Five days ago, the Tuna clan hopped in the car and sped off to Maryland to celebrate That Which Shall Not be Spoken. To up and leave for four days at a time of the year when we don't have four days to spare was a bit daunting. There was much frantic last-minute errand running and snack purchasing and 90th birthday card selecting (Whoops! Valdemort!) and laundry washing followed by the usual resignation of whatever doesn't get done will still be here when we return.
Needless to say, we didn't leave in the best frame of mind.
The drive through Michigan and Ohio brought a great deal of rain and fog. I spent a lot of time muttering and complaining to myself that I didn't live in the rain forest and really, fog should be gone by 11 am, but oh yeah, THERE WAS NO SUN in which to burn off that which had the power to play hide-and-seek with 18-wheelers.
Pennsylvania was an enormous improvement. The rain stopped, the sun came out and the scenery was marvelous. Since our usual Maryland excursions are done in the season of bare trees (December) and green trees (June), the spectacular display of color seemed to be a special treat.
One of my favorite kiddie-lit books is Frederick by Leo Lionni. Frederick, you see, is a little mouse who prepares for the long cold winter ahead in a different way. While his friends gathering food and other provisions to sustain them, Frederick sits and stares. They accuse him of doing nothing, until they discover he has gathered colors and sounds and thoughts to feed their souls.
As I drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of time being quiet. I spent a lot of time being Frederick. As I drove, I occupied myself with looking and thinking and thinking and looking, desperately trying to store up sunshine yellows, burnt oranges and deep blazing reds for a time when the outlook would be gray and dreary.
Despite my best attempts to focus on the beauty surrounding me, my Frederick thoughts were snatched and replaced by concerns of the day. No matter how badly I wanted to file away the looks and smells and tastes of autumn, my picture-perfect blanket of newly fallen leaves kept getting snagged on the gnarled branches of worry and fear. All I could do was hope for another chance somewhere down the road.
Because you see, the trip for That Which Shall Not be Spoken was no longer being taken solely for the purpose of celebrating my Grandmother's long life well-lived. Right before we left came the news that another long life was nearing the end of its journey, and it was imperative that my grandmother travel to visit her 91-year old brother. Plans needed to be discussed. Tickets needed to be exchanged. Arrangements needed to be made. It was no longer quite the celebration we had intended.
As we entered Maryland, the weather turned again. Dark clouds returned, closely followed by another round of thick, heavy rain. On top of that, traffic had increased exponentially. Frederick had left the building.
I was tired of everything. Tired of the traffic. Tired of the weather. Tired of it always being something. Tired of being tired. So with headlights on, windshield wipers on high and a newfound resolve to JUST GET THERE NOW, I drove on. And as I came up over a hill,
"HEY, A RAINBOW!" I shouted in a caps lock, leaned over kind of way.
TinyTuna took off her headphones, GramTuna put down her reading, and we all looked.
It was so bright and full, especially as it touched the earth. TinyTuna yelled, "Hey, another one!" Sure enough, there was a second, slightly fainter rainbow. And then we noticed the "other half" of the first rainbow. And then the other half of the second. It was rainbowrrific.
Despite the crush of traffic, I pulled off the side of the road. "What are you doing?" asked TinyTuna. "I thought we could take a picture," I said, which was half true. The other half was I just wanted to stop. I needed to stop. I needed to have my Frederick moment without worrying about traffic and weather and going someplace. So in between breaks in the traffic, TinyTuna and Gram took pictures. One side and then the other. This angle and that. I took Frederick pictures. For later.
At one point, the two ends of the first rainbow met and formed a complete arc across the sky. The second rainbow framed it on either side. "You don't often see a whole rainbow," GramTuna said. "But just look how big and long this one is," adding quietly, "it's complete."
As we traveled, we became rainbow watchers, playing a prismatic version of I-Spy. Some parts might fade away, but then others grew strong. At times we would lose sight completely -- passing clumps of trees or taking a curve in the road -- and we wondered if our game was over. But soon it would appear again in a different spot, leading us on a merry chase until the sun finally set and the last speck vanished into the night.
Today, a mere five days from when we left for Maryland, and only 24 hours after having returned, GramTuna boarded a plane for California. With her mother, her brother and her sisters, she is off to visit my Great Uncle. I am so grateful now for my Frederick thoughts. Although the trip will be difficult and tinged with sadness, I cannot help but to think of the long lives well lived that are coming together once more.
A double rainbow. Full and complete.