Falling On My Head Like A Memory


Rain

My grandmother hated Florida — and she had no problem saying so. Just mention the Sunshine State and she’d routinely offer, without any coaxing, the following words.

“I hate Florida,” she’d say. “It rains on one side of the street, but not the other.”

My grandmother, by the way, never traveled to Florida. Never. Ever. All my she knew came courtesy of my grandfather, who did some basic training there before shipping off to Europe during World War II.

Still, whatever tales my grandfather told my grandmother about Florida, it’s the rain story that stuck with her through the decades — and because she said these sentences so often, they’ve stuck with me.

Those sentences aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rain on Croton

Now that I’ve experienced my second rainy season here, I can completely understand why Florida rain was such an affront to my grandparent’s New York rain sensibilities. Rain here and rain there are two different strains of rain.

For starters, New York rain is an equal opportunity deluge. If it’s raining on my side of the street, it’s a pretty good bet it’s raining on the other side of the street, as well as the entire  neighborhood, county, and Tri-state region.

Rain on Begonia

Even on Doppler radar, New York rain is different. It’s a big green blob, creeping forward and lingering for days at a time — and the flavor of that rain changes with the seasons.

Consider the poem “April Rain Song,” by Langston Hughes:

Let the rain kiss you

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops

Let the rain sing you a lullaby

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk

The rain makes running pools in the gutter

The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night

And I love the rain.

Soothing, isn’t it? You might even say it’s positively spa-like. It makes you want to run outside to splash in the puddles, spin with your arms outstretched, and gaze upward so the drops can baptize your face.

Now take that same rain and have it fall in January, turning a winter wonderland into a bleak midwinter gray slushy. No amount of poetry can make that seem nice.

Rain on Pink Flamingo

That sort of rain — constant and slushy — is rare in Florida. Rather than a green blob, Florida rain — especially during the rainy season — looks like individual green soldiers marching across the peninsula, each one armed with its own arsenal of weapons: swift and heavy downpours, palm-thrashing winds, wall-rattling thunder, and blinding forks of lightning.

Still, the weather during the May-to-October rainy season is often more sunny than wet. The South Florida seven-day forecast during the rainy season looks like this: seven suns, each partially covered by a cloud with animated drops and flashing bolts. In other words, expect anything and everything at any moment.

Some forecasters even provide a rain percentage — as in there will be a 60% chance of rain.

Rain on Copperleaf

Since I was a child, I’ve struggled with the percent concept. I understand 50% and 25% — but I can never figure out those irregular percentages. That’s why it’s good to have Joe around. He’s great at math, and on sale days we have our Rain Man moment. I simply give Joe a glazed look and he gives me the bottom line — all figured out in his head — on any marked-down item.

But even he’s confused by this South Florida rain percentage.

Rain on Sun Rose

Let’s return to the idea of 60%. There have been many days this past rainy season when forecasters have actually called for a 60% chance of rain. Since 60% is greater than 50%, I thought there would be a pretty good chance that I would personally experience rain.

And yet, rain would never fall.   It would fall somewhere, just not here.   I could hear thunder rolling across the sky. I could see rain falling in the distance. But those Doppler-green soldiers would often have marching orders that didn’t include my yard.

Rain

Clearly, a lot has to do with location, so I’m beginning to think that that 60% really means 60% of the population will experience wet weather.

If we think of Florida as the dangling appendage that it is, we can see that it is surrounded by water on three sides. When combined with the Everglades, that’s one super-moist environment.

As the subtropics start to boil during the heat of the day, evaporating water forms clouds — each one a tiny bladder. As more and more moisture evaporates into these clouds, they eventually become saturated — so much so that when a Florida cloud has to go, it has to go.

Rain on Palm Frond

It’s at these moments, as Joe and I are driving along some streets that are wet and others that are dry, when I turn to him and say, “I hate Florida.”

Then we both smile and finish, “It rains on one side of the street, but not the other.”

Just like Grandma used to say.

25 thoughts on “Falling On My Head Like A Memory

  1. Oh my gosh, how true! My NY/New England grandparents moved to Florida in the early 1960s and we’d visit them every August (yes, August; don’t ask…) Even as a child I thought that Florida weather was weird. In later years when there were trips with my young son to Disney World, the daily “3pm thunderstorm” was pretty much a given. I’ve never quite figured out how Florida rain tells time, but it definitely does, LOL

    • Hello M’Lady. LOL indeed. Yes, Florida rain does tell time! Since writing that post, I’ve noticed subtle changes — a bit less humidity, a bit less of a rain risk. Autumn might actually be here!

  2. Lovely piece. However, I will forever think of Florida as a “dangling appendage.” I can’t read stuff like that without it making a permanent mark on my memory. Feeling very amused.

  3. That’s funny. When I think of ‘raining on one side of the street and not the other’, I think of when I lived in Utah, and got to see the rain line right in the middle of the street in front of our house during one rare rainstorm. For a kid, it was quite the magical experience. I can see it being much less magical having it be an unknown and rather mysterious rain percentage. Sometimes when living in North Carolina we would have those really humid summers where we had a thunderstorm every evening (I remember quite vividly that we had one of those during the summer I was a grad student with no car). I had to laugh at your description of when a Florida cloud has to go…

    • Hi Indie. I really do marvel at being able to see the rain line, and then driving into it like it’s a car wash! And about that comment about when a Florida cloud has to go . . . I usually find they have to go as I walk out of the supermarket, hands full, and no umbrella. And I think I can hear that cloud giggling. 🙂

    • Hi Maria. Ew. I’m glad my part is snow-free — but I am hoping for some winter cold, if only for a few days, to lower the iguana population. Double ew! 🙂

  4. I LOVE rain — no matter what zone I’m in!

    One of the best rainstorms I’ve been privileged to experience — ever, was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was at dusk, and we were high up on a mountaintop in a restaurant with an open water view, i.e., no glassed windows, just awnings. The rain drops were like tiny water balloons, and I could almost reach out to touch the lightning. The thunder BOOMED through the clouds. It was spectacular — a storm worthy of applause.

    Then there was the deluge in Paris. C’est Magnifique! Streets crowded with barefoot people in designer suits stuffing their shoes into leather bags, laughing while being engulfed in sheets of tepid water. Rain, warm and tasty on the tongue, they paused to close up their umbrellas. No point.

    Florida, not to be outdone, has incredible rainstorms. I’ve witnessed it pounding, literally beating the streets, while they plead for mercy. Forceful and straight as a ruler; sometimes, getting caught up in a brief wave of wind, this rain may fall on a slant or be forced to run sideways. It’s never curvy, not sexy,

    Florida rain does the job and leaves, not unlike a hit man.

    But, I digress.

  5. Kevin, THANKS for the morning laugh!!! I could hear Girlie, in all her glory, as she vehemently stated that she HATED Florida!!!!! How many times the child/teenager/adult me rolled my eyes at that comment. On occasion, I found the audacity to ask her how she could make that statement, since she’d NEVER been there, but Grandpa had told her of standing there in a doorway, seeking shelter from the rain pouring down on his side of the street, while the sun shone brightly across the street. THAT was all she needed to know about Florida! She was NEVER going there! LOL!!!

    As for the rain percentage, one of the weather forecasters at a local TV station here in VA explained that it means that 60% of the viewing/listening area would experience precipitation. In our case, that stretches almost to the Atlantic on the east, almost to the NC border on the south, almost to Roanoke on the west and to northern VA – quite an extensive area to cover!

    Your description of Florida as a dangling appendage made me laugh, as did your comment about the urgency for relief experienced by Florida clouds! So beautifully descriptive!! I absolutely love this post!

    And, I love you, too!
    Aunt Pat

    • Hi Aunt Pat — glad I made you laugh. Grandma had a million of ’em! I think in Florida, the percentage refers to the viewing area, while in New York, it referred to the actual chance of rain, not the population. Oh, the nuance of meteorological language! 🙂

  6. Some places have rain that play a little sleep song. Others are more into heavy metal… Moving from a rainy part of the PNW where it could rain four weeks straight and you celebrated even the smallest sliver of blue sky between October and July to Central Texas…rain and I have a very different relationship now. Now I celebrate the rain and appreciate its nourishment. Although I do wish our forecasters would stop with the teasingly optimistic rain forecasts. “It hasn’t rained in six weeks, there’s a chance of a cloud within 200 miles of here…40% chance of rain!” It never comes.

    • Hi PD. Here’s a rain memory: when I was kid, I went camping with my family in a pop-up camper with an aluminum roof. One night, the “sleep song” fell on that aluminum roof — but the next act was “heavy metal,” and the volume of the rain pounding on the aluminum roof in that small space was deafening — and the four of us just started laughing until the rain stopped. Thanks for triggering that memory! I see that your part of the world is being inundated with rain. Stay safe!

  7. My grandparents loved Florida. They never moved there, but went for two weeks every winter. For them it was the Promised Land and Disney World rolled into one. Jewish delis AND oranges you can pick off the tree! Great photos, by the way.

  8. What a delightful memory of your grandmother now that you live in Florida. And here she had such a strong opinion and yet had never even visited. I loved reading this, Kevin, for a variety or reasons. I have enjoyed experiencing Florida through your eyes as you make a new home in a state that, as you so well describe, is a very different experience from New York. I am going to adopt your idea that the percentages assigned in a rain forecast are directly related to the number of people who experience the rain–not the area itself. That would explain a lot. We have forecasts of 20% and under and it NEVER rains on me. I think it didn’t fall just on twenty percent of the people, but maybe twenty people!

    Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, and I would think your grandmother would have loved your garden and what that crazy Florida rain makes possible. 🙂

    • Hi Debra. You’re mention of 20% made me giggle. If we ever have that in a forecast, you can bet it’ll rain on me as I leave the grocery store without an umbrella — and then that one cloud will follow me home. 🙂 Still, I love the rain.

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