Rainbows Wow Me
When I was a young girl, I fell in love with Judy Garland. I’d sit as close to the television as I possibly could and watch her sing and act in The Wizard of Oz. She was Dorothy Gale, of course, and in one of the first scenes, Auntie Em shoos her away and tells her to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble.”
Frustrated, Dorothy sulks off by herself and directs a comment to her beloved scruffy dog, Toto.
“Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…”
And that’s when she leans against a mound of hay, looks up at the sky and belts out, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She sings her heart out to a captive audience of chickens pecking around in the background and Toto, perched on the metal seat of her family’s plow.
Even then, I thought about the words — a simple but lovely song filled with both adventure, optimism and hope. The song, and Judy Garland’s singing of the song, moved me. Still does.
Rainbows have always wowed me. They arc across the sky with their bold colored stripes — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. They don’t even look real sometimes. Scientifically speaking, they are a product of sunlight shining through water droplets. They reflect, refract, and disperse light into a showy multi-colored spectrum across the sky.
“If you want to see a rainbow, look for them in the late afternoon sky — over there,” my dad said pointing over our side garden one day when I was a little girl. “They form when storms are passing through, so when the sky over there is dark with rain, look for a rainbow. It’ll be in the sky opposite of the sun.”
I spent my entire childhood looking for and pointing at rainbows and double rainbows.
“Look! Look!” I’d say making everyone in my vicinity look at the arcs of color. “Isn’t it glorious?”
In Vacation Bible School, I learned that God painted a rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah (and mankind) that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. I also heard that if you followed the rainbow to its end, you’d find a Leprechaun’s pot of gold. Years later, I’d learn something else about rainbows.
In the summer of 2012, the assisted living facility where my mother-in-law, Margaret, lived called and urged us to call in Hospice for her. Margaret steadily declined, and in September, we were visiting almost every day to sit with her, talk to her, and make sure she was receiving proper end-of-life care. By the end of September, she had slipped into a sort of coma. We sat at her bedside, held her hands, and played opera music for her and waited for the inevitable.
My husband was an emotional wreck — torn between wanting her suffering to end and wishing for an all-out miracle. The day before she passed, we held vigil in her room all day. Gene didn’t want to leave his mother’s side, somewhat afraid she’d pass when he wasn’t there.
I took his hand and convinced him that we needed to get something to eat. He reluctantly followed me out of her room.
“Please call me if there’s any change,” he told the staff as we were leaving. “We are just going out to get dinner. We’ll be back in an hour or so.”
His face was tired and pale. We walked across the parking lot toward the car, and I heard the words so clearly in my head.“ Turn around, Amber. Turn around.” I suddenly felt compelled to stop and look behind me.
There it was sprawled across the sky. Magnificent. Magical. A perfect band of color and light.
“Gene!!” I said. “Look! Look! Isn’t it glorious?”
The rainbow cradled the building where his mother lay dying. Believing it was some sort of heavenly sign, we were both overcome with emotion. We stood in the parking lot and gazed at the rainbow like two young children on a playground. We took a photo of it with our phones and sent it to his sister with the words, “A sign that everything is going to be okay.”
And though difficult and sad, everything was okay.
Through the years, I’ve read that the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the final version of The Wizard of Oz. Some of the early reviewers felt the song slowed down the pace of the movie. Thankfully, a few people lobbied hard to have the song included. I can’t imagine the The Wizard of Oz without Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And I certainly can’t imagine a world without rainbows, and hope. Can you?