Save it for a Rainy Day tells the author’s story of a private family tradition, instituted by his mother, that observed “Personal Days”, or days he and his siblings were allowed to take off of school.
Lately, it’s been raining a lot. It seems every day this week has been marked by a sudden, torrential downpour that comes and goes in a flash. On Monday, a severe thunderstorm surged through the Chicago area, coming down in sheets while I went about my work. All of a sudden, tornado sirens bared ominously as I drove around Round Lake, desperate to finish my orders for Shipt and go home. While both of the families that I delivered to urged me to come seek shelter in their house, I decided to brave the drive home. Once I got there, I did as I’ve always done when it storms: I sat down at my kitchen table, watching it through the sliding glass door.
While I was still in school, my mother instituted a practice that my brothers and I all stood to benefit from. Once every semester, we could choose one day to remain absent from school. These “personal days”, which were observed in secret between us boys and my mom, had a few stipulations: we could not choose a day when we had a project or exam, our brothers should not know that we stayed home, and the days did not roll over between semesters. The thought of saving enough days for a week-long vacation were kept, therefore, in the realm of dreams.
As a result of the rules, I don’t know which days my brothers chose as their own, nor do I know how they chose to spend them. For me, I would always save mine for a rainy day. Literally. I still feel a strange excitement when I wake up to the sound of rain outside or open my blinds to find cloudy grey skies. As my brothers made their lunches, I would wait patiently. I would watch from the window, dressed in my school clothes, as they walked to their bus stop. Then, as the school bus disappeared, my mom would reach for the phone and call me in sick. By the time she was done, I was back in my pajamas and sitting on the couch.
Unsurprisingly, my mother’s “personal days” always seemed to line up with mine. As a child, I would lay in the folds of her arms while a movie played on the television: Disney’s Mulan, Madagascar, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My mother never cared which I chose, as she rarely made it past the opening scene without losing consciousness. Once the movie ended, I would extract myself from her and settle down to eat my lunch, smiling a wicked smile as I thought about all my friends eating right now in the school cafeteria. Then the movie would play itself again and again, cycling through on repeat until just before 3 o’clock. Then I would get dressed, stealthy throw my backpack and shoes by the door, and wait for my brothers to come home.
Those personal days are sweet memories that I look back on now. They come to mind on days like this past Monday, when I woke to a grey tinged sky and knew the rain was coming. I think about how excited I would have been, all those years ago, at the prospect of a personal day like that. I would smile, no doubt, at the knowing look my mom gave me while she called me in sick from school. Although the titles have changed over the years, I still watch movies on an endless loop. I still enjoy being outside in a storm and can now enjoy it behind the wheel of a car. And I get excited, even now, at the prospect of reviving the tradition once I am a parent. I look forward to seeing which days my children will choose to make their own and how they plan to do it.