It was the end-of-the-school-year picnic at the local elementary school, and we were invited. Not because we have any students there right now, but because it was Rebecca’s school, and the PTA was set to dedicate a Little Free Library in honor of her and Trishka Tantanella-Holcomb, another student who died in 2014, a few months before Rebecca.
There were some words spoken, readings read, and then the Library unveiled. I shook the hand of Trishka’s mother, expressing my condolences, and then I found myself locked in an embrace with Trishka’s father, taller than me, his breath hitching.
“I know,” I said. “I know.”
He sobbed in my ear, quietly, despondently. We stood back a step.
“Every day,” I said, looking into his eyes, my throat tight.
He shakily held up a finger. “Not… not one day,” he ground out.
We turned to look at the new Library, adorned with the names of our little girls, hands on each other’s shoulders. Kids and adults alike were putting in books they had brought to contribute, one after another. Someone decided they’d had enough of the raucous pile of books, and started standing them on their ends, sorted by size. I could imagine Rebecca saying, “Aw, boo!” in the casual, lighthearted way she liked to say it. Expressing her disapproval, but without any heat to it.
A storm was moving in, so the crowd scattered back to their homes as a few of us quickly broke down the tables and sound equipment to move them inside. The storm arrived just as we finished, filling the now-empty playground with curtains of rain, racing with the wind. A minor lake immediately began to form as the playground’s storm drain was overwhelmed by the outpouring. I thought about the video Kat had taken of Rebecca and her best friend Ruthie playing in another such lake, a little more than a year before, splashing and laughing as they poured water out of their rain boots.
As quickly as it had broken, the storm was over, the rain trailing off to a minor sprinkle. I looked at the clouds to the west, realized what was about to happen, and fished my iPhone out of my pocket as I turned around.
“Get the kids outside,” I told Kat, who’d gone home with them ahead of the storm. “There’s going to be a rainbow.”
I waited. But not for long. It slowly coalesced over the school, the first full-spectrum, full-arc rainbow I’d seen since a few months before Rebecca’s death.
She loved rainbows.
I wish so many things, all of them pointlessly, but one of the most piercing is that I wish I’d thought to make a rainbow for her while there was still time. All it would have taken was a late afternoon and a garden hose, sprayed from the porch roof; all it would have taken was for me to break free of myself just long enough to think of it. Just one more rainbow, just for her, just to see her eyes widen and her mouth arc upward in delight.