Destination Clearwater: A Blustery Day
Remember what it's like to relax in the rain?
Drizzly cold days beg for me to pick up a Capogna’s pizza topped with hamburger, uncork a bottle of cabernet, slip into my sweatpants and make the most of my Netflix subscription.
In the summer, we get rain on the regular, but it rarely lasts more than a few hours. Today, the weather slowly turned from “mostly sunny” to “barely blustery”, settling finally on “delightfully drizzly.”
At least, it would be delightful if I could either embrace the rain, twirling and dancing beneath the drops or climb into my cave and pull the rock in behind me. As it stands, I can do neither. I have my iPad and notebook with me, neither of which can get very wet without ruining, at a minimum, a day’s work and my bank balance, and until the beach trolley arrives, I can’t go home.
As I wait I walk along Clearwater Beach, trying to keep the drizzle from turning my notebook into pulp and wondering how much rain, exactly, will ruin electronics. As I walk, though, my mind starts to drift and my face turns towards the sky. I can’t help it; it's the rain.
I was seven and we had just moved to Clearwater. My dad had just had hernia surgery, and back then that meant serious bed time for more than a few weeks.
It was summer, and he was laid up on the fold-out couch watching TV while my mom worked. Every summer afternoon, it would rain, like clockwork. It wasn’t like the rainstorms we get now; I don’t know what’s changed, but more often than not only one half of our street got drenched with heavy, pelting raindrops the size of LifeSavers while the other side remained a humid wasteland of August heat. Lucky for me, our side was the wet one.
It was easy to tell when the rain would arrive: not only did it stop by for its afternoon shower every day at just about the same time, the air got ridiculously heavy and moist right before the storm, and the sky would get gray (any darker than that and it meant thunder, which meant lightning, which meant that even my uber-permissive Dad wouldn’t let me play outside). At the first sign of rain, I dutifully put on my raincoat and, with my dad’s blessing and warning that I probably shouldn’t mention it to my mom later, slogged out to the driveway to play.
We had a carport, too, which isn’t something you see much anymore. Sometimes I would stand just inside the carport and watch the variegated pebble lawn for signs of movement. If I looked long enough, there it was: a muddy blur underneath the raindrops.
Toads. Tiny grey toads, muddy brown big toads, maybe even the occasional frog. I didn’t know. We’d moved down from New York. We did not, as best as I can remember, have a great deal of amphibian activity in Westchester county.
I was entranced, of course, with the anoles that lost their tails when you tried to catch them and, on the rare occasions when I did, how you could get them to bite on to your ear lobes and make “Florida earrings," but I lacked the skill to catch many “salamanders” (that’s what my mom called them.)
Toads, though, my grubby seven-year-old paws could catch. I was fascinated. I wouldn’t keep them; I don’t remember even wanting to try. I do remember catching them, thrilled with my skill and my discovery, examining them carefully, trying to keep the rain from my face as my childhood eyes peered at the tiny, strange creatures that sometimes peed when you picked them up.
Once satisfied I had learned all I could from a toad or frog, I would release him back into the rocks. I would turn my face up into the rain and let the diminishing storm wash over me. It was over almost before it started pretty much every day that summer, but for 20 minutes it was just me, the frogs and the rain.
The beach trolley approaches, and I climb aboard, careful to get a window seat facing the beach. Outside, the blustery drizzle continues, but inside I am depressingly safe from the rain.
One last errant drop escapes from my hairline and runs down my neck, and I can’t help but smile.