What to do on a rainy Bank Holiday in May?
We headed to the garden centre. Drifting through the colourful rooms full of gifts, exotic houseplants and garden furniture I was filled with longing for my old garden. It was huge and sheltered but horribly neglected. I now have a small, but easy to care for yard, and last summer it was filled with overflowing pots of colourful geraniums and lobelia. I love it, but often wish that I had a bit more space to cram vegetables and larger shrubs in.
I love geraniums. Red geraniums. I remember a holiday in Greece, on the island of Andros, many years ago. A little ground floor apartment that opened onto a courtyard with a little fountain and packed with bright red geraniums. We woke in the morning to the buzzing of bees as they darted from flower to flower in the heat. A gardener would come every day in the early evening and water them, Ever since, the scent of freshly watered geraniums transports me back to Greece and lazy summer days. But I digress.
This garden centre has a whole aisle of red geraniums in the cathedral-like area covered with a plastic roof that allows sunlight to pour through on good days. Not on Monday. The rain poured and thundered on the roof. Leaks allowed the rain to pour through here and there, while staff ironically continued to water pre-planted tubs and baskets.
Suddenly the intensity of the rain increased dramatically, and the noise reverberated around me, drowning out all other sound. I stood still, eyes closed, taking in the scent of the damp plants and letting the sound of the rain hammering on the roof wash over me.
I opened my eyes and in front of me stood a little imp. A beautiful little girl with blonde curls gathered into a top knot. She was wearing a shiny pink raincoat and red wellies. And she was gazing up at the roof with a look of absolute joy on her face. Her mouth open and her eyes sparkling. Every now and then she gave a little wriggle of delight.
I watched her for a few moments and the noise died down a little. She looked down and caught my eye. “Wasn’t that amazing” I said. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Its raining” she said.
I asked her name. “Gabriella, I’m 5. These are my wellington boots for puddles”
She seemed to be completely on her own, so I asked her where her mum was. She told me she didn’t know but that she was with her baby brother. I offered to help her find her mum and brother and she smiled angelically. “Its ok” she said. Suddenly the rain pounded the roof again. Without warning Gabriella ran over to me and threw her arms around my leg burying her face in my thigh, laughing with happiness. I offered her my hand and she took it and we stood listening.
In that moment I was blown away by such a huge insight that I could hardly breathe. That I, a 60-year-old woman, with so many years behind me, and this little girl, with so many years ahead, were the same. Despite the years between us I felt a oneness wash over me. That she and I and every woman ever were the same. Shared the same presence. The same existence. We smiled at each other and for a second everything was perfect.
I heard her name being called. Her dad had found her and exhorted her to stop bothering “that lady”. I reassured him that she was no bother.
“We were listening to the rain Daddy” she said.