Better late than early
Letting in their happiness seemed like the kind of thing that would leave a person headed for a fall
April 14, 2006
Back when happiness was a solitary thing, Seattle was a good place to be, because she could walk around and feel glad about the rain and the gray sky and the way the whole city went with them, and she could know that she was the only one who felt that way. Everyone else seemed to think of the rain as a time to dream, to dream of the sun, and she saw their dreams come out when the sun did, and it was too much to see sometimes, because it seemed to be packing a lot into a little, rather than spreading it out with a little grace and subtlety, over time.
And she ended up holding that against the sun, thinking of it as the thing that anybody could like, that didn't take any work to appreciate, especially the work of memory, because rain was part of who a person was if they had been in Seattle for a while. It was as if they had just been born when the sun came out, as if all the past days when the university square was wet and rainy weren't inside them just as much as the day when it was sunny and bright. It was as if all the things that the rain brought out in them were just aspects of rain and not aspects of life. She did not want to forget about those aspects, and she felt like she had to do a lot of remembering, to make up for all the forgetting she saw around her. The sun became a time to remember the rain, and anyway, it made sense, because a person couldn't remember what was happening right in front of them.
It would come back again in a few days, and each time she felt prepared because there were some things that she could only express when it was gray outside, including a feeling that she did not want happiness to be a solitary thing necessarily. She wanted it to be shared, but she wanted it to be the happiness of remembering and not of forgetting. And when she thought of the man with whom she could share it, she thought of him as someone who understood the rain, as something that was nothing to hide from, and when he came along, that was easily and naturally just how he was.
They went along like that, and she could tell him about what the rain and sun were to her, and telling him made it certain. She wanted him to know all of who she was, after all, and if there was a time when she would feel very happy with him walking in the sun, she would continue to feel very happy, but she would tell herself to remember the rain too, because that was who she was. It was who she was in a way that she did not know if she could be in the sun. It was because of what she would have to let in in the sun, which was, everybody. She could do it in the rain because that was everybody's sadness, and that had always had a place inside her. But the sun was everybody's happiness, and letting that in was a lot. She had always felt like she trusted their sadness more, as though that was the one that was going to be around tomorrow. Letting in their happiness seemed like the kind of thing that would leave a person headed for a fall.
And after some years, she sat with her daughter on a sunny day, telling her about the world. It was wonderful because each thing she pointed out became her daughter's own, and the girl took it in as her own, and the sun wasn't one of the things that she had pointed out, but she already had a sense of how the girl would take it in, which was, as her own, as part of her time alive, and being as true to the real story of life as the rain was. And she felt it herself too, that the sun was whatever it was to her, however much everybody's dreams came out with it, and she wasn't forgetting something to dream a little then either, as much as she was remembering something else.
She sat with her daughter and it was easy to think that she had wasted something in not understanding the sun before, but it did not feel like she had wasted something. All those things she had thought before about the sun and the rain had not been untrue, they had all been part of her way of discovering the sun, which had come later than everybody else's, but all that mattered was that the discovery had been her own too. It had been with a little girl who was her daughter sitting in her lap, and she would not have wanted any other kind of discovery, and coming to her the way it did, she felt, like some other things in life, that it was better late than early.