Irma Thomas’s “It’s Raining” is one of my favorite songs. At the New Orleans Jazz Festival once Irma was walking around the fair grounds when a light rain started falling, and a group of festival-goers serenaded the Queen of New Orleans so she gave them a royal bow.
Growing up in Louisiana, I have a reverence for rain. Driving in a blinding downpour can be a nuisance, but it’s not scary for me. Like folks in Fargo and their snow, folks in Cajun land are used to their rain.
Plus there’s the comfort of a steady rain, especially if you’re on a front porch in a comfy chair sipping something good with good friends or sharing the serenity with your own self.
I know rain also arrives angry as a demon during storms and hurricanes. I remember my dad boarding up windows and us losing power for days. Back in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, I remember Dad driving down I-10 and seeing the flooded streets with tricycles and sofas floating by.
A few years ago some friends and I were driving on Texas Hwy. 71 when we broke the “Turn around; don’t drown” rule. We had stopped at a stretch of road that was covered with water, and we debated risking going across. After we saw 3 cars in front of us drive through (and rats swimming across the road), I urged our driver to “Go!!! Now.” as another voice demanded, “Don’t do it!” We made it over safely although we also yelled at the top of our lungs for good luck.
I have, however, more comforting rain memories than scary ones. Like being at Grandma’s camp in Indian Village on that perfect screened-in porch. I’m sitting at one of the two picnic tables coloring with my cousins. Grandma and Stella Parrott sit in large wooden rockers with other less-important adults sitting in folding chairs at the other side of the porch, drinking Salty Dogs, telling stories, and playing gin rummy on TV trays. Not far away the Calcasieu River is being replenished, getting ready for the fishing boats to visit her soon.
I let the fat steady drops of rain match the contented beats of my 7-year-old heart. And if I have any thoughts of the future it’s that the river water will be higher and more exciting when an adult takes us down to the sand bar the next day.
Nothing like rainy afternoons to remind us to live in the moment and absorb the sounds and smells of a natural kind of calm.
“Drip-drop, drip-drop” sing Irma’s back-up singers at the start of “It’s Raining.”
“It’s raining so hard, brings back memories
Of the times you were here with me.
Counting every drop, about to blow my top
I wish this rain would hurry up and stop.”
Irma’s song is about a sad longing for the rain to stop, yet even in the lonely tunes about lost love, we listen, listen, listen and feel relief like after having a long, hard cry.