Southern California didn’t bring me the treat of a rainstorm very often, but when it did I would sneak into my backyard and run around in the puddles. Each time I’d return home in a disheveled mess of leaves and mud. Mom always laughed and told me the story of how she drove herself to the hospital the day I was born-through LA traffic and in pouring rain no less. She’d say that must be why I loved storms despite the lagoon creature they turned me into. Then, she'd kiss my wet cheek and send me off to a hot bubble bath.
If Father ever caught me, he’d yell and order me to my room.
When I was nine years old, the balance between stern father and understanding mother came to an end. I waited for an hour after school for my mother to pick me up. It felt like forever. Mom never forgot me…ever.
My grandmother came to get me that day. Her eyes filled with tears the moment she arrived. She pulled me into her frail arms and sobbed all over me.
Still, it would take two days of constantly asking for my mother until Dad finally sat me down and told me Mommy had gone to heaven.
My response: what heaven? My window to God clouded over and cast a shadow on my childhood. Without my mother to let in the cool breezes of laughter, joy, and innocence, I was left in darkness.
Father kept to himself mostly. He was very old-fashioned, children should be seen and not heard, kind of thing. Heck, sometimes we weren’t even supposed to be seen. Still, when he came out of his mourning long enough to tuck me into bed, I did my best to act like the mini-adult he wanted me to be. I longed to see him smile.
One night in the middle of summer, almost a year after my mother’s death, I sat in the middle of my bed and for the first time let myself think about the god I so badly wanted to believe in. I tightly hugged the teddy bear my mother gave me for my fifth birthday and started to pray. It was an angry prayer, whisper-screamed into my pitch-black room.
“Do you exist, God? I mean really. How could you exist? Look at all the hurt there is. If you do exist, you’re not a God I like. You’re a God who lets mommies die. You’re a mean God. If you’re listening. I hate you. If you’re not, well then, good. I don’t need you anyway!” I could feel him there. God was listening to me, and I was hurting him like he hurt me.
I softened for a moment and asked, “Do you have Mommy?” I was met with only silence. Then, I pressed my face against the second-story window of my father’s townhouse. I looked up into the sky where I imagined God would be. My breath clouded the view. “Do you have Mommy? I need a sign! I know I’m not supposed to ask, but…is she with you?”
Through the silence, the sprinklers turned on. I stared wide-eyed at the grass below. It was strange. Sprinklers didn’t usually come on at three am. Suddenly very intimidated, I spoke aloud, “God?” I didn’t believe the sign. I needed more.
God knew I needed more.
“God, if that was you turning on the sprinklers and not chance, I need a bigger sign. I’m sorry.”
Immediately after the words escaped my lips, rain poured out of the sky and beat on my window.
Still holding my teddy bear, I ran downstairs and out the front door. My bare feet squished through the cold grass as the water drenched my nightgown. My body shook under the weight of my tears. But through my sorrow, I smiled. This was surely my mother’s idea. God had given me a piece of my mother’s spirit to hold onto until the day I would hear her laughter again. His water washed over me and released the pressure in my chest. My heart was free to love Him again.
My face tilted to the sky to meet the raindrops. Through the messy blur, I saw the place where I KNEW God was.
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