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Walking in the rain

Food For Thought

I guess it’s a little late for April showers, but warm springtime rains remind me of many soggy days of my youth when I strolled home from school, more or less oblivious to my wet clothes and dripping hair. There was no lunch program at our schools, and just about everybody went home for lunch, and most of us walked, and we walked back again after eating what was, for most families, the main meal of the day. If it was raining really hard, my dad would often take us back to school after we ate, crowding us into the cab of his pickup before he want back to the Chevy garage for the rest of the day, but we were on our own when school was over with at four o’clock.
Mother usually listened to the weather forecast in the morning while she was preparing our breakfast, and even if rain had been predicted for the day, she tempered the weatherman’s predictions with her own after looking out across the countryside from our big kitchen windows where we lived on the top of a hill near the edge of town. If it wasn’t actually raining at the time we were to set out for school, and if the sky didn’t look sufficiently dark and threatening, she quite often sent us off without raincoats or umbrellas. (She knew from experience that, if the weather turned sunny, we’d leave the rain gear behind.) Quite often, the weatherman was right, and we were thoroughly drenched and dripping by the time we arrived at school, and maybe again when we got home for lunch.
Mother had grown up on a farm and was accustomed to getting out there to tend to chores no matter what the weather. It seemed simpler, to her, to dash out without a raincoat in order to feed the chickens and gather up the eggs, than to bother with a raincoat. A little warm rain never hurt anybody, she would say, it’s good for the complexion, and besides, if you hurry, you can dodge between the raindrops and not get more than just a little damp. Many times, she would send me to the muddy garden to bring back an onion or two she needed for cooking supper. No need to bother with boots, just kick off your shoes and rinse your feet off with the hose before you come into the house. Much more efficient than cleaning up a pair of mud-caked boots afterward.
It never seemed important to protect our clothes from the rain– we could sit on a towel in the kitchen until we quit dripping, or we could change to dry clothes if we wanted to. Protecting our books and school papers was a different matter, however. Books were more or less sacred and couldn’t be allowed to get wet. We carried big zippered notebooks that could accommodate those things if we got caught in the rain. Homework had to arrive at school in good condition, so it was often folded enough times to fit into a pocket. I don’t know why we never carried book-bags in those days. I can’t remember anybody having one, though I’m sure they must have existed then.
While we did wear boots in the winter, we seldom wore them just because it was raining. I remember a period of time when I was in grade school when we had low-cut rubber overshoes that just covered our leather shoes. They didn’t do much to keep the rain from running down and getting our socks wet, and they were maddeningly difficult to put on and take off. And, one spring, we had clear plastic raincoats with plastic hoods and clear plastic boots meant to protect our shoes, but they weren’t very satisfactory and the boots were actually dangerous to walk in. Mostly, we just got wet and didn’t think much about it. We learned to keep the wet shoes on so that they would dry from the heat of our feet while being flexed as we walked around at school or afterward, at home. If we took them off to dry, they dried stiff and somewhat shrunken and didn’t seem to fit for several days afterward until they softened up.
Only if it was very windy and storming, or uncomfortably chilly, did we particularly hurry through the rain. The rain was just another condition we had to cope with and it was no bigger deal than a stiff wind or a hot sun– we had to get from here to there and so we just walked and got wet.
Later, when I was in college, I would sometimes be away from my room for the whole day when my class and work schedule kept me moving and there wasn’t time to walk the several blocks from campus to dormitory. A sunny spring morning could turn into a dreary drizzle or a violent downpour long before I could get back to retrieve my fashionable, “water resistant” cherry-pink corduroy raincoat, so I was glad to be inured to getting about unprotected in spring rain showers. Besides, I later discovered that “water-resistant” does not mean the same thing as “water-proof” and I’d have been soaked to the skin after about 10 minutes in a spring rain anyway.