Ronnie loves rainbows. She likes ice cream sundaes with fresh fruit toppings, a test day when she knows all the answers, and the crack of a bat when she hits a single. There are some things that Ronnie might even say she hates: black jujubes, Mr. English’s droning voice as he tries to explain the mysteries of Algebra, and the insistent BZZ-BZZ-BZZ of her alarm clock that jolts her from dreams. But Ronnie loves rainbows.
Ronnie especially loved the rainbow she was chasing through the meadow in back of her house. It pranced across the sky, dipping down to lend the wildflowers a new richness of colour. The raindrops on the petals – gifts from a passing cloud – glistened as the sun peeked out and joined the dance. The rainbow electrified and took on a new life. It grew in size and confidence. The colours hypnotized Ronnie, who had never before seen such brilliance. She extended her arm that she might touch their splendour but was drawn away by an unseen force. She was pulled from the rainbow, the sun, the flowers, and the meadow itself by a persistent BZZ-BZZ-BZZ. She allowed herself to be drawn while she shouted a promise to return. The shout awakened her.
“Five more minutes,” she groaned. “Just five more minutes; that’s all I ask.” Her hand reached out and tapped the snooze button, temporarily silencing her alarm clock. As she drifted back into the Dreamtime World, a nagging voice in her head reminded her why the alarm was set in the middle of summer.
This was not only Ronnie’s thirteenth birthday, but also the day that Gramma was coming to visit! Eight months ago, right after Ronnie’s sister, Beth, celebrated her sixth birthday, Gramma had winged away to explore the world. She had returned to her home in Vancouver a few days ago and was arriving in Wildwood today to celebrate Ronnie’s thirteenth. Best of all, she was going to stay a whole week! Ronnie was eager to hear Gramma’s tales of travel to exotic places and to see all the photos she had surely taken, Mostly, though, she was burning with anticipation over her birthday gift. To honour Ronnie’s new status as a teenager, Gramma had promised a special gift from the other side of the world.
Ronnie’s eyes popped open, she hopped out of bed, tossed the blankets onto the floor, switched off the alarm – which could now stay silent until September – and skipped off to the bathroom where she rushed through her morning hygiene routine. Back in her bedroom, Ronnie rooted through her closet and dresser, looking for just the right thing to wear to the airport. She came across the T-shirt that her Gramma had sent from Europe. It had one of those dorky sayings about Grammas traveling and only bringing back T-shirts and, to make things worse, it was pink. Though Ronnie was no fan of the colour, she sighed in resignation and put it on, knowing it would please her grandmother.
In the kitchen, her excitement reached a fevered pitch as she wondered aloud whether they should leave early for the airport. “After all,” she exclaimed, “what if the plane is early and she has to wait for us to come and get her? Poor Gramma would be left standing there, all alone, surrounded by all her heavy luggage, thinking that no one even cared enough to show up on time. What a terrible way that would be to start her visit!”
“Ronnie!” Her mother had heard enough. “For goodness sake, girl, come up for air. Number one: Happy birthday, Honey.” With this, her mother enveloped Ronnie in her arms and kissed the top of her head. As they disentangled themselves, she continued, “Number two: The laws of the universe will not reverse today and cause a plane to be early. We have plenty of time. I have some work to do on the Fletcher wedding which brings me to Number three: I need you to watch your sister. By the way,” she added, “you won’t need to interrupt me every two minutes to update me on the time. I have an alarm set to let me know when its time to go. Just let me work, will you?”
Her mother’s twinkled - as was often the case when she was teasing. Ronnie knew her mom had to work hard this morning in order to take off the afternoon to pick up Gramma and pull off the feat of preparing a birthday feast for this evening’s dinner. Still, she could not resist the urge to carry on in the teasing mood her mom had set.
“Sure, sure!” she cried. “Turn me into a slave babysitter on my birthday. I don’t mind.” They both laughed as Ronnie flounced into a chair and her mom, coffee in hand, turned toward her office.
The small bright office was a room off the kitchen. Ronnie’s dad had built it when their home-based business outgrew the kitchen table and then the kitchen itself. Though Ronnie complained long and loud about the resultant garden and greenhouse chores, she was secretly proud of her mother. She had, after all, managed to build ‘Weddings With Herbal Style’ into a successful small business, It was so successful, in fact, that they had talked about hiring a part time staff person - someone to help out with the creative end of the business and to attend out-of-town events. Requests were starting to come from all over the region and, if they were going to expand beyond the local community, they would certainly need help.
Ronnie’s parents had dreamed of the day when her dad could quit his job in town and work at home, alongside her mom. That dream was shattered one rainy evening. He was driving home when a mild summer shower became a downpour. A drunk driver lost control of his vehicle and Ronnie’s dad was gone in an instant. He had been gone for two years and Ronnie missed him as much today as when she had first realized the finality of his death and the profound impact it would have upon her life.
Never again would he regale her with his imaginative tales of adventure and magic and rainbows. From her father, Ronnie had learned all she knew of the wonders of rainbows. He had delighted her with legends and facts alike about the colourful arches she loved so much. She knew, for example, about the Rainbow Dragon, creator of magical lands, whose many names were almost impossible to pronounce. Her favourite name for him was Wollomombi. Ronnie not only was able to wrap her tongue around that name, but liked the way it felt to do so.
During the coldest cold of the winter months, when the rainbows are at rest, the sun dogs take their positions to the right and the left of the sun and stand guard over all they see. Ronnie had learned from her father that the job of these rainbow-hued guardians was to keep the Rainbow Goddess informed of any troubles that might befall the northern Earth Mortals during the annual freeze.
Ronnie knew, too, that on misty, moonlit summer night when the moon is full, a moon-bow might reveal itself. Moon-bows are the ghostly cousins of rainbows but lack the hues of their daytime relatives because the darkness hides their colours. Moon-bows are white arches and resemble drifting clouds, but Ronnie knew better. She knew that deep inside were multitudes of colours waiting patiently for the light to set them free. She let her mind drift toward a moon-bow adventure but was quickly reined back to reality.
“Ronnie! Ronnie! I want cereal for breakfast. Will you pour the milk for me? Mom says I shouldn’t do it by myself when it’s so full ’cause I always…”
“Okay, okay!” If allowed, Beth would go on forever and a day about spilled milk – or any other topic that crossed her mind. Ronnie softened her tone to add, “Let’s have Cheerios with bananas so we can tell Mom we had some fruit. Then maybe she’ll let us stop on the way to the airport and get a treat.”
After breakfast, the girls raced out to the backyard. Ronnie tossed Beth into the hammock and curled up beside her. This was the best perspective from which to watch a rainbow, should one happen along. It was, therefore, Ronnie’s favourite place to wile away the day.
The inevitable request for a story, often heard and usually granted, came the moment they had settled in. Ronnie welcomed such requests. She was honoured to be asked to share their father’s legacy of adventurous tales and got a kick out of the fact that Beth took every word to heart and believed as firmly in Rainbow Dragons and Star Maidens, Leprechauns and Pots of Gold as she did in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.
Today, Ronnie would tell the story of one rainbow’s struggle to take shape in a low-lying bank of clouds. She’d seen one doing just that a couple of weeks before. The moisture in the clouds tugged and pulled and prodded at the rainbow’s edges causing its colours to run together like a watery pallet. With each gust of wind that swept the sky, muti-coloured wisps broke away and drifted off. Watching it was like looking into a kaleidoscope in which a rainbow had been captured.
Just as she had organized her thoughts and started her tale, Tilly came bounding across the lawn toward the sound of her voice. The friendly, easy-going dog had roamed into their yard and their lives four years ago and though they searched, no owner was found. Ronnie had insisted they keep him and promptly named him ‘Tilly’. He fit into their lives as if he was born to do just that. Tilly’s one and only drawback was his intense fear of thunderstorms. Whenever one was brewing, he would run and duck for cover, cowering there until it had passed. At those times, Ronnie and Beth called him ‘Chicken Little’ and tried to coax him out with assurances that the sky would certainly not fall on his head. They were, for the most part, unsuccessful.
Beth, forgetting her request for a story, jumped down and proceeded to romp on the lawn with Tilly, leaving Ronnie to her private musings. She settled back into the hammock and, as was her habit, reached up to run her fingers through her long, thick hair. The gesture caused her to smile as, on the previous day, she’d had her hair cut short.
When she first decided on the style, she expected an argument from her mother, who loved to brush, and braid, and curl Ronnie’s tresses. She was prepared to state that she was tired of having hair fall into her eyes just at a moment when a rainbow might reveal its magic to her, and that it was, after all, her hair to do with as she pleased. She was even willing to state that she would have more time for chores and homework if less time was spent on caring for her hair. Fortunately for her, she had no need for this final argument; no need in fact for any of them. To Ronnie’s great surprise, her mother had approved her decision with no discussion. What Ronnie didn’t realize was that her mother had been a parent long enough to know that battles over hair were not worth fighting.
The new style suitably framed Ronnie’s round face and brought out her green eyes and freckles – traits so common among redheads. This pleased Ronnie as they were the features she liked best about herself. They were the part of her dad that he had left behind, in her.
Beth, on the other hand, resembled their mother with her blond hair and deep blue eyes. She too had something of their father: height. If she didn’t stop growing like a weed she would soon catch up to and even surpass Ronnie who was tired of being the little one amongst her friends and classmates. She was often mistakenly thought to be the younger sister of her friends. Ronnie was tired, too, of waiting for the day when she could ride the monster roller coaster at Playland. On her last visit to the amusement park, she had measured the height line and drawn one on her bedroom door frame to match. Each week she measured herself against it. Today, being Wednesday should have been her day to check her progress, but her morning routine had been far too hurried and harried and she was disinclined to get up from the comfort of her hammock and do it now. She thought it of little use anyway and, with a sigh, resigned herself to a lifetime of shrimpiness.
Her thoughts were rudely interrupted as Beth catapulted herself into the hammock, squealing with delight that it was time to go and demanding that Ronnie pay more attention and listen when Mom called.
It was time to go and get Gramma! Ronnie leaped up and dashed inside, each step taking her closer to Gramma – whom she had missed terribly – and to the special birthday gift, which had crowded her thoughts since Gramma had called last week.