Over the course of a long time, I have owned a lot of umbrellas. I mean A LOT….. When I was younger, it was a not so unusual a gift to receive, along with galoshes and plastic rain bonnets. I didn’t live in a particularly rainy climate in New York City, nor do I remember ever asking or coveting someone else’s umbrella. For a while, they accumulated in closets, in car trunks and assorted other places. It seemed as though they were far more important to the people who gave them to me than they were to me. As a teenager, in summer rains, I would go outside with my best friend and we would deliberately walk in the rain, barefoot, and carry our sandals in our hands…. It was freeing and nothing happened. I got wet, I never got pneumonia, and the looks and comments we got from adults did not permeate our laughter.
As I grew up into adulthood, I often took one with me “just in case” and felt that this worry was part of growing up and being prepared. I also found that that sense of preparedness was stifling at times. I began to still carry the umbrellas, but I would leave them places, initially by accident. Although I would remember them shortly after leaving them I consciously did not go back to retrieve them. I just didn’t care. I never wondered about what happened to them or whether, the next time I went back to the same location, whether they would be there, waiting to be picked up, perhaps remembered. It was callous and despite getting “caught in the rain” on several occasions, my behavior continued. I was now in a position where I had to replace them myself as no one gave umbrellas as gifts. I would usually find something not very memorable (although there were a few with polka dots that did appeal to me). I found that if I did need an umbrella, I did have certain expectations of how it was to perform. It was to open easily, and not turn inside out and would remain intact, available. I demanded that, in some sense, with no allegiance to its service. It was a poor excuse for a relationship, clearly one sided. It was the antithesis of how I did the rest of my life, as a caring, concerned human, who often put others before myself. After some time, with no real genesis of where the insight came from, I began to recognize that we all often are careless about something, with little regard to the end result.
I write this today with no great understanding of what the next step is for any of us, and for all of us. What I have become aware of is that looking back on earlier times in my life, things just seemed less complicated, although not easy, it made somewhat more sense. I worried about the possibility of rain, and had a plan, because I had an umbrella. Now, having an umbrella for rainy days seems irrelevant as we have greater challenges and less rain, unless you count our tears.