I love waking to the sound of rain. Rain, fresh coffee, bacon and eggs, Saturday morning cartoons, the first amber flecks of dawn. Those are the things that make mornings worth the miserable days that follow.
Except thereís no good Saturday morning cartoons anymore, dadgum the war. (That was an expression my father used to keep from really cussing, I guess itís a World War II-era thing.) When I was a kid and Iíd wake up on Saturday mornings Iíd grab my two pillows and go lie on the floor in the living room with a bowl of Fruit Loops and watch Saturday morning cartoons and Schoolhouse Rock. If you donít remember Schoolhouse Rock you really missed something.
A series of short, musical events that taught concepts to kids like me, Schoolhouse Rock is the ultimate nostalgic heart-tugger. For instance, I learned a lot that turned me into the writer I am today from Schoolhouse Rock singing:
Conjunction Junction, whatís your function?
Hooking up two boxcars and making Ďem run right.
Milk and honey, bread and butter, peas and rice.
Hey thatís nice!
Dirty but happy, digging and scratching,
Losing your shoe and a button or two.
Heís poor but honest, sad but true,
Iíve always been of the opinion that if more teachers and college instructors used the Schoolhouse Rock approach Ė animated characters singing catchy tunes about algebra, geology, chemistry or animal husbandry Ė weíd have a more educated American populace.
Then there was Timer, a little yellow blob of a guy in a top hat and bow tie who sang educational health and food songs such as:
When my get up and go has got up and went,
I hanker for a hunk of cheese!
When Iím danciní the hoedown and my boots kinda slow down,
Or anytime Iím weak in the knees,
I hanker for a hunk of,
A slab, a slice, a chunk of,
A snack that is a winner,
And yet wonít spoil my dinner!
I hanker for a hunk of cheese! Ya-hoo!
Gosh, I had a great childhood. Kids today just donít know what a great childhood is, stuck in front of their GameCube and Nintendo boxes readying themselves for thumb joint surgery.
Anyway, I was talking about rain.
When I was a kid, a good gully-washer would swell the trickle in the ditch next to our house into a raging river, at least in my imagination. That ditch drained most of the then-reservation expanse, and would rush by our lot like Niagara or something. The flow kept it clean back then, and little vegetation grew up in it and Iíd take toy boats of anything that would float, throw them in that rushing river of the mind and chase them to the bayou, sweeping up my impromptu crafts just before they escaped into the Teche. I lost quite a few by being too slow and stood there on the banks of the bayou sadly watching a plastic boat float away to the ocean.
Of course, that old ditch is still there but is overgrown and thick with debris and the advent of subsurface drainage seems to direct flow elsewhere. You donít see kids in town in their shorts playing in swollen ditches. Culverts and subsurface drainage and over-cautionary parental paranoia have wiped out the raging rivers of the young boyís imagination, and I guess itís no wonder the GameCube has taken over. No returnable bottles, and aluminum cans are unsanitary, dangerous even. Canít do this because of liability worries, canít do that because of traffic worries. Seems like everything we do in the world today takes a little wonder away from the kids.
Rain, though. I was talking about rain. Rain makes the mind drift, the concentration ebb. Down by the ridge of the Teche, the rain would make mini-rivulets all over, flowing downstream like the big ditch did but in microcosm. Curled pecan leaves looked like tiny sailing ships, their sheets unfurled, leaning windward and departing for the Marquesas, or maybe, in the imagination of a reading child, the Gray Havens. Twigs and smaller leaves would build miniscule dams and the water would pool there for a time until it either broke through the barricade of surged around it. Under the trees along the bayouside, even after the rain stopped, my head would get wet from drops stair-stepping down through the branches, falling one to another, sometimes accumulating into drops so big theyíd plunk down on my hair like cupfuls, and the scent was like youth and innocence and there was not a hint of GameCube, not a speck of worry. Juniper berries glistened purple like tiny grapes but tasted terrible, I learned the hard way; blackberries were sweet and tart, and a suitable thicket of them grew every summer right next to the little slip where my father launched the boat into the bayou right behind our house. If we got enough rain every year, the blackberries would be huge and juicy and full of tiny, hard seeds.
If the rain persisted but slacked for just a few moments Iíd dash across the horse pasture to my grandparentsí and Ma Faye and I would grind coffee by hand or something equally rewarding. My grandfather might let me piddle with some leather working, or there might be some mysterious box of old photographs, trinkets or family heirlooms I could poke through under the watchful Ė but not obviously so! Ė eye of my grandmother.
So I get up this morning, an adult man now, and I see the rain and I hear it on the roof and I catch the scent of it. I make my coffee and the two aromas mingle, coalesce, dance a moment like lovers. Then I am out of the shower, putting on my office clothes and my wallet goes in my back pocket, my keys in hand. I lock the door and dash again, not to my grandmotherís house because I live there now. Now I dash to the truck, worrying about the rain on my shirt. I head out for work and worry about the fuel being low and needing to fill up right after I knock off today. The rain pitters and patters against the windshield but the wipers slap the drops away before they can sparkle with anything but a flash of memory, a dull pang of regret.