For a long time now, Ellis has wanted to see a rainbow. Whenever she is in trouble, she will wail from time out, “Now, I will never see a wainbow!”
She has begged us to take her to see a rainbow. And told us stories about magical ponies that will take her up to heaven to see God and rainbows and lots of rainbow cupcakes. She even spent the better part of bed time last week, crying because she couldn’t sleep, because her bed wasn’t a magical rainbow bed. I finally calmed her when I spread my arms wide and said, “Hocus pocus! Your bed is now a magical rainbow!”
“Mom, don’t say hocus pocus, say ‘woil-a!’”
So, I waved my arms in the air. “VOILA!”
“Oh wank you, my queen!” And then she fell asleep.
I have learned not to ask where she gets this from. Because I’m sure it’s all that godless TV and pop music I let her listen to, not to mention the Fancy Nancy we read until our eyeballs bleed, but when I say, “Where did this come from?” She just smiles and just points to herself. Three year olds are a trip.
A week ago, we were outside doing yard work when it started to rain. The sun was still peeking through the clouds and Dave (who randomly knows a lot about the weather and all the names for clouds and stars, he’s our guide to the sky, that guy), grabbed Ellis and rushed her over to the Boulevard on our street. There he pointed out a very faint rainbow, visible through the neighborhood trees. Ellis shook her head. “No, dat not a wainbow.”
She wasn’t disappointed as much as she was just convinced we were wrong. I tried explaining to her about how rainbows don’t just happen, how sometimes they are hard to see, how you have to look, how life isn’t always like a cartoon, I felt like I was imparting some greater meaning, some deeper message. Ellis was having none of it. “No,” she said calmly. “It not a wainbow.”
Get used to disappointment. I wanted to say. Okay, maybe I mumbled it under my breath.
On Sunday, Dave dragged us to Palisades State park, which is right on the Cedar River. I say dragged, because I had been up since 5am, taken the kids to church and grocery shopped. Then, I had to make a picnic and pack us all up for some mandatory family fun. I love how much Dave loves to spend time with us, but I also love naps. Today, Dave won. But it wasn’t boding well. Ellis was still tired from a full day before and the baby, well he was fine. He’s always up for an adventure, which to him translates as eating dirt in new locales. But Ellis isn’t so into nature. The last time we went on a little hike at a local park she spent the entire time tell us we were “Wost! So berry wost!” And that someone should have brought a map. Do you have a map? Did mommy have a map? Maybe we needed Jesus to come from heaven to bring us a map? She was a little hysterical. It might have been made worse because Dave and I spent the whole time discussing how we needed to learn how to build a home in the forest since we were so lost we’d never get out. “Do you have a knife to fight the wolves?” I yelled.
“No,” Dave shook his head. “Buddy, do you have a knife?” The baby laughed, dirt on his chin. Ellis wailed.
Our trip to Pallisades was going just about the same way. After some digging in the dirt on the beach, we took a walk to see the dam. The whole time, Ellis told us she was too hot, too sweaty and we might be “WOST!” There was a time out. And another time out, because we don’t pick flowers in time out. We got back to the picnic table and ate. Dave and I negotiated how to shoo away a bee under our breath without alerting the three-year-old to the fact that there was a bee, because oh my god could we handle the terror that would rain down upon us if she saw?
She didn’t see.
Then, we went to splash in the shallow part of the river. This went a little better. We found shells. The baby ate some river sediment. And then, we heard thunder and saw a wall of rain heading toward us. As we packed up, we could see the rain turning in another direction. It was only a hundred yards away from us. We could hear the rain drops splashing in the river upstream. Dave and I looked at each other with the same wonder and confusion we’d had when we dealt with the bee, here was a thing we were having to handle, but we couldn’t really say, “Huge storm! Run!” to our three-year-old who had only just fifteen minutes ago stopped sobbing because there was mud in the river.
“Maybe we should head back,” Dave said.
As we herded Ellis back toward the shore, I looked up. “Ellis!” I yelled and pointed.
She looked up. Her mouth dropped. “Oh,” she breathed, “it what I always wanted.”
There in the sky was one of the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen. We stood and just marveled at it, ignoring the thunder behind us. Then, Ellis looked down and saw the reflection of the rainbow in the river. ““Wook! All fings are beautiful for me!”
We stayed as long as we could until Dave saw some lightening and gently urged us to come into the car. By that time the rainbow was disappearing and Ellis began to sob, “It melting! It melllllting!”
I thought about telling her that rainbows don’t just happen. That they come and they go. That the things we most want, the things we dream of and crave in our innermost hearts, come buffeted by storms, muddy feet, and are gone too soon. But I remembered the last lecture I tried to give her about rainbows and what the hell did I know anyway? Instead, I just let her cry. Part of me wanted to cry with her.
Last week, I learned that my friend is divorcing a husband who has never been kind. It’s no small thing to say he’s ruined many lives. So, this is what I’ve always wanted. I know it’s awful to say, but it’s true. I know that makes a lot of people mad, but it doesn’t stop it from being true. I’ve wanted this for 12 years and it’s here. It’s here. But it’s not bringing the peace I’d hoped. It’s not returning my life to the place I wish we could be. Instead, it’s just showing me that that place that I want to go back to? That didn’t exist. And those people, those dear ones on the other side of that rainbow? I don’t know who they are anymore.
So, really. What do I know about rainbows?
That night, when I tucked her in again, because she was in her doorway, singing a song about rainbows, she told me, “I knowed da wainbow will come back for me.”
And I just said, “If I were a rainbow, I would always come back for you.” Because at least I know that is true.