Tonight, John left the house to pick up takeout for dinner only to call moments later to tell me I should go downstairs and look out the window. Three days of rain had just ended with a break in the clouds and the blue-orange glow of an after-rain sunset. And across the street, rising up out of the houses and trees to reach for the heavens, was a rainbow. I stood just inside the open front door and gazed at it for a long while until Daisy appeared, darted through my legs and made a mad dash for the girls who were puddle-jumping in the cul-de-sac, breaking the serenity of the moment.
I’ll only pick up a penny if it’s heads up, and I make a wish every time birthday cake candles are lit – even when they’re not for me. I’ve worn the same t-shirt for each of the Tar Heels’ games in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament and have it in the wash right now for their Elite Eight game tomorrow afternoon. I make fun of horoscopes but still read mine – and none of the others – in magazines. Nearly three years ago, as I packed for the North Carolina mountains, I included items chosen with care – one old, one new, one borrowed, one blue – for my wedding day. I make wishes on stars and rainbows.
This morning, I got a wild hair and cleaned our home office. And the guest room closet. And our closet. And then, as I sat Indian-style in the floor of our closet sorting through a mountain of clothes destined for the out-of-season plastic bin or Goodwill, I came across the white Bobcats t-shirt John got when we went to the first game in the new arena uptown. Just below the right shoulder is a tiny smear of black – the permanent stain from the mascara I wore the day Taylor was diagnosed with Batten disease. I remember, as if it was just yesterday, how I cried as John held me. We were both squeezed onto one of the dining room chairs, surrounded by boxes bearing the wedding gifts for which we had yet to write thank-yous, and the meager dinner we’d cooked sat uneaten on the borrowed glass table. Daisy watched us silently from across the room, her bright eyes searching mine. John’s parents had heard the news and were on their way over to cry with us.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I chucked the Bobcats shirt into the Goodwill pile, face-down to hide the stain. The feeling of empowerment I got from that small act, though, was short-lived. When, just minutes later, I carted an out-of-season-but-worth-keeping pile up to the guest room for storage, my eyes fell upon the teddy bear T and I built together at the Build-A-Bear Workshop just hours after the diagnosis, the bear whose twin watches over my sister from its perch in her bedroom as she dances and sings and spends time with her American Girl dolls. And as I stood there alone in the middle of my guest room and listened to the fat drops of spring rain pelt against the window, I cried all over again.
And yet, hours later, there was the rainbow, hung by divine hands up there in the sky like a guardian angel. Below it, the grass was green and lush and full of life, and the trees, peppered with green buds and cottony white and pink spring lace, expanded their lungs and inhaled the fresh, clean air. I closed my eyes and made my wish. And then, as the sunlight dissipated and evening blanketed the quiet street, I turned on my heel and closed the door behind me, walking right past the stack earmarked for Goodwill without even a fleeting moment’s thought for the tear-stained shirt.