A Rough Draft: On My First Rainbow
I recently edited a video where the host suggested a rainbow isn’t real it’s just an illusion we see from the light reflecting through the prism of water in the air after a sun shower. I thought that was bit ludicrous to say: that it doesn’t exist because it’s just light. Everything we see is just light.
The first time I saw a rainbow I had a huge backyard that served as the perfect insulating sand-box for allowing me to continue being sheltered but I assume I was actually experiencing the world. I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time outside in my entire life as I did that back yard. It was the picture perfect upper-middle class acre of land. Starting off with about ten to fifteen yards of flay grass slowly inverting upwards to create a small accent perfect for winter sled rides and rolling up and downwards in a Playskool push car in the summer. At the top of the hill to your far right stood your standard two swing slide combo playground. I remember my father building it shortly after we moved in — installing the rungs of the monkey bars that would rest over two meters from the ground just over the swings. An insane design flaw I’m not quite sure if was intentional or I’m mis-representing. This all sat right on the edge of what I considered to be a forest. Large, wide trunked trees populated the backstage portion of the yard creating enough shade to outspend the hottest summer sun. It’s incredible looking back in my memory just how drastic the contrast was between the two halves of the giant green sandbox. I remember the first time I traversed the enchanted growth of the backyard, my life seeming to imitate the Disney movies I had grown up watching. Although for some reason those films always depicted little girls going on such adventures.
At the far back was the shed. Where we kept the lawnmower and yard tools that my father always seemed so fond of. Gray walls and a set of barn doors that I don’t believe my dad ever felt the need to lock. I never knew the key to the ignition was and I was well behave enough to know that even if I found it I should probably not be messing with a machine my mom had made very clear was known to cut peoples arms off from misuse.
Beside the shed was a compost barrel you could hide ten bodies in. It was massive. Large enough to hold all the leaves that would end up littering the expansive courtyard and that my father, all on his own, would rake up into insanely gigantic piles that my brothers and I would run through with reckless abandon and a carefree ignorance of the many definitions of garbage — which is what dead leaves could be considered: rubbish.
My dad would load all these leaves into the large sarcophagus of the composter and with a might I could not fathom — for the activity was impossible for myself — turn the single lever that would slowly spin the barrel like giant rock tumbler. I never ever saw him take anything out. I never really understood the compost.
All of this was surrounded by a wooden fence. Not picket white: that’s too WASPY. A nice old wooden fence you’d find surrounding an old log cabin. Something representing human hands had chopped the wood and assembled the perimeter long before a house ever stood there (which is preposterous: this was the suburbs).
I saw the rainbow sit over this splendor. Not while outside, though. I was in the dining room. Connected to the patio that was so common in the nineties east coast suburbs you wouldn’t be foolish for thinking they should exist in Chicago, although you would, because it would reveal your limited experience with inner city housing. The dining room was home to a large… the largest it could be without being considered a wall… window. It was like the precursor to a 200 inch wide screen. This large panel of glass that gave view to the majestic vista that was our picturesque upper-middle income white suburban backyard that in these days I thought everyone had the pleasure of owning.
It was the first rainbow I saw and to my memory it was not like the rainbows I’d seen in the movies.
I think my grandfather was there. I think everyone was there. You would have thought we were all witnessing Halley’s Comet for how excited it seemed everyone was. I know I was.
I also remember the fear that if I didn’t keep an eye out I’d miss it. I had a habit of doing that shit already in my early age and I didn’t want anything else keeping me disconnected from the mutual experience of family.
Inevitably it came. And we saw it together. Not hanging over the backyard in a perfect arc like my mind chooses to remember it. But like a jet stream shooting across the sky in seven pastel colors, sitting motionless, apathetic, as though it been there the whole time and didn’t even realize we could see it.