Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rain on a Tin Roof

Yesterday I took C to a birthday party at the local gymnastics academy. While the kids were bouncing around the trampolines, swinging from the bars and generally having a blast, the mommies stood around uncomfortably and anxiously, looking at watches trying to determine how long we were trapped in the parent holding area that had too few chairs and no ready caffeine source.

As we were fishing for conversation topics (What class are you in next year? Did C get a haircut?), the heavens opened up and rain began to drum onto the tin roof of the gymnasium. The pounding instantly drowned out all of the awkward conversations and everyone stared up at the roof, wondering if it was going to hold or if we were going to be scurrying for buckets.

As I gazed upwards, I found myself in the main barn on Nana's farm during a rain storm. As we did the chores, my sister and I would listen to the rain would beat down on the tin roof, and then stare out the side door trying to determine whether we wanted to run for it or sit tight and see how long it would last. On the days we tried to wait it out, we turned the barn into our own private gymnasium. The piles of sweet smelling hay served as a scratchy but functional climbing wall. The rails around the horse stalls were balance beams, and on one particularly adventuresome afternoon we hung a trapeze from one of the support beams with baling twine. Somehow we were always surprised when it gave out under one of us.

The noise of the rain would be so loud it was almost impossible to talk, which was probably just as well as my sister and I rarely agreed on anything. But somehow during a rain storm we managed to take turns swinging from the rickety trapeze, or choreograph an elaborate acrobatic routine that must have looked utterly farcical, but to us was an Olympic medal winning performance. I would trot back and forth across the horse stalls while my sister would wave baling twine and sheep leads around like ribbons. The sheep would occasionally look up from their munching in horror if I tumbled off into the stalls, and the cats sometimes joined in the fun either following me or chasing the twine.

Eventually the rain would quiet down and we would make a mad dash for the house. My mother would always ask "What took you so long?" with feigned concern. As a parent now, I realize that she lived for the time we were in the barn, out of her hair. If we found something to occupy us for more than the fifteen minutes it actually took to do the chores, she was thrilled. Even if it meant an occasional skinned knee or bashed nose or bruised head.

As I listened to the rain yesterday and watched C wobble across the balance beam, I realized that the drawback to living where we do is the lack of outdoor space. While I can recreate my early gymnastics experiences, sound effects and all, I can't recreate the freedom that living on 15 acres gave my sister and I. My mother could send us outside and expect us to entertain ourselves safely for extended periods of time. On our postage stamp lot on a busy street, C and A won't even be able to get into a game of tee-ball without sending something flying through the neighbors' windows. And while I'm still not moving back to a farm, it made me nostalgic for a life that they'll never really experience.