The humidity had been building in Boston for days. When the sky grew dark from rain-heavy clouds, when thunder began to rumble, Grandpa was not surprised. As the first fat raindrops plopped on the hot concrete, Grandpa and I were already bundling children into the car after the morning park play. The onslaught of hail was unexpected, and we soothed the children as ice crystals ricocheted off the car with a loud, peppering noise that sounded like violence and threat.
By the time we pulled safely into the driveway, the hail had stopped, and the rain had eased enough that the children were delighted to run through its summer-warm wetness. I soon gave up making them come inside to get dry. Instead, I let them roll down the grassy front yard slope, getting wet head to toe. Finally herded inside, I stripped giggling children in the hallway while Grandpa went to put on the kettle to heat the pasta water.
It was only when I was going upstairs to retrieve dry clothes that I heard the water. The rain had again picked up force. Wind slapped rain across the windows. Rain pinged loudly on the roof. But that wasn’t the rain I was hearing. From the stair landing, I investigated the living room with the two pianos and many music stands. Rain was spilling from the fireplace. Already, wet was darkening the green carpet that frames the wide fireplace hearth.
At my cry, Grandpa came running, and naked children came clamoring. As quickly, Grandpa dashed into the kitchen to get pots. All afternoon, Grandpa, Grandma and I took turns emptying the pans and bowls that filled at an alarming rate, especially given it was to rain all night.
As Grandpa and I were strategizing about leaking fireplace options, I hit upon the idea of setting up the children’s backyard playing pool in the fireplace. As it turned out, the play pool fit perfectly. It’s green, whale-patterned side tucked, made-to-order, inside the fireplace, and was soon collecting every drip and drop. Grandpa, Grandma and I were mightily relieved. It was now well past supper, and Grandpa feared that all night we would be taking to empty our overflowing buckets and pots.
Long after the fireplace was patched and repaired, from time to time Grandpa would comment on how we had saved the day, or at least the rug. It was one of those little shared crises that bring people closer. Eventually, it became our Grandpa’s and my own special story. It was an adventure remembered with pleasure and with tea from the comfort of the little round table, tucked between the fridge and the stove. Grandpa took his tea black with two heaping teaspoons of sugar. I like my tea without sugar, but with plenty of milk.