Elysha and I took the kids to an outdoor concert on the lawn at Elizabeth Park last night. It's a Wednesday night tradition at the park, but my book tour, travel schedule, and poorly-timed rainstorms have kept me from attending a single concert this summer.
I was excited to go.
It was also about 90 degrees and muggy. Elysha actually proposed that we go on an ice cream adventure instead, but the kids and I wanted to go to the concert (and knew I could get soft-serve ice cream there), so to her credit, she agreed.
As soon as we arrived, she was happy to be there. The air was a smidgen cooler than an hour before, and within seconds, she had found people who she knew and was chatting away. I took the kids for ice cream and Italian ice at the snack shack, and I, too, met some friends.
On the way back from the snack shack, I ran into a couple whose wedding I had officiated and DJ'd exactly ten years ago. They were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary at the concert and couldn't believe that they had run into me on this special night.
I also met people who attend Speak Up shows, parents from the school where I teach, and a gentleman who attended one of my workshops last year and was still looking for the courage to tell a story.
I gave him a firm nudge.
A while later, Elysha left to use the restroom, and about three minutes after that, I heard the first rumble of thunder. I looked at the radar on my phone and saw the gap between two thunderstorms - one to the north and one to the south - narrowing rapidly.
"When Elysha gets back, we might need to go," I thought.
A minute later, I watched as a streak of lightning appeared in the sky, not too far off, followed by an enormous crack of thunder. Charlie leapt into my lap and began crying. Clara offered her brother some comfort, and then a few seconds later an even louder crack of thunder erupted in the sky. Clara was in my lap in a flash, crying as well.
We have tough kids.
I saw the clouds pouring in from the south and began willing Elysha to hurry. She was undoubtedly chatting with the nine thousand people who she had walked by and knew. I thought about packing up and being prepared to sprint as soon as she returned. While everyone around us was drinking wine, eating cheese, and relaxing without a care in the world, I was mentally urging my wife to hurry.
I knew what was coming.
Also, my children were still weeping in my arms.
Then I saw Elysha, strolling in our direction. When she arrived at the blanket, I said, "We should go." I turned to point to the clouds behind us, and that's when I saw the wall of water making it's way across the field in our direction.
It was too late. It was one of those moments when it's not raining, and a second later, it's raining as hard as it possibly can. The children erupted into fits of crying and weeping as we were instantly soaked. Thunder cracked again. Lightning, too. I grabbed our blanket and food bag, and Elysha grabbed the kids hands, and we were off.
We scurried past people who had placed their lawn chairs over their heads. Past people who had thought ahead and popped open umbrellas. Folks who hid under blankets and some who just stood in the rain, laughing. We ran past people huddled under a tent. Women who were suddenly and unexpectedly participating in a wet tee-shirt contest. Children who were slipping and sliding in the wet grass.
We crossed the field and then the road and were making our way through the perennial garden toward the tree line and the path that would lead us to the street and our car when Elysha and I told the kids to stop crying. We'd had enough.
"We're having an adventure!" Elysha shouted, and that was it.
Both stopped crying. Clara started laughing, and Charlie instantly became mesmerized by the torrents of rain running down the path. "It's like a river!" he said. "And erosion!"
They talked and giggled and smiled all the way to the car.
We couldn't have been more wet as we drove home. A few minutes later the rain slowed to a drizzle and then a trickle, and finally it stopped. That's when we saw the first of three rainbows that night. Three rainbows in the sky that the kids declared "beautiful" and "so pretty."
Later, after I peeled off Charlie's wet shirt, he said, "Dad, I feel kind of different."
"Yeah?" I asked. "How so?"
"I don't know," he said. "Just different. Like a different me."
I'm not sure what he meant, and I'm not sure he knew, either.
But I understood. I felt different, too. Elysha was right. We had an adventure. For the rest of our days, the four of us will always remember the night in Elizabeth Park when the skies opened up, spewing forth thunder, lightning, and sheets of rain, followed by rainbows. It will be the night when Elysha declared that "We are on an adventure," and for some reason, in an instant, our children agreed.
And were happy again.