduit for that experience. The cool, dampness of the early evening air mixed with the last of the day’s summer heat made my skin feel alive and prickly. My body worked with my mind, soaking in all the possibilities.
The rush of the rain water spilled from the gutter into the concrete drain. The waves seemed to work tirelessly to remove a leaf wedged into a crevice. I think about how my mind does that sometimes. Working on an obstacle or problem with determination but missing the opportunity to flow around it. I shift in my wobbly chair and tuck one leg underneath me and dangle the other off the side of the chair. My legs made the shape of a number four.
The storm turned the sky from light, milky gray into dark slate. Still too cloudy for a sunset and no chance for a rainbow. After every storm, I would look for them. I remembered thinking, even as young as I was, that the rainbows were there but sometimes we couldn’t see them.
I leaned forward just enough to see the sky, but not enough to tilt over my chair. I craned my neck so that my left ear met my shoulder. A lazy pillow. I found that slice of sky, I’d seen a hundred times before. The free and open piece not blocked by trees or power lines. I focused on that one stretch of navy sky until everything around me faded away. I’m not sure how long I was there, but my leg tucked underneath was falling asleep. I put both legs down and scooted across the smooth concrete patio. The lightweight, aluminum chair easily moved with me. My dad had recently replaced the hard, vinyl pieces wrapped in a criss-cross pattern across the back and the seat. As I scooted forward, my thighs stuck to the fabric. I knew without checking that my legs would look like the lattice dough on top of an apple pie.
I moved myself as close to the edge of the patio as I could without leaving its shelter. I skimmed my bare toes across the wet lawn and even now I can remember what a thrilling feeling it was to do that. The coolness of the soaked grass on my feet rushed to the rest of my body. Invigorating yet, soft like duck feathers. The air around me began to fill up. The crickets started groaning and chirping, birds were flying in and out of the trees. Car doors banged and neighbors shouted greetings across fences. The world around me seemed to be buzzing again.
I already missed the quiet noise of the rain. Maybe it wasn’t the rain that was quiet, but me. In the gap, I could be anything at all and nothing at the same time. I wasn’t 12 any longer. I could be any age or timeless. I could be 62 or 45 or 21 or Sweet 16. The whole world seemed so big from my view underneath that aluminum porch. My possibilities were endless. More than all the raindrops. I was drenched in the quiet stillness. The unknowing of all of the “what ifs” the “maybes” and the “I can’t wait to see.”
My older self was going to be amazing and I couldn’t wait to get there and see what’s she’s done - what we’ve done! I grinned at myself. Big and toothy, taking up my entire face and crowding my eyes into a squint. My thoughts of endless potential sends waves of goosebumps up and down my arms. I shudder. I had no limitations. I believed in myself. In that moment, I felt that something else could move in me, on my behalf and I could just observe. In that stillness, I was comfortable waiting for my part. The comfort of knowing that it wasn’t “if” but “when.” I could be a part of this moment fully and yet not do anything at all. I wanted that rain again - that feeling of peace.
In my adult years, I’ve felt peace, but none like that day. That trusting, beautiful child-like abandon. When I remembered my 12 year old self and that rainy afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel like I let that little girl down. The mother in me spoke to my inner child, “We didn’t do everything you imagined we would, did we? I know. But, I promise we did some things you never dreamed of either.”
Then, in a moment of pure serendipity, we saw one another. As if time travel and seconds stood still at the same time. Time and Travel hold hands, moving at light speed and yet grounded in a few minutes of stillness. Spinning so fast that our image appeared frozen. The adult in me saw the child in me. All of my life experiences rushed to my chest and filled up like a balloon. I wanted to share everything with my younger self. Show her all the steps on the journey made so far. Love lost and won again. To tell her our heart heals. To let her know that the parts that were broken uncover our love’s resilience. I explain the careers I chose. I tell her my reasons that a few were for creativity, but most for practicality. I safely provided for the children who call me Mom. I am conservative and guarded with our dreams as to not jeopardize the dreams of the two hearts walking outside of my body. Our body. Motherhood and the beautiful sacrifice that comes with it, is worth more than all the recognition in the world.
I looked at my 12 year old self, in a way, mothering her. Me. Mothering myself. We were underneath that aluminum covered porch and without saying anything, I reveal to her that she was going to be okay. All of the bruises and hurts, all of the triumphs and joys, all of the parts of life she knew already and all of the parts that were still yet to be. Every bit of it was going to happen for a reason, and she will rally through it. She’ll find courage when she needs it. She’ll offer it to others when they can’t find theirs. I explained that she was going to love her life....even the bad parts...because all of it swirled and mixed together to make her the woman she was meant to be.
I told her, destiny takes detours but she’ll always arrive on time.
My younger self was going to become me and we are happy. I promise.
She looked at me. Pulling her head off her shoulder and straightening in the patio chair. Her expressive face, one I’d seen in my daughter, was quizzical and contemplating. I hadn’t spoken a word but she seemed to take in everything that I had implied. That little girl. Me. With a dusting of freckles across her nose and two front teeth, gapped and mismatched for the rest of her mouth, whispered, “We’re not done yet, are we?”
I could hear her. I could hear my 12 year old voice. She said a little louder....“There’s still so much more to do...We have time, right? What about the stage, the lights and our trip around the world? When do we show people what we can do? When do we tell people how beautiful life can be? We have to remind them to believe in the magic of the ordinary before they forget forever. And what about all of the dogs and horses that need rescuing? What about the place we want to live that has the wide open spaces? What will people remember about us? What will we give back to them and make a *good* difference?”
My heart stopped. My breath sucked into a gasp.
The child in me stood up to the adult in me. With the power of wild inspiration and unshakable dreams, she challenged the experienced, safe authority shown to her.
“When are we going to do what we are supposed to do? Do you know what we’re supposed to do? Have *you* forgotten?”
And then she was gone. Or maybe I was. Because she was sitting on that back porch in North Carolina and I was standing in my Tennessee kitchen. All of my senses suddenly aware of the bubbling pot on the stove, the whir of the dryer, the repetitive thud of our dog’s paw hitting the floor while she scratches.
I smile. I think of my 12 year old self leaning her head in such a way that her ear rested on her shoulder. I remember searching the sky for that one slice of navy blue after a summer rain. I stand in front of the stove, close my eyes and lean my head to touch my ear to my shoulder. I smile harder. Tight. Then, decades of emotions rush to my chest, burn in my throat, and bubble up to my eyes releasing hot tears.
I haven’t forgotten, child. I just took a detour.