It’s raining in fabulous Southern California, and I couldn’t be happier. I have heard of something called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that makes people really depressed in the rain, but I simply do not understand. When it rains and it is gloomy outside, my soul comes alive. Perhaps it’s because we get so little rain here in So. Cal, and that is what produces my love for the gloom. I feel like we get a giant bath over the dry brown hillsides, the streets smell divine and are cleared of (some) of the litter, the sound of the drops dancing on every surface they touch, and also, not having to wash my car is another really rad perk.
But! Perhaps the reason I love the rain so well, is because it brings memories. Glorious memories. As I stated somewhere else before, I was home schooled, and didn’t set foot in a classroom until I was 16 at the local community college. Many of my neighbors and friends (yes! Home schooled kids have friends!) hated rainy rays. It meant dressing in a bunch of layers, putting on a tacky vinyl raincoat, rainboots, walking in the rain to school, trying to keep the backpack dry, missing out on recess outside, lugging an umbrella with them, and being cold and damp after you got to school. When they’d come home, their parents told them to stay inside and do homework and watch TV, elsewise catch their death of cold from being in the rain.
My experience with rain on school days were divine. Unlike some homeschoolers, we had to be up and dressed, including shoes and socks, when we came to the dining table to start our normal school day. There was none of this stay in your pajamas, do your school whenever you want to, slouch on the couch while you complete your lessons. We had scheduled times that we did our schoolwork in, broke for lunch, resumed, and had time allotted for homework after household chores. We didn’t get to sleep in and do school whenever and however we wanted. School was a real deal! But rainy days… those were different altogether. If I woke up to the sound of rain in the side yard outside my childhood room, I knew it would be a special day.
On school mornings, my mom usually made hot cereal. Friday’s were eggs, but the other days of the week were Zoom, Cream of Wheat, Maltomeal, or Oatmeal. Cold cereal was a treat for when we went camping, so I didn’t get cheerios or Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs. Rainy days, were usually the same hot cereal and wheat toast, but sometimes, mama would make apple crisp, or something extra cozy. We would get to stay in our jammies many times on rainy days. Pink sweats and “scuffie socks” were the school uniform for the day. After cleaning up from breakfast, we didn’t have to sit at the kitchen table to do our work as we normally did. Mama would set up TV trays in the living room, or we’d sit on the floor and use the coffee table as our desk. She’d put on Vivaldi, Chopin, or George Winston to listen to. As we’d work on Math, Language, Science, Bible, and History, mama would be making a big pot of sopa (That is Spanish for soup). She’d chop carrots, celery, chicken, and whatever else was about to go bad in the fridge if we didn’t eat it and throw it in the big pot. She’d light the fire in the fireplace, and open the shades of the big window in the living room so we could watch the rain while we did our work. (Usually, these shades stayed drawn during school hours, because homeschooling was still quite new, even frowned upon, and my mom didn’t want to cause trouble if someone was walking by and saw all of us girls at home during school hours.)
Mama would bring over big mugs of hot cocoa, or cocoa coffee (no wonder I love mochas, she was mixing hot cocoa and coffee for me in 2nd grade), and we’d sip the burning liquid giddily as we learned about the digestive system, pilgrims and long division. It never really gets terribly cold here, because, hey, its Southern Cali, but my sisters and I would put blankets on our laps, and cuddle as we read from our school books. The normal annoyances and sisterly squabbles seemed to be at rest on rainy days, as the excitement of breaking from the typical routine was exciting enough to keep our pestering at bay.
At 12:15, it would be lunch time and we’d shuffle into the kitchen on that ghastly 70’s tile (and later that fake green marble laminate that scratched when you’d sweep it), and sit at the kitchen table, which didn’t have to be cleared of tons of books on these days, since they were strewn across the living room floor. Mama would have just turned off the noodles for the sopa (mushy, huge swollen elbow macaroni noodles cooked in tomato sauce and water), and we’d serve of bowls of the noodles, and pour Mom’s Soup Surprise over the top. We’d squeeze some lemon juice (I always used a whole half a lemon in mine, and the girls would ask if I wanted soup with my lemonade), and top it with shredded cabbage, crumbled stale tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and my mom’s amazing chile. She’d heat up corn tortillas, and we’d roll them up into tight little straws, and tear off pieces to dip in the sopa. That washed down with a glass of cold milk, “One cup each, milk is expensive!” After finishing lunch, we’d complete our remaining subjects for the day, and then came the really fun part.
My mama never kept us from playing in the dirt or making mud pies, so of course, she was also that rad mom that let her kids play in the rain. Now, we couldn’t go into the front yard to play until after the local schools were out of session, once again, to keep people from calling Child Protective Services on our family for us not being in school on a school day. But once the bell rang at the local elementary school, I was free to play if I had completed my schoolwork and chores for the day. If I happened to have hand-me-down rainboots or a rain coat, I’d don that over my clothes, and run outside into the col-de-sac I grew up on. If I didn’t have rainboots or a proper raincoat, I went out in my shoes and clothes. My mom never complained about us getting soaked to the bone, or ruining our clothes, and often even if I went out into the rain with a coat, umbrella, and boots, I’d discard them and lay on the driveway getting soaked, making my hair stringy, and wiggling my bare toes as the drops kissed them (which she did not like, by the way, shoes were always worn for outside play, and indeed even in the house).
After sufficient puddle stomping, rain dancing, and Gene Kelley impersonations, my toes and fingers would be icy cold, and I’d come in, strip my clothes, hang them over the laundry bins (“Don’t put them in! It’ll get everything else all mildewy! Hang your wet things over the side of the bins!”) and jump into a nice hot shower. The water would scorch my cold little body and I’d breathe in the steam as I thawed. Sweats would go back on, and we’d wait for papa to get home to have leftover soup, since my mom usually made enough to last a month. A successful rainy day had been completed.
So, even though I am not going traipsing out barefoot in the rain today (though I actually do that on occasion still), and I am not listening to Vivaldi while I learn how to diagram a sentence, and I have no fireplace in our little home, I love this rainy day. And I can’t wait for rainy days when I have my own little brood to homeschool. I hope I can make it as awesome as my mama made it for my sisters and I.