Cecelia Lewiston Brown was named after her mother’s great-grandmother, Cecelia Parker Lewiston, who had been a leader in both the women’s suffrage and prohibition movements. Cecelia’s parents were proud of that heritage and, even though Prohibition ended up creating more problems than it solved, they hoped that some of her namesake’s social activism would rub off on their daughter as she grew up.
Four-year-old Cecelia Lewiston Brown carried the burden of her parent’s great expectations lightly. Indeed, if truth be told, her “social activism” had thus far been limited to the time she spent playing with friends at her college-prep preschool and with her special friend, Maria, who lived three houses down on the other side of the street.
As with most children her age, Cecelia—or “Sissy” as she was called by her parents—was smarter and more above average than all the other above-average children her age. She wasn’t aware of this, of course, but her parents knew, and reminded Sissy’s grandparents of it as often as possible. The grandparents were also true believers and were already convinced that if life was fair, Sissy would eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and wind up on the United States Supreme Court.
Maria, however, didn’t see it this way at all. As far as she was concerned, what Sissy did best was to stomp and splash water when she walked past a puddle.
Sissy was good at this for two reasons.
The first reason she was so good at splashing in puddles was because she had a new pair of yellow rain boots with a picture of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on them. Although it didn’t make any sense for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be on a pair of yellow rain boots, Sissy had not yet reached an age where it mattered whether things made sense or not. The only thing that mattered in her life were the twin postulates: “Everything is possible,” and, “Nothing is impossible.”
The second reason Sissy was so good at splashing in puddles was because she was a giant. No one knew this but Sissy, and it was such a big secret that even Maria didn’t know about it.
As far as Sissy’s mother was concerned, the world was a very big place and her daughter was very small.
As far as Sissy was concerned, it was the other way around.
One morning, on an unusually gray November Saturday, Sissy walked up to her mother and said, “I want to walk on the beach.”
It was not a question. It was not a demand. Sissy was simply letting her mother know what she wanted to do at that particular moment. Then again, although it was a simple and straightforward sentence, it carried with it the assumption that her mother would immediately stop whatever she was doing and walk with her to the beach.
Sissy’s mother complicated things by saying, “No. Not today.”
“Why,” Sissy asked.
“Because it’s raining,” came the reply. “In fact, it’s been raining all day and it’s not supposed to stop until tomorrow.”
She paused before adding, “Actually, it’s supposed to stop raining early tomorrow morning while you’re still asleep. That means we can go to church without getting wet. Perfect timing, don’t you think?”
Sissy wasn’t sure about what her mother had just said.
“What does perfect . . . ?” she began.
She couldn’t remember the next word her mother had used (which was “timing”) so she started over again.
“Wouldn’t it be more perfect if it stopped raining now?”
Her mother, who held degrees in Philosophy and Business Administration, started to say that one perfect thing can’t be more perfect than another because the concept of “perfect” was an absolute. Two things could be equally perfect, of course, but nothing could ever be “more perfect” since perfect things are either perfect or they’re not.
She wanted to say these things but she didn’t.
She wanted to say these things because she spent most of her time with Sissy and didn’t get to have adult conversations except on Sundays when the family went to church and on Mondays when her husband stayed home to watch Sissy so she could do the bookkeeping for the town’s Mexican restaurant and volunteer for three hours at their church’s weekly free dinner program. On most days, her husband was the only adult she talked with.
As it turned out, Sissy’s mother’s decision not to explain the abstract absolutism inherent in the word, “perfect,” had nothing to do with Sissy being only four-years old. It was, in fact, a house rule that all adults always spoke in an adult manner, whether Sissy was in the room listening, or they were speaking to her directly.
The reason Sissy’s mother didn’t pursue the subject was because she suddenly had second thoughts about Sissy’s first question and the way she had answered it.
Why not take a walk in the rain? She thought to herself. Maybe it’s time for an adventure.
“Get your boots on,” she said. “It’s always perfect timing to go for a walk.”
Sissy slipped her yellow boots on all by herself and her mother helped her with a warm sweater and her blue rain slicker. After putting on her own raincoat and grabbing two umbrellas, she handed one to Sissy and the two of them stepped out the front door and into what had turned from a winter shower to a biblical deluge.
Forty days of this and we’ll need an ark, thought Sissy’s mother.
Wow! This is going to be the best walk, ever! thought Sissy.
There were puddles everywhere. Even puddles inside of puddles!
As they walked along the now-deserted, dead-end road that led to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Sissy went straight to work and began to splash up a storm of her own.
Since she was a giant, the puddles became lakes and oceans.
“Take that!” she shouted as she stomped from one to another.
Water flew in all directions, even into her boots. which were all squishy and sloshy inside by the time that she and her mother stepped onto the sandy path that wound its way to the beach.
There were no puddles on the beach so Sissy pretended she was a giant crossing a vast, dry, empty desert. This meant, of course, that she had to pretend it wasn’t raining.
If it’s not raining, she wondered, why am I carrying an umbrella across a desert?
Although she had never seen a parasol, she decided to use her umbrella to keep the hot, desert sun from turning her into a piece of toast.
Thinking of toast made her think of food, and thinking of food made her think about being hungry.
Even giants get hungry, the decided.
“Mommy,” she said. “I want to go home.”
“But we just got here,” her mother said with a smile.
“I want to go home and I don’t want it to rain, anymore,” Sissy announced.
As they walked back along the trail Sissy reached out and held her mother’s hand.
We’re the same size! She thought.
It took her several steps before she could make sense of it.
That must mean Mommy is a giant, too! she decided.
So, hand in hand, the two giants walked down the street towards home, stomping and splashing their way through lakes and oceans, jumping over great rivers and hopping from one island to the next.
As it turned out, Sissy’s mother never found out she was a giant. This was because Sissy never told her and kept it a secret, even from Daddy when he came home from work that afternoon.
As she walked up the driveway to her house, Sissy stood on her toes, reached towards the sky as high as she could, and twisted her hand to the left. It was the same way she turned off the water in the sink when she washed her hands in the bathroom.
And, because she was a giant, the rain stopped immediately.
As Sissy skipped into the house, she heard her mother announce that it was time for a snack.
And as the door closed, the sun broke through the clouds.