The Red Umbrella
I first noticed him through the rain-speckled window of the bookstore where I was buying a newspaper. The man looked fit and urbane, but what struck me most was the casual confidence with which he walked across the street to the bus stop.
Maybe we’re taking the same bus. I stepped off the curb and the gentle rain swelled a heavy downpour. I pulled up my lambskin-lined hood and trotted, then ran, towards the bus stop.
And there he was, holding out his bright red umbrella for me to share. I thanked him, laughing and out of breath.
"I didn't want you to spoil your jacket," he said, smiling. I smiled back, and bit my tongue. The jacket would be fine. But some things are better left unsaid.
It would be a long journey. Four hours on a motorcycle through an agricultural valley and then the tortuous mountain pass. But he'd promised to help out with the grape harvest like he used to do every year. And it would be good to see his family again. It had been too long.
He zipped his jacket, revved the engine, and pulled out onto the road. He settled into a comfortable riding pace and inhaled the fresh air.
A gentle rain graced the valley, sweeping across the grass, making every blade seem energized. He breathed deep the smell of rain on warm gravel and smiled. His jacket would keep him warm.
Emboldened, he shifted gears to take a curve, then accelerated. He forgot about phone calls, emails, and stock reports. Civilization could wait. Right now, he just wanted to enjoy the ride.
It's almost that time – reunion weekend. Reunions are always a source of jokes on sitcoms and movies. The nervous hero is worried about making a good impression on old friends. Catching up with old flames. Not doing anything embarrassing.
Back in the day, a group of us used to get together every spring. We’d rent a cabin in the Olympic National Park. For three days we’d live it up in the rainforest – hiking, mountain biking, fishing. The trails are spectacular...wet and mossy and cascading with ferns. I can still taste the steak and fresh trout. At night I used to play my guitar. Or try to. Thinking back, maybe I should be embarrassed about that. But hey, that was then.
Things change. Time has blinked. Now the reunion is just around the corner. It’s been a long time. Not sure what to expect. There’ll be a barbecue at the lake, a bonfire, and hopefully good beer. Fresh trout is probably too much to hope for.
But it'll be great to see everyone again. I’m packing light, just the essentials. Change of clothes. Toothbrush. My lamb fleece, rainproof jacket. The key to these things is to hold your head high. Be true to yourself.
That much is obvious. We’ve all grown up a little. Only thing I haven’t figured out yet – should I bring my guitar?