By the time I was twenty-five, my family called me “The Rain Goddess.”
Every outdoor birthday party? Rain.
My senior Beach Week? Pouring rain.
Vacation in Hawaii? Slow-moving tropical depression (i.e., whole lotta rain).
To be fair, I grew up on the East Coast. Rain is kind of a 50-50 proposition, and having events rained out is not unusual. Though I would like to point out that my siblings’ parties were never rained out. And I have So. Many. Siblings.
The year before I moved to the West Coast, California was in a serious drought.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I had a plan. I would hike to the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory, go to Disneyland, and, most importantly, watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. I had always seen the sun rise out of the Atlantic, and I was on a symbolic mission to see it fall into the Pacific. El Niño hit shortly after my arrival. (For those who don’t know, El Niño is an overly warm Pacific Ocean phenomenon that, among other things, results in about three times the usual amount of rain in Southern California.) My inaugural El Niño was one of the worst. Trails closed due to mudslides, beaches closed due to runoff. It took me a year to see the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. (Well, it actually set into on offshore drilling platform, but close enough.)
When I went on a summer kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands, the weather report was clear. I knew better. I asked our guide if our itinerary would be modified in case of rain.
She laughed at me. “It never rains on us.”
I was puzzled. “But…it’s the Pacific Northwest. Don’t you guys get a ton of rain?”
She shook her head. “Seattle gets a lot of rain. We are in the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula.”
Two days later, as we struggled to paddle to Friday Harbor through driving rain and white-capped waves, I MAY have yelled, “So much for your freakin’ ‘rain shadow!’” when she pulled alongside my kayak.
Her reply was lost in the storm, but I have no doubt it was something like, “Wow, you were so right! I should have prepared for an out-of-season storm with gale force winds!”
I once went on a road trip with my brand new car. My destination city had a freak hailstorm, the worst in its history, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Ten thousand dollars of damage was to my vehicle. I was too sad to even take a photo, but my car looked like someone had shot up the entire passenger side of the car, plus the roof. Other drivers gave my car a wide berth on my drive home.
The week Big Brother got married, there were thunderstorms. But for his wedding, the clouds parted. The sun shone, the birds sang, and it was a wedding straight out of a damned Disney movie.
The week Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister got married, it rained. Every day. The only two periods the rain stopped? The morning we went to the flower market, and the afternoon she got married outside. Seriously. The skies cleared an hour before the ceremony and stayed clear for her reception. She was hit by exactly two raindrops on her way into the bar for her post-wedding party at midnight. Then the skies of D.C. opened up once more.
My wedding was the opposite. Andy and I married in October in Nowhere, New Hampshire. The entire week before the wedding was glorious — Indian Summer at its finest, filled with clear skies and temperatures hitting 70 degrees.
The morning of my wedding dawned sunny. I could see the Nowhere Inn’s wedding gazebo, surrounded by fall colors, from the balcony of the bridal suite. The Inn staff set up chairs. The florists hung a gorgeous fall garland around the gazebo entrance.
Less than an hour before the wedding, dark storm clouds rolled in. Wind blew the chairs over. The garland was in danger of taking flight. Rain drops began to fall.
I told my friend JM to alert the Inn’s wedding coordinator. We would move the wedding into the ballroom built in the early 1800s, where the reception was going to be held. Unlike that kayak guide, I always had a back up plan.
Encased in my heavy wedding dress, I could only watch the florist, the coordinator, and the hotel staff dismantle my dream wedding ceremony. There was thunder. Lightning. Fierce rain came in sideways, followed by hail. (Luckily, this wimpy Eastern hail was dime-sized, rather than softball-sized, and there was no damage.)
My bridesmaids thanked me for not sending them out in the storm. They said they were sorry, as we headed down to the reception hall. I got the inevitable platitudes about rain being good luck on your wedding. One relative even told me to buck up, because “rain on your wedding is a sign of fertility.”
I waved my hand at my seven siblings. “Fertility is NOT our family’s problem.”
The florists cut the garland in half, winding it around the two pillars on the edge of the dance floor. The hotel staff lit all the little candles in little glass candlesticks that were meant to be wedding favors for the guests. Water poured down the windows, and the guests sat at the tables circling the dance floor.
Water also poured down Andy’s face when I walked up the stairs and into the hall. Luckily, I had a handkerchief.
(Later, I asked, “Aw! Were you crying because I was so beautiful?”
In typical Andy fashion, my husband replied, “No, I was crying because moving everything indoors was so stressful and I really needed a hug!”)
We had an intimate, candle-lit ceremony instead of our outdoor wedding.
The storm ended with the ceremony. Halfway through the reception, I dragged Andy and the photographer outside for some photos at the soggy gazebo.
Andy sighed, staring at bright sunshine and foliage. “Damned rain.”
“It’s okay,” I told him.
“Really. If the wedding had been perfect, sunny, and exactly as I planned it, I think it would have freaked me out. That’s not how my life works,” I explained.
Andy didn’t look as though he completely understood, but he was willing to accept my assurances. Probably he was just relieved I didn’t throw a fit, or my bouquet, or a chair. Instead, we took some lovely black and white photos, and moved on.
California has been in a terrible drought for the last few years. I’m planning a big, outdoor event this December in Los Angeles. And you know what I heard in the news this week?
It’s going to be the biggest El Niño Year ever.