It is the only story about a rainbow that I have. But it’s a good one.
We were swimming in a lake. It was dusk. All of the other people had left. The beach was littered with the debris of a fine day, the smell of a dozen barbecue grills floating out over the water.
“We need to go, Jan, it’s getting late,” my husband called from the shore. Our kids were wrapped in towels, the three of them sitting in a row at a picnic table. They must be tired. They weren’t complaining or concocting, the older one wasn’t dreaming up a new game or begging his father for more time in the water.
I was swimming back and forth, north and south, toward the side of the lake where there was a campground to the side of the lake where there was a massive willow tree. It was a small lake, completely still now that the teenagers wrestling and chasing each other were gone. It was a perfect pool and I was loathe to leave it. Because it was beautiful and because of what was next.
The next morning my seven-year old daughter was to have open heart surgery. We would have to get up at dawn and drive to the hospital where she would put on a little kid’s surgical gown and be wheeled into an operating room where doctors would attempt to repair heart valves damaged by rheumatic fever when she lived in Nicaragua. Now she was our daughter. We had known her five months.
Days before when I had taken her for pre-op tests, she had jumped at the sight of the lady coming to draw her blood, “Mamasita!” she yelled. I was dumbfounded. She couldn’t possibly consider me her mother after only five months. Ah, but she had to. I was all she had.
I saw them all waiting on the shore, my husband increasingly impatient, my children swinging their feet as they sat. I was swimming on borrowed time here, I thought. The day is over. There is no reason not to get out of the water, to ‘move on to the next scene’ as my husband would say. Once a thing was done, he thought, it was done. No reason to linger and try to get back the fineness everyone else had already packed away in their cars.
“There’ll be another time, Jan,” he yelled, knowing better than anyone that I can get stuck, like a toddler who first can’t leave his mother and then can’t leave day care.
If I get out of the water, I have to do what’s next, I thought. And what’s next could be a terrible thing, a terrible, fatal thing, a thing that will be painful for a little girl I barely know, a thing I won’t know how to handle. I swam my breast stroke, head out of the water toward the campground side, pretending not to notice the day’s doneness that was so evident on the shore.
I turned and swam back, deciding that this would have to be it. No more avoiding. What message was I sending to my children? My husband had it right. We had to move on to what was next, for better or for worse, and we had to show our children how that is done.
That’s when the rainbow appeared, a full arc with every color, high in the sky, framing the willow tree. At that time and that place. It changed everything.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Roy G. Biv.”