I would’ve given anything and everything to be out in the tropical storm when I was little. It wasn’t frightening. In fact, it was cool.
I would’ve wanted to go jump in the huge puddles the rain was making. When our drain got clogged because of all the dirt and leaves the rain carried in, it created a huge puddle. It was like a pond in our backyard.
I would’ve asked Mom to go out and play in the puddles or even swim in that pond the rain created.
And she’d say no, to all my questions.
She’d tell me I’d get sick.
She’d tell me I’d get struck by lightning.
She’d tell me I’d get carried off somewhere by myself or to an island in the middle of the sea, by the strong winds that the tropical storm caused.
She’d tell me all the excuses for me to not go outside.
My mind flashed back to a particular moment in my past. I was ten, a lonely, only child who sat in her room doing nothing. I have a really hard time making friends, so I was pretty much always by myself. Or sometimes when I got super bored, I’d play with the maid’s daughter. Mom and Dad were always working, so I couldn’t bother them either. I was watching the rain pitter-patter-pitter-patter against the cold window.
The rain splattered all over the window like paint, and scattered all over the place in tiny little drops. I’d watch the drops and put them into races against each other. First to reach the windowsill wins!!
There was a knock at my door, and ten year old me pulled her brownish blonde hair with blue outlines up into a messy bun. She would’ve wanted the maids to think she was clean and did her hair before anyone came to see her.
Or if it was the maid’s daughter who wanted to play, she wanted to be ready.
But neither the maids nor the maid’s daughter were standing in the doorway after I told them to come in. It was someone I wouldn’t expect to see standing in the doorway wearing a raincoat, rain boots, and holding an umbrella. It was someone I wouldn't have guessed to have a huge grin that showed their dimples, plastered to their face. And the smile wasn’t fake either. It was real, and it lit up the room.
“Mom?” I asked, running to pull her into a tight hug.
“Joy!” She exclaimed.
I thought this was very unexpected. She wouldn’t take work off to come see me. She’d never done this before. “Don’t you have work?” I finally asked, looking into her deep brown eyes.
She gave a concerned look and kneeled down to be face to face with me. “Joy, I never want you to think I do not have time for you! You come before work. Always. I know Mom has been busy lately, but you know I come and check on you every night, right? I come and kiss your forehead, wishing I could spend more time with you. Even on the weekends I have to work. But that’s how it is. Trust me, if I could change it, I would.”
I hugged her and rested my head on her chest. I could hear her heart beating softly. Thump. Thump. Thump. “So why’d you come down here?” I asked.
“Do you want to go out in the rain?” She asked, a grin on her face.
I looked up at her with possibly the biggest smile I’d ever made. I nodded. “YES!” I exclaimed, dashing off for the stairs to put on my rain clothes. After I was dressed, we ran onto the front porch and sat in the porch swing.
I looked over at Mom as we swung. She’d pulled her chocolate brown hair up into a messy bun, hairs sticking out all over the place. Her lips were a light pink like cotton candy. Her eyes were the deepest brown. If you dived in, they’d suffocate you and pull you under the surface. She had one freckle that was shaped like a heart. She told me she got teased for it when she was little, but I’ve always told her I loved it.I think it resembles how loved and lovable she is.
She points off into the distance. “See that, Joy? Lightning.”
There was a bright flash of zigzag white light, and then a roll of thunder, across the sky.
“Come,” She said, as she got up from the swing and stepped out into the rain. She was dancing and splashing in puddles. It was like she was a kid again, having fun and dancing around. It was something I even wanted to do.
I ran out into the rain and joined her.
As the rain fell from the dark clouds above, we stuck our tongues out and tried to catch a drop. When it landed on someone’s tongue, we’d cheer.
The wind picked up and started blowing the leaves around, forming a little tornado. We chased them as the rain hit our faces and we got soaked.
I swear, that is the best moment of my life. When you’re living in the moment. When you’re with the ones you love most. When you are having fun. When you can’t even express how much fun you are having, or how much love you want to show.
And then she was sick.
That was two years ago.
Mom has been sick ever since.
I went to Dad’s room where Mom was talking to Dad in a raspy voice. Dad had tears streaming down his cheeks, and I immediately knew something was wrong.
I rushed up to Mom’s side and Dad left the room. “What’s wrong?” I said, and even though I didn’t know what was going on, tears were still streaming down my face like rapid waters in the river.
“Joy.” She said in a raspy tone, tears streaming down her face. “Joy, I know this is hard for you.” It was barely a whisper, so I had to kneel down and hold her hand.
“Please,” I said, sniffling. “What’s wrong?”
“Joy. I-I’m t-too s-s-sick.” She stuttered through tears and weeps and moans.
“No.” I said. It was a statement. This couldn’t be happening. “No, Mom. Don’t leave me.” I pleaded. If there was a space big enough for a lake, my tears would’ve already filled it up in moments.
“I’ll always be with you, Joy.” She’s crying harder now. “So I want you to promise me something. I want you to remember something. For me.”
I nodded. “Anything.” I promised.
“Whenever you see lightning, think of me. I’ll always be here. Live that special moment again. Replay it in your mind. Never forget me.”
“I won’t, Mom.” My tears formed a pool on the ground next to her bed. “Mom, I-I love you.”
She tried to smile. But before I could hear a reply, her eyes shut and her chest stopped rising and falling.
*Twenty years later. Joy is 32*
The thunder awoke me from the deep sleep I was having. I looked over my shoulder and saw my husband, Arnold, sleeping peacefully. It was only four in the morning.
I tip-toed down the hall passing my daughter Amelia who was sleeping in her room.
I tip-toed down the hall and all the way down stairs where I slid on rain boots and a sweatshirt.
The rain hit my face, but I didn’t care. I sat down on the porch swing and watched the rain.
Lightning struck, and for a second, I could’ve sworn it was in the shape of a heart. Like Mom’s freckle.
I’ll always be with you.
I replayed the memory we had together out in the rain in my mind. It was more clear this time. I could feel the feelings I was feeling then.
I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. But when I looked up, no one was there. I think it was Mom.
Whenever you see lightning, think of me. I’ll always be here. Live that special moment again. Replay it in your mind. Never forget me.