So last weekend, I was waiting in line at a local store when a young man behind me started complaining about the weather. I turned to see who he was talking to, and apparently it was me. “Huh?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “I just moved here from Phoenix, for the rain, and so far there isn’t any!” On the way home, my thoughts shifted back to 1982 and how horrified our California friends were when we announced our move to the Oregon coast. “You are going to hate it,” they said. “It rains all the time!” they said. “And you don’t know anybody!” they said. But we didn’t care. We were suffering from big city burnout and anxious to escape the heat, smog and traffic. And like that young man in the store, we could not wait for rain.
That very first week, we started getting weather-related phone calls from friends and family. “Is it raining there?” they asked. “No, it isn’t. You see, summer on the coast is…” “It’s hot, hot, hot here!” they said, not waiting for us to finish. “Are you sure it’s not raining in Oregon?” We looked out the window and told them we were sure.
At the time, I still had my dad who called weekly from Omaha. The first thing he always asked was “Are you OK?” like maybe I might have just wrecked the car. The second thing he asked about was the weather.
“No, it isn’t raining, Dad, it’s just beauti…” “Well, it’s 100 degrees here.” he said. “And today we’ve got tornado warnings all over the place. You should see it, Bobbie. The wind is blowing like crazy, and the sky is green.” Dad loved the excitement of a good old-fashioned Nebraska tornado. Mom would head for the basement, but Dad would be out in the yard looking up at the sky.
The next day my husband took me on a “field trip” over to Eugene, as we had just started exploring other parts of Oregon. In one of the Fifth Street Market shops, I was fascinated by the slogans on a wall full of T-shirts. Burt had wandered off to look at belt buckles, but I lingered to write down some of the slogans:
All the way back to the coast I thought about how people automatically relate the whole Northwest to rain.
The phone was ringing when we walked into the house, a call from a cousin in New York. “No, it’s not raining here,” we said, in answer to the usual question. “The sun is shining and it’s about 70 degrees. How’s the weather in New York?” “Sweltering,” she said, “but thank heavens for air conditioning.” Air conditioning? We looked at each other, remembering how dependent we used to be on air conditioning.
We went out on the deck to enjoy a cup of coffee. We gazed at the blue Pacific and talked about how much we loved our new life on the Oregon coast. I looked at the empty rain gauge Burt installed the week we moved in. After so many years in Southern California, he could not wait to start measuring all the rain we had heard about.
And that night in our new home, it rained. As we crawled into bed, Burt said, “Just listen to that. What a great sound.”
“Uh huh,” I said, waiting for him to fall asleep. Then I crept out on the deck with a flashlight, a quart of water and filled the rain gauge to the top. I should have put in only 2 or 3 inches, but stumbling around on a dark deck in a dumb nightgown (in the rain!) was not easy.
First thing next morning, Burt ran outside to check the rain gauge while I watched gleefully through the kitchen window. His look of amazement was totally satisfying … for about 10 seconds, until he caught on. For a long time we laughed over what he called “The Great Rain Gauge Caper.”
That year, the Oregon coast had well below the average rainfall of 65 inches. When friends called to ask how we liked the rain, our response was “What rain?” After years of heat, fires, floods, earthquakes and eye-stinging smog, we ended up rejoicing when it rained.
None of us can control the weather, but by Halloween, I will have tied down the deck furniture because I remember the words of wisdom from our original coastal neighbors: “If you don’t,” they said, “it might turn up in Toledo!”
I’m still thinking about that young man who just moved here, and I hope he gets his rainy-day wishes soon — and he is not the only one.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book, with all proceeds going to Rotary International Foundation, is available on Amazon, at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]