Rainy Days

Katy experiences a rainy day now and in the past.
Written August, 1966

Dear Nephew Ray,

Martha came home from a morning walk in the rain with a small yellow raincoat clad form in tow.

"Trudy can't find anything to do on this long rainy day so I brought her home with me." she explained as she helped our great granddaughter out of her damp garments.

Ginger cookies and cocoa didn't cheer the red-haired four year old. Not even Vashti's kittens with their wide blue eyes, weak-legged staggers and funny baby fights made her smile.

Finally I pulled the woebegone-faced little girl into my lap and we rocked in the comfortable old chair by the kitchen window. We could see raindrops rolling off the smooth leaves of the redbud tree and long stemmed petunias dancing tn the wet wind. From force of habit I began singing "Frog He Would A Wooing Go" and soon a little voice joined the "Ah-ums". At the end of the many verses, Trudy gave me the kiss she had forgotten when she arrived and said with a brighter face,

"I like to be your baby, GramKaty. My dolly's broke and there isn't anything to do at home when it rains."

A phone call brought Joe with the broken doll for Great Grampa to mend and a rummage in the sewing box turned out material for new clothes for the patient. Martha quickly ran up a lace-trimmed nightie on the sewing machine and I had three dresses, a coat and hat cut out before lunch.

Making doll clothes has always been a good way to spend a rainy day. Trudy sewed happily, making a bathing suit for her doll with long, looping stitches. Sewing skills aren't taught little girls at the tender years they once were.

While we sewed and watched Josiah operate on dolly, we talked about "the olden days" as Trudy calls them. Children know just the right questions to ask to set their elders reminising,

"What did you do on rainy days when you were little like me, GramKaty?" Trudy asked and I'll share my answer with you.

On rainy summer days when I was a child, I sometimes took my Pa's noon meal to him at the store. I wore high rubber boots, for the sidewalks were of boards or cinders and the roads were unpaved. I carried a basket of food and walked under a huge black "bumbershoot" which threatened to carry me away with every gust of wind.

Having safely reached the shelter of the wooden store awnings and washed the mud from my boots in the over-flow from the horsetrough, I would enter Pa's store, sure of an invitation to join him at lunch. A napkin from the basket spread over the checkerboard made our table. Pa sat in his captain's chair while I could choose among several backless chairs, a high stool or an upended nail keg.

From the depths of the basket came pieces of chicken, still warm from the iron spider, hot buscuits wrapped in a napkin, half a pie or slices of chocolate cake, and a jar of milk. Pa would dip huge pickles from the open barrel and select bananas or a can of some exotic viand from the shelf to add to our picnic. By turning the bung on the molasses barrel I could have sweet brown syrup drizzled on my biscuits. A wedge cut from the big wheel of cheese added zest to our pie.

Afternoons flew by in Pa's store, rain or no rain. There were customers to greet, fresh chocolate drops to sample, shelves to dust and arrange, new goods to unpack, and perhaps a lemon to suck through a stick of candy. At closing time the lunch basket would be filled with Ma's grocery order and a sack of penny candy, shelves covered against the dust, lights put out and the cat put in.

The door firmly locked and double checked, we'd walk briskly through the early evening, my small legs taking two steps to Pa's one. Our feet knew the ups and downs of familiar sidewalks as well as our eyes did. We avoided puddles and wagon-wheel splashes as we bobbed along under the umbrella held firmly now in Pa's hand.

The kitchen smelled of supper, beef stew with airy, plump dumplings, carrot spears, cubes of yellow turnip, new potatoes, just enough onion and tender chunks of beef awash with rich gravy or baked hash with golden-eyed fried eggs, fresh salt-rising bread, hot applesauce made from the first wind-falls, and spicy tomato relish. The old wood range glowed warmly and the tea kettle sang merrily atop it.

The smell of rain-soaked earth and wet leaves came through my window at bed time. By morning the grass would be greener, flowers straighter, trees fresher, and tempers improved as cooler air soothed heat-irritated human nature even as rain had refreshed Mother Nature.

A rainy day is a fine time for exploring trunks in the attic, playing hide and seek in the haymow, reading "Tom Sawyer" or "Little Women", cleaning the top drawer of your desk, mending a broken chair, straightening pantry shelves, making fudge, coloring pictures in old catalogs, making paperdolls, cutting pictures from magazines for a scrapbook, or even going fishing if you care that much for the sport.

"I think" said a much happier Trudy as she set off for home with a mended and refurbished dolly, "that rainy days are for coming to GramKaty's house and having fun."

GramKaty had fun, too, and so did Grampa Jos. Here's to more and better Rainy Days.

Uncle Jos sends regards as do I

Your Aunt Katy