The beautiful sunny skies of the past week have given way to a steady, rather Seattle-like drizzle. Ordinarily, I love rain, but this morning its steady fall as I walked home from the gym made me grumpy. grumpy, and also wet, because I have no umbrella.
I lent my apartment to a friend this fall, while I was in the states. On the whole, it is just as I left it, and I am grateful – I love this little warren of white-walled rooms.
My favorite umbrella, however, seems to have been a casualty, though whether of the war or the winter rains, I’m not sure. I like to think that it made its way across the street to the park, and helped to shelter some of Sanayeh’s refugees from the summer sun.
In Seattle, people often walk heedlessly through the rain, and when I am there I like to simulate some West Coast cool by doing the same. As a New Yorker, however, I have learned to care deeply about my umbrella.
Most New Yorkers carry black, standard-issue, $5 or $10 umbrellas, whose cost and manufacture make them easily disposable when the city’s winds turn them inside out. After a rain, the city’s trash cans are littered with exploded bumbershoots, their spines sticking mournfully out of the barrel.
Inside shops and restaurants, these umbrellas are almost interchangeable. You place your umbrella in the canister just past the door when you enter, and … take an umbrella when you leave. There is no guarantee that you will take the “right” one – nor that someone leaving before you will not have already taken yours.
Not being a fan of either disposable umbrellas or Manhattan’s umbrella roulette, I realized that by moving beyond the city’s black parapluie palette I could purchase an umbrella that would be both, to quote Mary Poppins (another umbrella fan), “a thing of beauty and a joy forever”.
During a brief visit to New York last April, I found the umbrella of my rainy day dreams in one of my favorite off-price haunts.
Automatic opening, strong hinges and steel construction, yet light, compact, and easy to carry. The handle was a burnished gold (rendered in plastic, which softened it from the zoot suit styling my description suggests), and the umbrella itself a refined grey plum color, with a lightly contrasting geometric print. It was distinctive and elegant, and I loved it.
I carried it with me to Florida, Iowa, back to New York, and on to London before finally returning to Beirut, where I hung it on the hallway side of the door to my salon. Oh, I loved that umbrella.
Several times this fall, during particularly aggravating rains, I thought of my umbrella and missed it. In December I saw another beautiful umbrella at a Seattle department store. I was tempted, but reminded myself: save the room in your luggage for something else. You have an umbrella in Beirut already.
Its absence was one of the first things I noticed when I returned, and I emailed my friend to ask her where I could find it. Oh no! she replied. I’m so sorry – I must have lost it.
Of course I told her that it was okay – I can always buy a new one. Of course now my childish heart is whining snottily that is not okay. I have seen the umbrellas here, on the streets and in the shops. They are either of the $5 New York sort, or of the loud primary color solids or intense florals sort.
I miss my umbrella – I miss its grace, and I miss how ‘me’ I felt under it. I will buy a new one (I will have to, if the forecaster’s promise of days of rain comes true), but first I will pout.
a photo taken after a rainfall in Beirut last winter (standing on rue de France, overlooking Wadi Abou Jmeel)